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Monday, 05 May 2014 13:38

One of our poor city’s two congressmen has accordingly lately made an appeal to city residents not to relocate their families or businesses away from Zamboanga to safer places elsewhere. Apparently, residents and businesses are abandoning like the proverbial rats a sinking Zamboanga

This flight present and future is well-founded and motivated by real as against imagined fears. Mind, too, that for many, many years even before the devastating and traumatic MNLF Attack last September, just about every leader down to ordinary citizen in the city had been complaining about their city being increasingly left far behind other Mindanao cities especially in terms of business and economy. The growing slack had been caused by the rebellion, weak political leadership, brain drain and a societal hubris and complacent delusion that the city has its own divinely-granted “manifest destiny” that no human intervention can touch or mess up.

Not even the MNLF attack has shattered that hubris and delusion, and so the fallout of that madness is bound to only make local conditions and the city’s future grimmer, more unstable – hence, the wiser rats are not waiting for the boat to keel over, as Jolo did after its burning in the 1970s. The deepening sense of insecurity among residents (and not just among the attack’s direct victims) will only get worse and would achieve an irreparable point of no-return because among other reasons:

— Months after the attack there is no visible, tangible rehabilitation of the destroyed communities and rehabilitation of the residents, thereby causing a general sense and visual image of danger and irresolvable violence that can explode again anytime, aggravated by the massive and constant movement of military troops around the city;

— A misguided and hardheaded refusal of city residents, fed by their “gleeful” leaders, to get constructively engaged in the ongoing peace process. Such an ideal constructive engagement shall not be about considering the idea of making Zamboanga an organic or political part of the Bangsamoro, but about making a positive contribution to help the Bangsamoro Peace attain  reality.  After all, while Zamboanga may never become a  core territory of the Bangsamoro politically the fact that it is home to about 300,000 Moros makes the city a core territory of the Bangsamoro culturally, like it or not. So contrarily, for as long as the city shuts out as it does the Bangsamoro peace process, it not only drives a wedge of instabilities with the Bangsamoro region but interiorly between differing resident cultural communities. Not a few of the MNLF rebels who staged the attack were long-time residents of the city.

Last week, the international Human Rights Watch published a feature report damning the government including the city’s for its failings to rehabilitate the victims months after the attack, particularly for not returning them to their places of origin or equivalent areas. Against the denials of city officials, for instance, some Badjao families have been resettled in the inland hamlets of Tulungatung; other IDPs are now being kicked out of the Enriquez Stadium unceremoniously. Meanwhile, the city mayor has appealed to international agencies for more aid money, while not even a centavo of the boasted President’s P3-billion or something rehabilitation fund has yet to benefit these wandering IDPs.

The MNLF attack and its aftermath is tired Philippine history repeating itself, in that a very biased Imperial Manila is quick to apply scorch-earth armed action against any Moro insurrection in Mindanao. And it considers all southern Mindanao residents including Christians as Moros, so to them give or take no quarters. It’s the reason why Tacloban rehabilitation is getting everything – why even the Armed Forces have built relief houses in Leyte, while Zamboanga gets nothing but empty promises. — Peace Advocates Zamboanga