(A doodle in MS Paint)
For the past days, I’ve been been deeply saddened by the Mamasapano incident in Maguindanao. I am sad that so many police officers in that SAF operation gave their lives for the safety of the people. I am sad because this will be another obstacle in a peace process that could make the difference in the lives of many. I am sad because my hometown, Cotabato City, is in the middle of Maguindanao and I consider it somewhat an extension of home. I am sad because the incident may mean violence, displacement and loss for friends in and near communities I have had the pleasure of visiting over the past two years. I am also angry that people are calling for an “all-out war”. Some of them people who have never seen Maguindanao nor have experienced war in their lives, at that. The passage “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” comes to mind.
And so I didn’t want to post or reply to those who have posted right away because maybe in sadness or anger I might say the wrong things.
The image above was done absentmindedly on Monday, as everything weighed in my head. I had no intention of making a full work of art from it, nor did I think I’d post it online. But incidentally, in it I found what I wanted to say:
We reap what we sow. For some reason, I illustrated this backwards, where the reaping comes before the sowing, in a reverse timeline. That is, it goes right to left, although I’ve never learned a language that writes that way.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we are now reaping what we have sowed. But most of us have no idea. The true roots of the conflicts that still rage on in some parts of Mindanao are glossed over and overlooked in mainstream history books and classes.
If only we could look back and realize: We have sowed violence in the past. Its roots date back to colonial history when foreigners turned us against each other for their own gain. Much later on, those brewing and unresolved tensions would lead to the incidents that sparked the Bangsamoro conflict. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look up the Jabidah Massacre and the Tacbil Mosque Massacre. And that’s not to mention many other undocumented encounters. Try talking to older, experienced people in conflict-affected areas. They know the history. Try talking to the children. They know the horrifying results of that history.
The peace talks were a refreshing possible solution to begin transforming that violence to peace. But I guess with such a long history of violence, we need more time for that transformation.
And now we face the consequences of the past. What will we sow today?
This is what I truly believe: We must bring them justice. Those involved in the deaths in Mamasapano must bear responsibility. At the same time, we must also remember that there is such a thing as peaceful justice where no more blood is shed.
Because in the end, the SAF force died for us. In essence, they died so that their children and generations to come would no longer have to live in fear and insecurity from threats of bombs and violence.
If today we decide that more violence is the answer, what sort of justice would that bring them? I know I cannot truly speak for all of them but I feel they will rest better knowing that their loved ones will be safe from the horrors of war.
And although I can’t claim to have any clear solutions, I know there are many much wiser and much more peaceful than I am who can. Let us listen to them.
After all, justice is not only for repairing the horrors of the past. It is also for building a better future.