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First Quarter 2000

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Ghost Town (a B&B collage from Reuters photos)
Gone To The Movies

The Choice Is Ours
by Prof. Rudy B. Rodil

Gone To The Movies
(Mindanao Series III) by Said Sadain, Jr.

Evelio Javier, EDSA's Sacrificial Lamb
by Freda Contreras

Headscarf
by Alia Zaldarriaga

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Y2K: The Not-So- Phantom Menace
East Terror
Shari'ah Law
Southern Discomfort
Lessons To Learn
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Bad Movie

The worst scenario is for these armed civilians and fighters to go on a free-for-all, a blockbuster movie in the making. Unfortunately, some of what used to be sane leaders in Mindanao and in the halls of government in Luzon, seem to have been already infected by this movie craze to actually start wanting to push things in this direction. It is a sickness and vacuity of the mind that can be expected from a government that has so far only succeeded in introducing more gambling operations into the country, eroding business confidence from legitimate investors and feeding the ranks of insurgency faster than anyone can account for all these presidential advisers.

The best scenario is that the Mindanao ultimatum might still work in that the parties involved in the negotiations might still be able to eke out an agreement within the next four months. Next to the movie/TV entertainment industry, Filipinos are good at the photo-finish industry too. The heightened tensions might even be a catalyst if they do not overcome the better sensibilities of all the players before a settlement can be negotiated.

But of course, there is every reason to question the quality of a solution that is exacted with a gun barrel to the head. Make no mistake, if a negotiated settlement is perceived as a capitulation, a paper agreement no better than that of the 1996 Peace Agreement, then nothing would have been achieved except for another changing of the guards. Let me repeat myself: the same grievances and agitation, the same abyss await as before.

The government has already in its arsenal a good plan in the 1996 Peace Agreement without having to go through the more intricate route of instituting more drastic measures such as a federalization of Mindanao that some prominent leaders have now started to agitate for. The MNLF may have failed to push through with this peace plan successfully in the three or four years that it was given, but this is as much a failure of government as it is of the MNLF. What, it can be asked, are those traditional politicians complaining about, charging the MNLF for bungling the ARMM when they have always been there all those years with no better results to show themselves?

The MILF, on the other hand, has repeatedly said that it is willing to negotiate and hold their guns for as long as it takes them to see genuine autonomy and development in the Moro regions. A government that can show the MILF that the 1996 Peace Agreement is workable and can be a success is the best guarantee that whatever negotiated settlement the government can offer is something that the MILF, or any other Moro resistance movement for that matter, can accept and honor.

The previous Ramos government had shown that this can be achievable - well, almost anyway - overcoming decades of intransigence during the Marcos and Cory years, until this tactless Erap government stepped in and, in so short a period, undid most of the painstakingly accumulated goodwill, allowing the hawks back on their perch. And by Erap government, this is not to mean just Erap alone. Blame him for a wishy-washy, directionless leadership, yes, but how do we account for the senators and congressmen who are proving themselves to be a greater disappointment for the people of Mindanao?

What is preventing the government from shaping up and turning this into a success story rather than the tragi-comedy that it is now? As with any bad movie, the only one certain thing about it is that the audience is bound to suffer. Like no other movie however, this one has an audience that cannot just walk away.

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