What’s in it for Mindanao: Aquino vs Gordon on Mindanao
I was tagged on FB recently and invited to a Mindanawons for Noynoy Movement. True enough, I barely browsed through the comment, and lo, the winnability virus keeps on rearing its ugly head.
Here’s a typical comment – “The problem is going for Gordon -Bayani might split the votes then Villar will win. As much as I want Gordon to win, I dont want Villar to win. This is my dillema.” . For the AP community, the answer would have been be a no-brainer – ability TRUMPS winnability.
Moving beyond the sound bites, it would be best to lay down what both have to say on Mindanao, compare their positions, and come to a conclusion. You be the judge, who has more substance, who has a deeper grasp of the issues, who has actually done something for Mindanao.
Having been born and raised in Southern Mindanao, anything “Mindanao” is a major concern for me.
Recollections – Pre-Asian Financial Crisis
I don’t recall Noynoy visiting Mindanao prior to the 2010 presidential campaign.
However, I clearly recall Richard Gordon visiting Davao in 1997 to ink the Davao-Subic economic cooperation agreement. where both executives agreed to provide direct investment and trade referrals between the Davao Investment Promotion Center (DIPC) and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).It was a precursor to the upcoming APEC Summit in Subic.
I remember Rody Duterte and Richard Gordon exchanging toasts in Harana Restaurant one eventful evening. You see, before there was a Gordon-Fernando tag team, a Gordon-Duterte team up was already in the offing. Both executives represented the bullishness of the citizenry of Davao and Subic – and their ability to take the bull by the horns and strike it out on their own, independent of the powers-that-be in Malacañang.
Oh yes, I remember that night so well, because I was the Project Manager/Event Manager for said event.
The Gordon-Duterte chemistry went so well that the following day, then VP Erap Estrada who was wooing Duterte to be his Vice-President running mate flew to Davao City and made a personal visit to Rody. The rest is history – Erap lobbied to have Gordon booted out of SBMA and have Payumo take over the reins of SBMA.
But I digress, let’s cut to the chase. I have compiled the various pronouncements (based on a Google search) from both Aquino and Villar on Mindanao.
|Objected to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that the administration and the MILF had signed in 2008. “It was not inclusive and transparent,” he said. “Mindanao is composed not just of the government and the MILF.” There are also the indigenous peoples and the general population, neither of which, he said, were consulted when the MOA-AD was being crafted. “There are four sides in Mindanao, why were only two participating? It was like the government and the MILF came up with an agreement between themselves and then expected the other two groups to simply accept it,” Aquino said.
So if he becomes President, Aquino said, he will continue with the peace negotiations but in a more transparent and all-inclusive way. Nothing will be signed unless it has gone through a thorough consultation with everyone concerned — an admittedly tough job but one that is necessary nonetheless. Only such a process can lead to lasting peace in Mindanao
|We see the problems of Sulu and Muslim Mindanao not in terms of war or peace. We see it as a problem of delivering good governance and development which bombs and bullets will not resolve.
I am glad that everybody is now joining the debate regarding amnesty for some members of the Abu Sayyaf Group who may want to go back into the fold of the law.
What I want to do is to put people into a peace mode from a war mode. It is only in this mode of peace that we can move forward and begin finding a solution.
I am calling for a sincere and effective solution to the never ending war in Mindanao. This entails a full court press from the government in terms of improving the economy, delivering justice, and infusing infrastructure in conflict areas — not just amnesty.
All out war has never led to peace and to progress.
It only digs a deeper hole and creates more problems and new complications. Long term solutions are arrived at only after sound consideration and constructive debate. They do not just appear in one’s mind as a brilliant idea at a snap of a finger.
We should never close the door on the possibility of peace that will lead to development.
We have been applying the policies of war for over four decades, nearly three generations have been born and have grown to maturity in an atmosphere of conflict. Countless members of these generations have died in Mindanao and what we ought to have learned is that a policy of war creates more war, more bloodshed, more death, more destruction.
We ought to look more seriously at implementing a policy of peace. A policy of abandoning old grievances and grudges; a policy of rebuilding what was destroyed; a policy of working together to create a new future that was never before possible; a policy of respect, a policy of understanding, and a policy of acceptance towards our Filipino Muslim brothers; A POLICY OF TURNING SWORDS INTO PLOUGHSHARES.
Finally, let us consider that no one dies when we talk about amnesty or peace.
|Once there is peace, Aquino said, “then we can work on the economy… Once peace is achieved, then we can go full blast.”||“Apart from schools and health services, we should charter ships to aid in transporting agricultural produce from Sulu and other ARMM provinces to major markets in Visayas and even Luzon. We know it will work to bring the peace because we already did this with C-130’s for the Fruits of Hope program of the Philippine National Red Cross,” said Gordon.
Even during his days as Chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Gordon already supported development initiatives in Mindanao. He convinced Fedex in 1995 to open a link to General Santos City and Davao so that freshly caught tuna could be brought to Japan overnight as well as cut flowers and orchids to Europe. Also as SBMA Chairman in late 1997, he signed a MOA with the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) to farm out excess investors in SBMA to the SPDA and the Zamboanga Economic and Freeport Zone.
|He said among the first things that need to be tackled is the power supply in the island, which currently is at an almost one-is-to-one ratio; that is, the power supply is just about equal to the demand. This means that there is not only no room to grow, there will soon be a power crisis as the demand outgrows the supply.||He said that since his visit to Sulu in August 2007, he has been in constant communication with people from the province. Those whom he had communicated with, he said, expressed their desire to have better schools, good roads, and adequate livelihood.
The senator called for government to step up the building of schools as well as the delivery of health services in conflict affected areas in Mindanao.
|many local government units in Mindanao are non-performing, that is, the supposed leaders are not doing their job for the people who elected them into office and who pay their salaries through their hard-earned taxes. For these LGUs, he wants a cut in internal revenue allotment (IRA); LGUs that do their job, on the other hand, would get the full 40 percent IRA to allow them to do more projects. A Noynoy presidency would thus be a “meritocracy” in which those that perform well are rewarded while those that don’t will have their allotments slashed. (“If they cannot do what they should do, then we should reduce their resources,” Aquino would say three days later during the Inquirer debate held last Monday).||“As a Red Cross volunteer, I’ve been in Mindanao back and forth many times. What I saw was … a lack of governance. The fact that people have no choice so much so that they have to pack a weapon so they can make sure that they are protected and that they can have livelihood,” said Gordon, head of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).
Gordon went as far as saying that Mindanao is “the land and burial ground of promises by politicians.”
He said the priority should be the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the poorest region the country. One of the provinces under it, Maguindanao, had been the site of grisly massacre last November where 57 people, most of them journalists, were brutally shot by armed men allegedly serving the powerful Ampatuan clan.
“We have to prioritize the ARMM because this is the poorest region in the Philippines. Resources must be put here if necessary bypassing the local officials. We must focus on this area,” Villar said.
He also said that the massacre in Maguindanao should not be viewed as an isolated case.
“This must be viewed in the larger context of the Mindanao problem. Has to be addressed, strike at the root of the problem. Clearly, poverty is at the root of the problem,” he said.
Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, reaffirmed this position during an interview with broadcast-journalist Tina Monzon Palma on ANC’s Talkback.
“I’ve always said, socio-economic reform, full court press on justice, full court press on livelihood, farm-to-market roads, and amnesty would be a more effective solution to the conflict in Mindanao,” he said.
“There is no governance in Sulu. When I went around the community, it was an eye-opener. There were teachers who wanted to teach but they were not certified. There were schools that had no water, no toilets, no decent books, not even decent chairs. As you go out of Jolo, the roads get narrower. There are not enough farm-to-market roads, there are not enough ships or planes that can land in Sulu,” he added.
Gordon explained that the amnesty he is proposing is one that goes side by side with reforms, such as providing infrastructure to facilitate trade and livelihood, that would let the people of Mindanao live more decent lives so they would have more belief in the government rather than rely on guns.
“I think there were amnesties offered but the amnesty went as far as not being carefully worded, and as far as only buying firearms or balik-armas, i-integrate sila sa pulis or whatever. I don’t think it ever went into really honest to goodness reform,” he said.
Gordon pointed out that it is time that we break out of our indoctrination from the Spanish colonizers that Muslims are the enemy and resolve the Mindanao conflict that has already gone on for several decades.
“I think, eventually, slowly but surely, it’s not going to happen overnight, we will see an end to the sixty years of war between brother Filipinos. If you provide livelihood and respect, understanding and acceptance. The Muslim people are part of us,” he said.
|Legislation for Mindanao|
|NONE||Championing the move to create a Mindanao economic development authority
The need for an agency that would primarily carry out economic and social reforms in Mindanao to ensure the growth and development that the island deserves is vital stressed Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.).
Gordon said that there are boundless opportunities for development in Mindanao, but he pointed out that there has to be an authority that would effect a serious and comprehensive long-term program for socio-economic development in the area that is commensurate to the demands of a modern economy.
“Whenever I go to Mindanao I see the possibilities that are boundless not only in tourism, not only in agriculture, but also in industrial development,” he said during the committee hearing on the bill creating the Mindanao Economic Development Authority (MEDA).
“We are living in a borderless world. We can communicate by internet, by text, anywhere in the world. We can send our tuna to Japan talking through the internet without even having to go to Japan. But without the necessary infrastructure to bring out our products, we would not be able to compete with the rest of the world,” he added.
Gordon, author of Senate Bill 3260 (MEDA Act of 2009), said that Mindanao’s rich soil accounts for bountiful harvests of a variety of farm products such as rubber, pineapple, banana and mangosteen, among others.
He added that the region is likewise endowed with rich mineral resources including lead, iron and gold. Cultural diversity and the island’s natural beauty make Mindanao one of Asia’s favored tourist destinations.
Despite these resources, Gordon noted that decades of armed conflict have taken its toll on Mindanao. In fact, 45% of consistently poor provinces in the country are in Mindanao.
“We have had a long, long festering problem in Mindanao, particularly in the areas of Sulu and Basilan. Mindanao has got to be developed immediately if only to stop the war out there,” Gordon said.
“I know that there are certain elements in Mindanao that will never be pacified, but there are more people who want to conquer the lower instincts in man to make sure that Filipinos, whether they be Muslims or Christians, are uplifted,” he added.
Gordon said he strongly supports the creation of the MEDA to promote, coordinate, and facilitate the participation of all sectors towards the socio-economic development of Mindanao.
He explained that the MEDA would be the implementing agency for Mindanao-specific inter-regional and Mindanao-wide programs and projects, including Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects.
“Mindanao has been touted as the land of promise. But we have to make sure that the authority is established so that we can see the promise of Mindanao, MindaNOW, not tomorrow, but today,” Gordon said.
After reviewing the material, as a Mindanaon, I am more convinced than ever that Gordon not only has Mindanao’s (and the Philippines) interest at heart – he TRULY understands the issue as shown in his statements.
The long and short of it is this – Gordon has already been doing lots of stuff that Noynoy just talks and dreams about.. It will be a stretch of the imagination that Noynoy will be as efficient, as decisive, and as focused as Gordon – given nine bills authored in three years – including “Tarlac Day”. Go figure.
I say, go for the action man with the kick-ass plan – a vote for Gordon is a vote for Mindanao’s prosperity and progress – that’s not wasting your vote, that’s investing in your future.