FOLLOWING continuing clashes between military forces and armed Abu Sayyaf and Maute militants in several parts of Mindanao in past weeks, broadcast journalist and senatorial candidate Jiggy Manicad called on the government to focus on improving social services and social cohesion, nothing that these were “missing ingredients” in the peace efforts in the region.
“There are many similarities in the narratives I’ve witnessed while reporting on war and attacks in different parts of Mindanao. Many militants are not just encouraged by ideology, but also pushed because of poverty, desperation, isolation, and lack of opportunities,” observed Manicad, who reaped numerous awards in his investigative reporting throughout more than two decades in the field.
Manicad cited a 2018 study from global development firm DAI and USAID that revealed that support for violence and extremism can stem from social insecurities and feeling marginalized and discriminated against. The same study also shows that the belief that the religion of Islam is being attacked -- coupled with a tolerance for a culture of guns -- are strong predictors of radicalization.
“Marami pang kulang sa ating pag-aaral kung ano ba talaga ang nag-uudyok sa ilang mga tao, lalo na mga kabataan, na sumali sa mga militanteng grupo sa Mindanao, pero ngayon pa lang ay pwede na nating pagbutihin ang mga solusyon na hindi sa giyera dinadaan,” Manicad implored.
“Let’s look at the services we’re offering there in our schools, hospitals, barangay centers there. As a reporter, I’ve encountered cases of so many ghost projects and ghost government employees,” the journalist recounted, referring to nonexistent projects by local government leader that are, on paper, still funded by taxpayers’ money.
“The worst part is that you can find these cases in the poorest communities,” he added.
Manicad also highlighted that social services in communities vulnerable to conflict should be geared towards livelihood and job security, in order to “reduce the appeal of bounties or ransom money promised by militant groups”.
The neophyte candidate - who is advocating for novel, innovative solutions for the country’s persistent problems - has also called on all Filipinos to join in promoting peace.
“Tayong mga Pilipino ay dapat ding makiisa sa kampanya kontra terorismo. Iwasan po natin ang mag-enforce ng mga stereotypes. Magbasa at makialam po tayo tungkol sa kultura at pananampalataya ng iba. Maging bukas tayo sa pakikipag-usap at pakikipagsalamuha sa mga taong ‘di tulad natin,” Manicad explained.
For his part, the Senate bet intends to legislate a required “culture hour” on mainstream television networks that would show original Filipino content about the country’s different cultures, religions, and social issues.
Manicad’s statements followed several clashes in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Sulu in the past week that killed both soldiers and armed militants. The militants were reportedly connected with Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group
More than 50,000 civilians have also fled due to military operations against armed groups in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Bukidnon in the past few weeks.