The Mindanao Protocol

Sherlock Holmes

I’ve read just about every mystery and spy author known to English-speaking mankind, and even some translations. I can snoop and connive with Hercule Poirot, Mrs. Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Jack Ryan, Harry Bosch, and Jason Bourne, to name a few..

They all work on cases. “The Case of the Scarlet Murder” or “The Yamashita Legacy” or “The Tomb of the Last Patriot”.

A case has a wholeness to it. A beginning, usually when a dead body appears in someone’s living room or a trash-strewn dark alley. A  middle, which is the drama of finding out the facts and the people and who done it and why. Crime scene investigators, I suppose, are a part of this genre. Half of American television is CSI cases, I think. The other half is addle-brained experts yammering across a table. And a case has an end, often with a twist, because we don’t find out what REALLY happened until the last few pages.

Mindanao needs that. It needs a case approach.

Mindanao is one third of the Philippines, a huge mainland with a string of small isles drifting awkwardly off to the west. It seems not to be a part of the rest of the nation, and I’d say it is time to correct that small oversight.

The Visayas are a reasonably integrated and self-sustaining group of islands. They are akin to the middle class, economically speaking, to Luzon’s commercial riches.

Mindanao is the poverty stricken orphan kid looking for trouble, often coming home from school beat up for this reason or that, and being nowhere close to realizing its full economic potential.

Mindanao is like Sicily overrun by mafia families, an animosity-thick place where warlords battle for dominance over the bodies of the innocents who get stuck between them. Where’s the future in that? Where is the health and happiness? Where’s the Philippine national unity?

The Scene of the Crime

The victim is lying prone on the concrete floor, bullet holes everywhere, and obviously in critical condition. The US and Australia want it quarantined, and warn their citizens against any contact whatsoever. The Philippine Army is attempting to fumigate the infection in the western reaches, and is working with Americans to eradicate a particularly virulent infestation in the southwest. DENR is a basket case. There’s no electricity. The place is lawless. Every organ is freezing up or bleeding corrupt blood.

Any group with a specialized interest is only interested in THEIR solution. So the NPA insists on their statement of demands with no bend, and Muslims throw hissy fits every time there is a wrinkle in the negotiations to find peace among incredibly complex socio/political issues, and Clan leaders have the outrageous hubris to murder journalists or march into neighboring nations. The big city of Davao operates like an independent city-state, its vigilante death squad riding loose and free across the city. and the DENR seems totally infested by criminals.

Our ER goals are as follows: (1) Keep the body alive. (2) Fix it by integrating this resource-rich region into Philippines. (3) Cure it by bringing peace, order and prosperity to Mindanao.

The Case Book

Until now, the facts, nothing but the facts, have been scattered here and there, but we’ve managed to pull them all together. We’ve organized them the way detective Harry Bosch would do it in a “Murder Book”.

First, we have the culprits, some already mentioned. Most are the usual suspects, others were picked up from a sharp inspection of the clues. These are the reasons the region suffers:

  • Historically guaranteed strife thrives; Catholics were long ago dumped wholesale onto the island to assimilate the heathen Muslims into the Catholic Borg and resistance is futile.
  • Extremist murderers rule certain areas: NPA gangsters and Muslim fanatics.
  • The “user” families are everywhere: clans and mayors and other dynastic powers. They use the people for self-enrichment and power. Many field their own armies.
  • The wild-eyed rapers of the land are running amok: out-of-control miners and illegal loggers. DENR is helpless, hopeless.
  • There’s a fractionalized governmental structure with no “whole island” vision or advocacy. A land divided cannot find unified solutions.
  • We have no organized social, political or economic plan to get organized and generate wealth in a material way.

So there you go. Alien Catholics. Murderers. Users. Rapists. Chaos. Poverty. This is a very ugly gang.

Everyone to ER stat!

What tools do we have at our disposal to save the region from itself? What instruments? What weapons?

  • We have the Philippine and American armies. They do what they can do to push back against violent people who use force against local residents to extort money and gain notoriety. But the military can’t really win hearts and minds of the residents.
  • We have the President trying to figure out how to grant Muslims some shading of independence without violating the Constitution or undermining the disciplines needed to oversee the rest of the nation. The effort appears on the ropes.
  • We have DILG and COMELEC trying to bring order to the governing powers and democratic processes. But power-mongering dynasties remain big on Mindanao.
  • We have economic programs characterized mainly by increased funding directed to this province or that to undertake projects like farm-to-market roads and other localized initiatives.
  • We have DENR on the target list by the Ombudsman for gross negligence of duty and corruption.
  • We have the legislature thinking about passing a mining law to try to get more order, safety and accountability into that industry, not to mention extracting higher revenue from it.
  • We have local governments trying to get more electricity to the region to end chronic shortages.

That’s what our crack ER team has revealed by running some quick tests. The problems are deep. The solutions so far are just . . . not . . . quite . . . doing . . . the . . . job.

Inspector Rebus Lends a Hand

I had a midnight session with Inspector John Rebus of the Scotland police the other night. Rebus, conceived by author Ian Rankin, thinks best when he is a half-bottle of scotch into the wind. And the winds blow cold in Scotland. This is no muscle-bound superhero in a cape. This is an aging, paunchy curmudgeon who is too assertive for even New York’s mean streets. He stinks of the cigarettes he smokes all day. He wears the same suit all week. He doesn’t mind roughing up a suspect or giving a criminal a break. He gets beaten up once or twice every novel and still figures out who done it at the end, putting a few wayward clues into alignment to identify the surprise culprit. He’s in love with his female partner, and she is in love with him, but the business of murder is too important to both of them to let romance get in the way. They hugged once in about 18 Rankin books.

So this guy is a disciplined crime-fighting machine when sober, and drunk the rest of the time. He can solve a complex case like Mindanao without working up a sweat.

I asked him about Mindanao, and he pulled his head off the table long enough to give me some important advice. Now his Scottish inflections are unintelligible to anyone but other drunken Scots, but I had him repeat it four times until I got it right. Here’s the translation:

“Joe, ya gotta think big, ya gotta think tough. The rest of the Philippines, them Luzonites and Visayers, gotta go after Mindanao as if she were a foreign country conquered and brought into the fold. Kinda like the U.S.went into Japan after WW II. She won’t walk in on her own. Bring ‘er in.”

“Ere’s an example. Plug ‘er into the national electrical grid. If Mindanao has no electricity, the snobs in Manila don’t get any, either. Trust me, Mindanao will have electricity.”

“Yer probably gonna have a Catholic part and a Muslim part of the island and you need to marry them off to one another. Love and cherish kind of thing. President Aquino’s gone a long way on this, but needs your support. I think he is part Scot, by the way.”

“Mindanao is Mickey Mouse, y’know? Addled with provincial non-achievement and conflict. The island has some 18 ports, little Mickey Mouse local jobs, perfect for smugglers to sneak in and out of. It has miners all over the place digging up the hills like madcap ants. They are greedy gold diggers and huge irresponsible mountain movers. No tourist in his right mind would go there, even though there are a lot of mountains to climb and beaches to snooze.”

“You need a statement. An Asian port. Modern. Huge. Build a modern city in Cagayan de Oro,  FACING the rest of the Philippines, not turned away like Davao. That is both a literal and figurative statement, Joe. CDO is right between Muslim and Catholic Mindanao and can serve them both. Stop pasting little projects across the landscape trying to cozy up to the petty local power pushers. That’s slapdash ineffective. Build a massive core and let the wealth flow out.”

“Establish a Mindanao Mining Authority and give them an island-wide supervisory role. Same with agriculture. Abandon the small farms mentality and the hodgepodge of power-based provincial and local governors; go for for scale and profit and exports galore. Ship me some of that wonderful coffee you grow there.  Get the national government to set up a mammoth industrial zone and seed it with manufacturing shops for weapons and tactical ships. Maybe even missiles. “

“Yes, the outlying areas will continue to fight and scrap for a few years, but we will soon see wealth and peace radiating out from CDO. Eventually, the malcontents will get it. They are better off working than fighting.”

Is Inspector Rebus Right?

He is certainly correct to observe that Mindanao has no central authority. It operates like Metropolitan Manila, multiple regions, multiple provinces, Muslim Mindanao a separate region. The island is sliced and diced six ways from Sunday with no one thinking about the whole.

It falls to the National government to think about the whole. And this approach of organizing several large industrial pushes makes a good deal of sense. Big business agribusiness would thrive on Mindanao if it weren’t burdened by small-farm thinking. Mining could be a huge wealth-builder if the rocks were simply sold for what they are worth rather than smuggled out or sold with a measley 2% cut going to the government. Add to that a massive, modern port with a free trade zone. Add to that industry brought in by the National government: weapons plants, or Japanese manufacturers now operating in China.

Think about it. First class, large-scale, Nationally funded and supported initiatives in four areas:

  • Agribusiness
  • Mining
  • Trade
  • Manufacturing

Tourism would be icing on the cake, perhaps.

Imagine Cagayan de Oro as the new “Golden City”. Then make it happen with investments in expressways and ports and industry and a casino or two.

And plug Mindanao into a national electrical grid, eh? I fear the current provincial way of managing a national resource as vital as electricity is DOA.

I opt for the Rebus Plan for Mindanao.

Build it big, build it first class. Huge piles of investment. A national priority of the highest order. Bring Mindanao into the nation the way Japan was kick-started by the U.S. after WW II. It is like the kick starter on a motorcycle. Get the island’s economic engine roaring with a major urban hub, high rises to the left and ports to the right. It will marshal the economic strength to benefit the entire island. Manage and regulate the four growth industries across the island from one center. Open the way for private enterprise to push jobs out across Mindanao.

A wild-eyed, naive scheme?

Some like it bold.

This case is closed.

35 Responses to “The Mindanao Protocol”
  1. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Mindanao is dubbed in Philippine textbook as “PROMISE LAND”. To this day it is still a promise fulfilled. Mindanao is the Middle East of the Philippines: Ethnic War, Religious War, Tribal War.

    It is a land where they still have Prince and Princess. King and Queen. They conquer foreign land with bolos and spears and amulets versus guns and cannons. It is also America at the same time where they have the right to bear arms. Also, Saudi Arabia where they death-by-stoning and decapitation. Women wear hijab.

    Mindanao is a weird place. Populated by weird people.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      … and I forgot, they have their own government: Autonomous Government.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes it is a weird place, I agree. I lived in the northern sector which I thought was safe until 20 NPA gangsters trooped through my house looking for me. Fortunately, I was in the U.S. at the time. I never returned.

      Then Senator Guingona’s mother was shot and wounded by the gangsters a few months ago, doing their ideologically pure form of electioneering. Shooting anyone who would dare not stop for their checkpoint. As if the land and peoples were all THEIR land and peoples.

      And the locals support these gangsters.

      That is what makes it weird. They cannot seem to put two and two together. Poverty is an outcome of choice. If you make a bad choice, you bear the penalty.

      Supporting the morality consistent with thugs, gangsters, murderers, destructionists . . . is weird. By definition.

      The idea of focusing on a major city is to let the thugs and those who support them rot in their netherland whilst the rest of the people get on with making money. When the thugs and those who support them want a piece of the wealth pie, they can simply choose to undertake constructive acts.

      • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

        Oh, yeah! They came looking for you, Joe, and hold you for ransom. Kidnapping is cottage industry in Mindanao. It is not Promise Land, it is Promised Land. I just do not understand the people living in the western half of Mindanao. That place should be off-limits to foreigners. It is the wild wild west.

  2. JM says:

    I have been to Mindanao thrice (General Santos, Digos, and Davao). I liked it there. The food is extremely cheap and fresh, the air is very clean and the people are very nice (A bit weird though, they stare a lot). Your suggestion is good but the change will be very slow. I remember watching news a few years back when there were killings happening in Mindanao. A community was telling the reporters that they were composed of both christians and muslims. They were protecting each other from Muslim rebels and soldiers, so it has already started. However, I don’t know if that asian port is good to build right now. They’d probably just bomb it even before it is completed.

    I have never been to Visayas. My mother told me not to go there because my family were threatened by the NPAs to never come back when they took my grandfather’s sugar cane plantation. Life became tough for them during those early times. I guess that would explain why they prefer rebels and everyone who supports them to be eradicated. I wonder why they still exist when we have 100,000+ soldiers + American assistance and them only having 4,000 soldiers.

    • Joe America says:

      “I wonder why they still exist . . .” Mostly no hope for any kind of progression in life because of poverty. They disappear into the regular labor during the day and are not revealed because of the local fear factor. They can move about freely when not in their gangs.

      A lot of the jobs in the golden city would be security. 🙂

  3. edgar lores says:

    1. Très merveilleux!
    1.1. Hercule Poirot not ‘Peroit’.

    2. The conceit of an island as a victim of crime is not far-fetched. It may be the truth – no, it is the truth.

    2.1. The metaphors are mixed, bullets and viruses, the circumstances are murky, the suspects are legion, and the investigator is a lush. But wait… the victim is still alive with hope of recovery. And the recovery procedures are well to hand, but not yet well in hand.

    3. I think the biggest problem facing the island is the Muslims and their separatism. It is more a global problem than a local one.

    3.1. Islam is a hegemonic religion. Its followers owe allegiance more to the faith than to the nations they are citizens of. Jihadists will flock to a conflagration beyond national borders that involve their kind, and the construct of mosque is above that of the state.

    3.2. Islam is more than a religion. It is a social and political ideology as well. The dream is of a world-wide Caliphate under Sharia. This despite a schism between Sunni and Shia that is deeper than the Catholic vs. Protestant divide.

    3.3. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not entirely accepted by Muslims. Islam has its own Cairo Declaration of Human Rights (CDHR).

    3.4. Amongst other constraints, the CDHR states in Article 22(a): “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.” Great. So much for freedom of speech.

    3.5. Islam and the Church have not been inoculated with the virus of 20th century political thought.

    4. I used to accept that an autonomous region and government for Muslims would be the way to forge ahead in Mindanao. After the results of this year’s mid-term elections, where voter turnouts reached an improbable and impossible 100% in many precincts in ARMM, I am beginning to change my mind. The utter disrespect and disdain for democracy is mind-boggling.

    4.1. The non-integrationist attitude of Muslims is causing harm not only in the Philippines but in all parts of the world. In theory, the CDHR forbids “discrimination on the basis of race, color, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations”. But theory and practice are not the same.

    4.2. It is an intractable problem. Again, as we have seen before in almost all arenas of human thought and endeavour, the problem is exclusivism in a world of plurality and diversity.

    4.3. Integration, inclusivism, must work at all levels from the personal, through the national to the planetary.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Islamd is the problem. They are intolerant degenerate uneducated bunch of people. Where Muslims are there is always trouble. They go places and do not want to be integrated. They impose their culture and religion on their host countries. Totally sick. They should be eradicated.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      I do not understand why civilized nations bend over to accomodate them. Muslims are like communists. They propagate in civilized nations becaue civilized nations are civilized and Muslims like communists are accepted hoping they change BUT THEY DO NOT. THEY CANNOT.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Communissm, christianity and present-day civilization cannot propagate in Muslim countries. Because Muslim are intolerant.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      I am looking forward when the world will not be dependent on their oil. America is 100% off mid-east oil. They are even exporting it to China. The only way to choke the Muslims is not buy their oil and never allow Muslims to their countries.

    • Joe America says:

      1.1 ahahaha, thanks. I never wrote Belgian very well.

      As to the rest of the numbers, I believe Muslims, like the Chinese, need to do wholesale introspection to rise to the level of civility achieved by the western world. I’m not saying the West is perfect, just a tad more civil with fewer beheadings and stealings of land and inventions from other nations. The sectarian killings are just jaw-dropping. It is hard to include people who want to kill your kids.

  4. The Mouse says:

    I go to Philippine forums and I noticed a very strong rivalry between Cagayan de Oro and Davao City. It’s just too strong a rivalry that is rearing its ugly head. It’s the kind of rivalry that is not healthy, citizens of both cities bad mouthing each other.

    I came across an article some years ago pointing to the problem of “rido” in many areas. That is clan wars. Of course these are not absent in Luzon and Visayas but it said that the rido mentality has been more of a problem in Mindanao than the actual Moro separatist rebellion. I think this is one of the many reasons why Mindanao has still strong presence of NPA… to have a “back up” army.

    I am not sure if it is part of a “tribal war” or an off shoot of the NPA and/or MNLF “splitting up”. Well, the past years, we’ve heard news of MILF vs MNLF vs ASG vs BFF or in the 90’s/early 2000s, the NPA vs its “breakaway groups” (CPLA, ABB, etc), so I am inclined it is the latter.

    And this is why I do not believe in any “autonomous region”. Why not just damn put more responsibility and obligation to all the LGUs to see forth who are the “losers” in running their jurisdiction. The central government needs to crack down on the local crooks especially. Why let bandits ran the most impoverish region? It’s like giving the ARMM from a local political syndicate to bandits.

    I also go to a forum where someone from the Phil Army posts. He said that they know where the rebels are. It’s just that when they opt for an offense, local politicians call them and “plead” to stop the offense. This convinces me that the rebel problem is more of a political problem than a military problem…basically, elected politicians protect and support these hooligans!

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Davao City is way ahead of Cagayan de Oro. You can call Davao City metropolis but not Cagayan de Oro.

    • Joe America says:

      That’s interesting, the rivalry between Davao and CDO, but it makes sense. I picked CDO because it faces Cebu, Manila and Hong Kong. Davao faces Sabah, Indonesia and Viet Nam.. CDO is small, but there is a good core there and room to grow.

      I agree with you that the failure to accept accountability is a big failing in conflicted areas. It’s a choice, strife or harmony. Harmony means that sometimes one has to concede to other interests. If you shoot mayors or kidnap aid workers, don’t expect tourists or investors to visit, and bring their money. Expect that poverty will continue. It’s a choice.

  5. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Mindanao cannot be developed economically because of Muslim+NPA equation. Mindanaons are proud of who they are. They look at themselves as unvanquishable. They believe Visayans and Tangalogs are afraid of them. They look at Visayans and Tangalogs as foreigners.

    It is a given and part of their culture to abandon their plot of land to have some unsuspecting farmers raise hogs, pigs and plant camote-Q. Once it is up and running they come declare it as theirs. They are indians to Americans. Mexicans to Californians.

    CDO becomoing a metropolis would become a problem to the Mindanaons particularly to the Muslims and NPA because they believe CDO belongs them. Businessmen know this. I know this. My grandparents know this. Most of all a tisoy&tisay I worked with before knew this. Everybody know this.

    Go ask Ampatuan.

    • Joe America says:

      Fascinating. It sounds like an exaggeration of all the dysfunctions that have plagued the Philippines for so many years. Ego, envy, disregard for laws, failure to accept accountability. Sell’em to Sabah, eh? What did the U.S. pay for the Philippines at the treaty of Paris? $20 million or somesuch. Time to get that back. Option B.

      • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

        I agree. If we cannot beat’em. Sell’em. Western half of Mindanao are more aligned to Musliminism where they are closer to Sabah and Indonesia which are Muslims. benign0 instead of selling it to them, just give half Mindanao to them free and clear, thereby, relieving us of the migraine, headaches and stomachaches. Most of all it would free the money thrown to them to be used to uplift the rest of the country.

        • Joe America says:

          “Musliminism” has been added to the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary. Noun. The religion that occurs when the flock is in love with itself and no one else.

        • The Mouse says:

          Prior to WW2, Muslims were called….

          Mohammedans. 😀

          Hillaire Belloc has some interesting things to say. He actually predicted back then (20’s or 30’s) that we’ll be facing this militant side of Islam…

          • Joe America says:

            Smart guy. Well, I have nothing against Mohammedans in general, but in specific I don’t like the murderous way the extreme wing practices its faith.

          • The Mouse says:

            Someone who will read a more objective view of European history will not be surprised. 7th century, fall of the Byzantine…

            I’ve been trying to read stuff and I’ve read that the medieval Christians did not view Islam as a separate religion back then, but more of a “heresy”. Given that they have a “version” of Jesus, that is not far from possible. Just think of what led to the Council of Nicea.

            Hillaire Belloc actually considered “Mohammedanism” as one of the Great Heresies.

            I’m under the impression that the “purer” they get, the more radical they become. The “heretical sects” that they consider are not much of a pain of the ass in the world. They must be taking their holy book all too literally.

          • Joe America says:

            Yes, with “smote” being one of their favorite words, taken all too literally.

            Seems to me you have been reading some good “stuff”.

  6. bebot says:

    No matter how much PNOY would try his very best to lure foreign investors, his time and efforts would be futile, from Mindanao ( Muslims and NPA), to Visayas ( NPA) and Luzon (NPA)

    • bebot says:

      These detrimental elements are bringing down the country’s economy by rampaging, ransacking, and burning the foreign business premises. What’s the point of Philippine military exercises with US when Abu Sayyaf, rebel Muslims and NPA remain very elusive from the military net. If I’m a foreign investor, I won’t invest in Philippines due to these elements and the flooding. When these are dealt with in superlative terms, then the government might be able to lure foreign investors.

      • Joe America says:

        Yes, that’s a good point. Much of the “investment” now is hot money, deposits in, deposits out, as we are seeing right now (out). And certainly Mindanao is last on the list of places to consider for investment. That’s partly why I recommended concentrating that investment in one urban area that is less vulnerable to the gangster style attack, done with large numbers of people.

        It’s interesting. If the 40% limit on property ownership were done away with, would outsiders plunk big money into real estate? Like office buildings? Retail buildings? Possibly no big flood, for reasons you suggest. But your point is right . . . the “idealists” are killing the Philippines.

      • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

        I have recommended weapon against Abu Sayyaf. It is called Jihawg Ammo. This is pork-laced ammo. Check this link:

        • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

          If anyone here wanted to tour Jolo, Sulu here is a bit of advise: Slather yourself with pork lard including clothes. Muslims will never lay a hand on you. You will go places unmolested.

        • Joe America says:

          I’m sorry about the delay in responding. I’ve been laughing for about 30 minutes.

          I tell you, we walk amongst geniuses.

  7. chonoon says:

    Another foil plan by the strategist wannabe.

  8. JosephIvo says:

    The final massacre of the Mindanao culture happened as recently as after the second world war, the final tidal wave of immigration. The first presence of the Spanish in Cotabato started only in the 1890’s! And even in Australia, occupied by the Brits in the 1700’s, the aboriginals feel mistreated. Even in the US the Indians feel robbed from their native lands after 300 years. Is it strange that some in Mindanao feel the same way after 60 years? This were their parents lands. The conquerors show the same characteristics as the white settlers in Australia or the US. They have the numbers, they have the stronger army behind them, they are more industrious, some just plain adventures with no scruples willing to rob a bank or two. But a white bank robber is always better than an untrustworthy Indian.

    John Rebus is clearly not an aboriginal or Indian but a typical “we rule the waves” Anglo Saxon. And even for the new immigrants a tea party starting an independence struggle is no more an option. A Nelson Mandela is needed. Truth commissions are needed. Priority education for Muslim boys is needed. Extraction by outsiders has to stop, profits are to be reinvested in Mindanao. Warlords to be exiled. A Copernican revolution has to take place, no more Manila as the center of the universe, all power in the regions, only a national level to generate synergies between the regions….

    Just back from an amassing week in Sarangani and Cotabato in hotels without internet. Worked a few years in Region IX before.

    • Joe America says:

      Rebus is 110% Anglo Saxon, but he listens well.

      Interesting, so a Federalist Philippines, respecting the right of the originals to determine their well-being. I wonder what kind of leadership moxie would be left if you took out the warlords.

      For sure, a Mindanao Mandela is needed, and a national government that would listen. I like the priority you put on education of Muslim boys. If you did that, you would also have better treatment of the girls, I’m betting.

      And interesting alternative to building a golden city-state . . .

      We must debate this further.

      Going without internet is weird. But healthy, I think. Like going without beer for a few days or weeks.

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