The election is over. The major political battles are over. But in Mindanao, the war has not ended, nor will it end soon.
Almost daily, the media continue to bring us news of yet another bloody encounter, bombing and kidnappings in Mindanao. Almost every day, we in Manila thank God for being lucky to be about 800 kms. away from Mindanao and safely far from trouble.
The answer is no. For one, as the MRT and Makati bus bombings in 2005 showed us, Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bombers are just a boat or plane ride away from Metro Manila.
Secondly, even if we survive direct bomb attacks or kidnappings from terrorist groups in Mindanao, we all collectively pay for every bullet and canon fired in Mindanao.
Available government statistics show that from 1970-1996, some 73 billion pesos were spent by the AFP for arms and ammunition in the campaign against the secessionist MNLF, the MILF and the ASG.
Recent military operations in Mindanao cost 80 million Filipinos about P30 million daily.
Just imagine how progressive and prosperous a country we would be if the billions we spend in war would have gone to infrastructure, investments, health care and education?
But “military solution” is not the answer; education is. The problem in Mindanao is partly due to government neglect, lack of livelihood, lack of economic opportunity, poverty and propensity of the Mindanao people to let their guns solve all their problems.
This was the reason why seven years ago, we started the A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) literacy and book-donation project to “flood” Mindanao with books and to plant in the young generation the seeds of peace in the hope that they will grow with a mindset far different from their elders.
Thus far, we have put up the Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library in a known ASG lair in Zamboanga City, gave books to about 3,000 students, put to school 67 scholars; and gave free basic computer literacy program to 300 poor elementary and high school students; and held medical missions.
But much remains to be done as war and military operations burn down libraries, school buildings and destroy books. As the new school year starts, war-torn and dislocated children again need your assistance for books, school supplies, school bags, old shoes and clothing; and other school necessities.
Once more, we are seeking your help to give whatever form of assistance to these kids who earnestly want to start a life of peace and stability. Please help us help them. Likewise, please pass this message to friends and relatives here and broad that they too may help.
Books and other educational stuff may be dropped off at the Dean & Kings Legal PR firm at Suite 300 Kimvi Realty and Development Building, 1191 Maria Orosa St., Ermita, Manila; and at the ABSG headquarters at No. 9, Dona Isidora Street, Don Antonio Heights, Diliman, Quezon City.
Remember, you are not simply helping war-shocked kids; you are helping a country rebuild itself from the ashes of a never-ending war and strife in Mindanao. Thanks for all your help and support.
Armand Dean N. Nocum