Class, Nation and the Philippines

EDITORIAL, 14 Feb 2009

#50 | Johan Galtung

Key comments in the conversations in Manila 4-9 February 2009 about the process between Government panels and Parties for change in class and nation relations were: paralyzed, no prospect, limbo, stuck, insincere, agreements unimplemented, broken. But Parties are mesmerized by the peace process, and want to get unstuck. How?

The key positions of the Parties–lifting the most needy out of misery, and autonomy for the Bangsamoro nation (the Muslims in Mindanao who arrived long before today’s Christian majority)–are anchored in the basic human needs and rights for well being and for identity. But the government of a modern state may have other priorities on top of the basic needs and rights of its citizens.

Modernity is a secular version of the traditional rule of the rex gratia dei, a King by the grace of an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God. Of the three pillars of modernity, the State became the carrier of omnipotence, the Market of omnipresence, and Science of omniscience. The top priorities became state monopoly on force against any armed resistance, a unitary state against other power centers, and power growth. The second was a unified market and economic growth, seeing poverty as the root cause of most social problems. The third was rationality, education, universities, and science growth, as basic root of knowledge.

This sets a stage for failure. Poverty is not the root cause. Inequity–I am poor because they are rich–is. And repression–I want to be ruled by my own kind, however imperfect, but am ruled by others–is. The issues of equity and autonomy must be solved to bring about equitable and sustainable peace. The road to DDR (disarmament-demobilization-reintegration), conciliation and development passes through solution, not vice versa. Putting the cart before the horse is pacification, not peace-building, and will fool nobody.

Rule of Law, Primacy of Constitution, Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity and National Unity matter, but Universal Human Rights matter even more. Laws can be changed, Constitutions can be amended (Universal Human Rights Declaration, Art 28), Sovereignty shrinks in a regionalizing-globalizing world, Territorial Integrity grows with subsidiarity-autonomy-federalism, and the Philippines has no National Unity but at least three nations, Christians, the Bangsamoro and the Non-Islamic Indigenous. But State Unity, and shared Filipino Citizenship, make eminent sense.

Governments privilege DDR to regain monopoly in “a war of rapid conclusion”, Sri Lanka style. Military victory will then be confused with conflict solution. But for parties in centuries of struggles it is only a lost battle. The struggle continues, only fueled by even more bitterness and determination. A non-starter.

If disarmament is achieved root issues may be left unattended. And, a government has more heads than a panel. Any signed MOA-Memorandum of Agreement may be blocked by executive powers higher up (like military and secret services); by legislative powers (like senators-representatives) seeing their power curtailed; by judiciary power (like the Supreme Court) declaring a MOA unconstitutional; by a referendum won by majorities in neither misery nor minority; or by foreign powers (like the US and others), eg., listing parties as “terrorist”.

 This is Philippine’s reality today. The conclusion is not that a governmental panel is insincere, but that it is many-headed. The same applies to the non-governmental side of the class and nation issues, today still untransformed, making that rich–in natural and human resources–country, so much less than it could be, running around in a process that is none. This shows up in the division into more parties, also because of issue complexity. But nongovernmental parties operate in the open. The government not.

Here are some points about getting the peace process unstuck:

[1]  Get out of this verticality and the limitation to two parties (fatal in Israel-Palestine and Sri Lanka), into horizontal, multi-party and multi-channel dialogues. The issues are related and may be better served by round table dialogues all over the country.

[2]  Ask the people for advice, for instance by essay contests in schools and dialogues all over on “The Republic of the Philippines I would like to live in”, aiming at creativity, not consensus.

[3]  Aim at compelling images of future solutions, not only signed verbal agreements drawing on Spanish-Roman Law legal traditions.

[4]  Let hundreds of peace zones, social projects with equity and harmony blossom, gaining experience, public and inspiring, drawing on US style pragmatism. Mas hechos. Menos pactos.

[5]  The Government should be unpackaged, placing arguments on the table, and parties at the table; for open dialogue, including the arguments of certain foreign powers, not as backdoor politics.

[6]  The class struggle parties, keeping the governmental channel open, should continue exploring with other parties, for instance:

* Openings for middlemen who may be losers under direct marketing from cooperatives to consumers for fair prices to the producers;

* With those higher up the inevitability of the MDG, Millennium Development Goals, aiming at meeting the basic needs of the most needy     by lifting the bottom up–keeping in mind that the issue is not only to take away poverty, but also injustice;

* With those higher up who feel threatened that if those lower down come up “they will treat us like we treated them” to design     non-threatening social and economic strategies;

* Fair distribution keys for the proceeds from mining and minerals between local communities, regions and the state (cfr Art 1 of the     Human Rights Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).

[7]  The nation struggle parties, keeping the governmental channel open, should continue exploring with other parties, for instance:

*Directly with the Christians–with whom the Moros will continue to live together–equitable and sustainable forms of co-existence like the examples below, in no way an exhaustive list

**Economic cooperation, such as joint business enterprises;

**Military cooperation, such as joint patrolling, peacekeeping;

**Cultural cooperation, such as ecumenical work, mutual religious learning, joint worship, joint religious texts acceptable to both revised history books acceptable to both, highlighting contentious issues for the judgment of the readers;

** Political cooperation, like subsidiarity and federal options combined with sharing power in the Center, and joint decision-making in neighboring Moro and Christian communities;

*  With groups in Indonesia for a possible formal or informal Indo-Fil condominium over islands between the two countries;

* With ASEAN (5 Buddhist, 3 Muslim, 1 Confucian and 1 Catholic members) for observer status and for Aseanization of some issues;

* With OIC (56 members) for associate membership;

* With former sultanates, from Aceh-Pattani to Sulu-North Borneo-Mindanao, for revival of that historically important archipelago;

With all of the above formal or informal consulates–not embassies, that is for the State–representing the Bangsamoro.

And, all of the above in the Islamic dar-al-ahd (abode of accords) tradition, not dividing the world into dar-al-harb (abode of war) and dar-al-Islam (abode of Islam) only.

And, all of the above in the Gandhian spirit of being the future you want to see, not only waiting for an agreement to bind the future legally, with very many, if often very small, steps.

And, alerting the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to seeing the Bangsamoro not as a problem but as an asset to the Republic, opening for relations to all the 56 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on a basis of diversity, equity and respect.

And, mindful that along the road travelled are traumatized masses, including the displaced persons, downtrodden minorities and others in need of the consolation of reconciliation and the inclusion of religion and spirituality offer so much better than scientific rationality, learning from the Australian conciliation with their predecessors, and opening for cooperation with China.

And, benefiting from the economic blossoming when inequity is reduced and more people are active participants, and from economic and political blossoming–like in India–with no nation excluded.

And, mindful of upholding the dignity of each person created in the image of God who deems the peace workers blessed as they reflect His character.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Feb 2009.

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