THIS IS THE EDITORIAL
JULY 11, 2000 ISSUE
Who is stopping Erap?
PRESIDENT Estrada says nothing will deter him from pursuing his
vision of transforming Mindanao into ''the country's next food
basket'' and uplifting the standard of living of its people.
''Nobody can stop me from giving my full attention to the development
of Mindanao,'' he said last Saturday.
But who is stopping him?
Certainly not the people of
Mindanao. They have been complaining for decades that they have
always been neglected by the ''Manila government'' and that they
have been getting much less than their fair share of the development
pie. They would certainly welcome a massive infusion of development
funds as well as investments that would speed up the development
of the country's second largest island.
Certainly not the people in
Central Mindanao who are caught in the crossfire of the conflict
between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Although its predominantly Muslim population is said to love
guns more than almost anything, most would undoubtedly exchange
the sound of cannons and gunfire for the hum of heavy equipment
building roads, bridges, irrigation systems, etc.
Certainly not the bishops and
priests and other peace advocates who have been clamoring for
a cessation of hostilities. They have stressed that peace is
a necessary precondition for development and war only makes rehabilitation
more expensive and complicated.
Certainly not the lawmakers
who are opposing Malacañang's proposal that the President
be vested with emergency powers so that the rehabilitation of
Mindanao can proceed unhampered by workers' strikes, court orders,
and bidding requirements. All they want is to safeguard scarce
government resources and preserve the constitutional right of
workers as well as the constitutionally guaranteed independence
of the judiciary. Already 109 representatives, many of them members
of the ruling coalition, including the bloc of Speaker Manuel
Villar, are said to have indicated their intention of rejecting
the emergency power bill. Malacañang itself cannot even
make up its mind about what emergency or extraordinary powers
the President needs, speaking one day of dispensing with the
bidding for projects and disclosing the next day that it would
put in place an electronic bidding process; proposing one day
to junk agrarian reform and then just dropping the idea when
reminded that it could violate the fundamental law. The administration
ought to just drop the whole thing before it suffers a major
embarrassment from Congress.
If it is not some legal obstacles
or the opposition, political, religious or whatever, what then
is standing in the way of the administration's ''mini-Marshall
Plan'' for Mindanao? What is keeping Mr. Estrada from giving
''full attention'' to Mindanao's development?
It's Mr. Estrada's own all-out
war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The war is costing
the government billions that could otherwise have been used for
development of the areas of conflict to showcase the administration's
concern for the impoverished Muslims and other minorities. The
destruction it is wreaking is making reconstruction a much more
expensive and daunting proposition. And the violence it has unleashed
and the instability it has created are dragging down the peso
and the stock market, driving away foreign investors and worrying
Mr. Estrada may have all the
earnest intentions of speeding up the rehabilitation and development
of Mindanao. But pretty soon, that may be all he has left-good
intentions-unless he comes to realize that the way to development