The hidden cost of war – part 1 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 July 2012 09:01

“If the children are allowed not to get an education, they are prone to be criminals in the future,”

(With permission from veteran journalist Ed Lingao of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), I am reprinting his article, The hidden costs of war.  Like him I fear what will happen to the future generation of Mindanao - will it get worse ?)

TIPO-TIPO, Basilan, August 2007: The province had lapsed into yet another one of its seemingly interminable wars after suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf fighters killed and beheaded Marine troopers who were searching for kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi.

But Tipo-Tipo Mayor Ingatun Estarul had much more on his mind as government troops geared up for an offensive in nearby Albarka and refugees began streaming into his town. The children, Estarul said, are missing school again. “If we do not head this off,” Estarul said, “the real effect will be felt 10 to 15 years from now.”It was remarkable foresight from an official whose constituents are forced to survive only from day to day.

“If the children are allowed not to get an education, they are prone to be criminals in the future,” he remarked during our brief encounter. “Our observation way back from 1972 up to the late 1980s is that the active lawless elements of today are the product of those babies born at that time.”

Children born in conflict are in danger of becoming children of conflict, perpetuating a cycle that gets worse with every generation, the mayor added.

Estarul was born and raised in Tipo-Tipo, a town in the hinterlands of Basilan that has carved a name for itself because of the bitter conflict that has been marked by beheadings and mutilation. He is one of the few in his community to win a scholarship to high school and be accelerated by at least one level before studying at the Mindanao State University. Last we heard, Estarul was trying to organize Alternative Learning Sessions for Tipo-Tipo farmers who have been unable to get the benefit of education.

Gunfire, not lullabies:

Estarul knows whereof he speaks. And he is not the first to articulate this concern — although it is a concern that does not get much traction. Years earlier, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) People’s Bureau head Professor Mashur Jundam had also said that he worried for every new generation of Mindanaoans who are born and raised to the sound of guns. These are the children that government should be more afraid of, Jundam had said, the children who heard the constant blast of cannon fire instead of lullabies. The children born in the time of bitter conflict in the seventies and eighties are in fact the more radicalized fighters now, he said.

“When our generation was going to school, we learned that A is for apple and B is for banana,” Jundam said of the more secular upbringing of the older generation of Moros. “These children are learning that A is for Allah, and B is for Bismillah (In the name of God).”

Education is just among the many stakes, both tangible and intangible, that now frame the ongoing peace talks between the government and the MILF.

As negotiators prepare for the next round of talks, and as analysts and critics pore over previous agreements and split hairs over details and nomenclature, and as majority of Filipinos dissociate themselves from the talks as just another complex story from a land too far removed from their daily lives, the roots of the conflict get deeper and deeper with each passing generation. This places a greater measure of urgency in finding a solution that is workable for both protagonists, as well as for the people of Mindanao, both Christian and Muslim.

Part 2 - Tomorrow "“Ang Pilipinas, walang deep concept of closure. Maraming issues dito na walang closure.”

Read the full article here:

by Dante Corteza

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 July 2012 09:19