Thursday, April 16, 2015

Let’s get real II

The ambivalence in our traits and values would constantly reflect who we are as a people? For example, can we be truly proud that ours is a rule of law? Consider the following news report where “Philippine officials were not available for comment.”

“‘The Philippine justice system likewise remains ‘inexperienced’ in dealing with IPR-related cases, the USTR added . . . [T]he agency said corruption in the country remains ‘pervasive’, discouraging American firms from doing business here. Both foreign and domestic investors have expressed concern about the propensity of Philippine courts and regulators to stray beyond matters of legal interpretation into policymaking and about the lack of transparency in judicial and regulatory processes,’ read the report.

“‘Concerns also have been raised about courts being influenced by bribery and improperly issuing temporary restraining orders to impede legitimate commerce.’ Philippine officials were not available for comment.” [PHL not opening up enough – US, Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag, Business World, 8th Apr 2015]

How do we square that to the impulse to start a major undertaking invoking the rule of law? Meanwhile, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said there is no need to create any presidential directive on the creation of the National Peace Council that will discuss the proposed BBL. Valte said there is no need for an executive order (EO) or an administrative order (AO) for the National Peace Council, noting that it is composed of private individuals.” [PH faces daunting challenges, Edd K. Usman, Manila Bulletin, 11th Apr 2015]

But are we as a people predisposed to the pursuit of peace – “to be open and welcoming”? Or do we wish to throw the book because the people of Mindanao aren’t like us? The marginalization of Mindanao – because they are different – is effectively dismembering the country since Mindanao cannot pull its weight in economic development and nation-building. Yet that would escape us? Which isn’t surprising given we have yet to sort out how a parochial bias undermines economic development and nation building?

And even within the CBCP it appears the bishops aren’t on the same page? “‘I have paid close attention to the arguments of the legal experts summoned by the houses of Congress to shed light on the constitutional issues, and I am convinced that there are some very crucial points of constitutional law that ought to be resolved,’ [Archbishop Socrates B.] Villegas said. He acknowledged, however, that interpretation of the law or the Constitution was not part of his expertise, and that he was forming his conclusion from what the experts have said.” [CBCP: Moro law full of holes, Sara Susanne D. Fabunan, Manila Standard Today, 9th Apr 2015]

“Villegas said in his statement that he was not speaking for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines or as the archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, but ‘as a Filipino and as a believer in Christ . . . All Filipinos, not only its officials, swear to uphold and defend the Constitution,’ he said.”

What about the pursuit of peace? Ireland is a good example and gives meaning to the words of Francis – “to be open and welcoming.” “From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace.” [‘Urbi et Urbi’: Official Vatican text of Pope Francis’ Easter message, AP, 6th Apr 2015]

If we Catholics would want to draw a line in the sand, wouldn’t non-Catholics want it as well? “. . . Sultan Fisdausi Abbas . . . said that [Miriam Coronel] Ferrer’s [chair of the government peace panel] statement that war would ensue if Congress does not pass the BBL was a direct threat to legislators. Abbas, who fought for the MNLF during the Mindanao rebellion in the 1970s, said that the passage of the BBL would, in fact, lead to more bloodshed.” [Fabunan, op. cit.]

“What it takes to promote peace,” Rina Jimenez-David, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8th Apr 2015. “. . . Cardinal Orlando Quevedo wrote that in the light of the ‘mutual distrust’ arising from the bloodshed that attended the operation in Mamasapano, there needs to be a ‘change of mind and heart’ not just among those working for and promoting peace, but also, more importantly, among the general populace.”

“Of immediate concern for Cardinal Quevedo was the need to ‘promote reconciliation and reduce biases and prejudices,’ with the possibility broached of gathering ‘widows and children from the MILF, SAF and civilians to share their experiences of grief for lost loved ones.’ After all, there is no monopoly of righteous anger or grievance over the events at Mamasapano, even if some parties would prefer pitting the grieving families and communities against one another.

“As for ‘saving’ the BBL from falling victim to the current atmosphere of blame and naysaying, Cardinal Quevedo noted the need for a more aggressive ‘information tour’ to address the questions raised on the ‘objectionable’ provisions of the BBL, with ‘media people, universities, business and religious groups as primary targets.’”

Indeed we have daunting challenges: The Philippines faces daunting challenges as it tries to attain lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao, convenors of the National Peace Council said yesterday.” [PH faces daunting challenges, Edd K. Usman, Manila Bulletin, 11th Apr 2015]

“Among the daunting tasks that the government needs to address in a bid to attain peace are: “history and culture of the Muslims; centuries of neglect, deep-seated prejudices and biases; the unfortunate clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25; and the strident voices denouncing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and calling for all-out war. These were among the subjects tackled by the peace council in their first meeting held last Monday in Makati City.

“At the same meeting, the council convenors agreed to focus initially on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which continues to suffer rough sailing in Congress in the aftermath of the Mamasapano carnage that left 44 police commandos and 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters dead.

“Present in the first meeting were former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Ambassador Howard Dee, business tycoon Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, and youth leader Bai Rohanisa Sumndad Usman. They were earlier named, along with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, by President Aquino to convene a national summit to look into the BBL.

“The peace council decided not to name a chairman to preserve the spirit of collegiality. Instead, the convenors will divide the work as required.”

But is there a caveat? For example, if there is no chairman, who is the keeper of the big picture and the North Star? Are there risks to contend with? Precisely why leadership matters. Social scientists call it “groupthink.” Groupthink occurs when a homogenous highly cohesive group is so concerned with maintaining unanimity that they fail to evaluate all their alternatives and options.”[]

But we can read on: “Our overarching goal is peace with justice and development in Muslim Mindanao: a political peace settlement that addresses the injustices inflicted on the Bangsamoro religious, cultural, and political identity as a people, as after all, they had their political identity before there was a Philippine nation; the human development of the Bangsamoro people by restoring their human rights and freedom to reverse their economic and social marginalization which has resulted in their human poverty level that is about twice the national average; a process of cultural and spiritual healing to overcome the deep-seated prejudices that continue to divide our people . . .”

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