WORM’S EYEVIEW| Letting MILF, BIFF, ASG or others carve out Mindanao

THERE isn’t a square meter of land or underwater area within the jurisdiction of our Republic that does not fall under the jurisdiction of a government unit and its set of authorities.

Everything that falls within Philippine territory—land, water, even the air above—is subject to our laws and to supervision by a government, local or higher, just as the people in them are.

To safeguard our nation’s environmental resources, and to protect our people (most precious or our resources), we maintain a huge government bureaucracy of several million workers and uniformed services.

All of them have appropriate job descriptions, with defined jurisdictions. All are paid for, equipped, or provisioned accordingly. And all are provided their places of work as well as supplies and facilities. In Mindanao alone, there are well over half a million such bureaucrats and public servants.

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Yet despite these elaborate, expensive, and complicated arrangements for safeguarding and protecting our society, culture, and environment, so many aspects of our Republic—human and non-human—are neglected, violated, or destroyed.

Our endowments from nature are left untended, undeveloped, abused, or exposed to destruction. Many citizens are left to suffer poverty or privation; others are persecuted by predators and armed malcontents who prefer to wage war instead of build peace and progress.

In consequence, the elaborate, expensive, and complicated arrangements we take pains to maintain don’t seem to be of use, especially to communities they’re supposed to serve and bring benefits to.

The outstanding case in our region is in the Liguasan Marsh area in Central Mindanao. Who conceded Liguasan Marsh to lawless, savage elements? And which local governments there are the culprits?

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The officials of these governments—barangay upwards—should be made to explain why the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its BIFF surrogate has been left free to turn their jurisdiction into a rebel preserve.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) especially has a lot of explaining to do about this de facto situation where not only politics but territory and an economy driven by gun-running and related activities are allowed to thrive.

government, whether barangay, municipality, or national?

Manuel “Mar” Roxas should be told that every part of Mindanao territory is Filipino territory. No Filipino has a right to appropriate any part of it for his or his group’s exclusive use. And it is his duty to enforce this or leave office if he can’t.

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It must be made clear that no part of Mindanao is exempt from Philippine Laws. No Mindanaon is above the law. No lawless element may get away with violating any law with impunity. And it’s way past time to enforce the law. The law enforcers must be made to perform their duties in earnest and with uncompromising resolve.

As it is, it’s already way past the demands of patience and forbearance of Mindanaons to behold the business-as-usual posture of national authorities as they continue to leave 10 of the nation’s poorest provinces—which are in Mindanao—in dire, neglected circumstances.

It ought to be scorched into the conscience of every member of our bloated bureaucracy—Malacanang, Congress, the Courts, and their extensions—that every unit of our land from Aparri to Tawi Tawi forms part of our national territory and common patrimony.

Every unit of this territory falls under a government of the barangay, which in turn is part of the municipality or city in which it is located—and therefore subject to our laws and the jurisdiction of our government whether local or national. Either these governments perform their mandates or their officials should be removed.

(Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. valdehuesa@gmail.com)

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