Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Way of Peace - Learning from Mandela

I'm back in Davao after spending my post-Christmas vacation in Iligan. Over the weekend, I finished reading the biography of Nelson Mandela.
What a fascinating man and an amazing life-story. As a young man, he was involved in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He resorted to armed struggle after realizing that the non-violent resistance was ineffective against a repressive regime. He worked with communists and was accused of being a communist. He was arrested and imprisoned for 27 years. Even while in prison, his leadership over the revolutionary movement was recognized. He maintained his sense of dignity and inner freedom, and never harbored any bitterness and anger against enemies. As he got older and as the political and economic crisis deepened, he realized that the African National Congress and it guerrilla army could never seize power through armed struggle. The sanctions and international pressure against the government made it viable for a negotiated peace settlement. He was able to successfully pursue peace negotiation with President de Klerk's government. After his release, the Apartheid was dismantled and years later he was elected president. His passion for freedom was accompanied by his capacity for forgiveness. Above all his sense of of hope sustained him throughout those long years in prison. Mandela embodies the Christian values even if he was not pious or deeply religious.

I wish the Filipino revolutionary leaders , especially Joma Sison, would read Mandela's biography and learn from his experience. The armed struggle in the Philippines has been going on for 40 years. The peace negotiation, which started 20 years ago has not progressed. The NDF has set a preconditions for the resumption of the stalled peace talks - of being delisted as terrorist organization by the US and the European Union. Meanwhile, the NPA continue to conduct tactical offensives - like attacking remote military outposts and soft targets (cell sites, banana plantations, etc.). The revolutionary leaders continue to dream the impossible dream - of capturing state power through armed struggle. On the other hand, President Arroyo and her generals are not interested in pursuing peace negotiatitions and continue to dream the impossible dream - the total annihilation of the NPA - by 2010.

I think that it is time for revolutionary leaders to come to their senses. They can never succeed in transforming Philippine society through armed struggle. The most that they can do is to attack remote outposts and cell-sites and liquidate uncooperative barangay officials. The majority of the Filipinos do not support the so-called "People's War" and the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Arroyo government and the military generals should also come to their senses. They can never totally annihilate the NPA. The military solution cannot solve the insurgency problem for as long as the roots of armed conflict are not addressed.

The only way forward for the revolutionary movement and the government is to walk the way of peace. There is much to learn from the South African experience and from Nelson Mandela.

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