Saturday, June 16, 2012

Soldiering outside the convention

Today is one of those few days where my schedule is empty. Aside from few routine activities, I spent most of the day beating Russia in Red Alert 3. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with a group of skilled Bamboo craftsmen in Purok Lower Waywayan. We will plan out their participation to the Inalima 2012. It’s an annual trade fair in time for the Araw ng Davao Oriental celebration. Together with the President of the Don Mariano Marcos – Federated BDS (BDS for Barangay Development System) Association or DMM-FBA, we will develop a working plan that will sell not just the bamboo furniture set made by the group but also the skill that will propel them to development.

In Barangay Don Mariano Marcos, Lupon, Davao Oriental, I am tasked to conduct the Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP). In the PDOP concept, the soldiers perform non-traditional roles such as community assistance and people empowerment. Beginning in February 2012, I went from one Purok to another discussing about how ordinary people in the community can become partners to development. After sometime, we began organizing them into groups we called as Barangay Development System Association or simply BDS. From the initial discussion of how they can become partners to development, we also conducted intensive planning workshop and further discussion with them to reinforce the message that we wish to deliver. Slowly, we saw how the way the people changed. From originally coming to meetings that we called out of fear of the soldiers, we were invited to meetings to assist them in the plans that they wanted to implement in their locality. The officers of their group initiated their own programs that will support their community. For my part, I tried my best to bring in inputs in their plans and programs. By end of April, we have already come up with the Federated BDS Association with 17 Local BDS Associations as members covering the whole of Barangay Don Mariano Marcos of about 400 members. In May 7, 2012, the Governor of Davao Oriental inducted the officers of DMM-FBA. We were also provide with 30 bags of corn seeds, 60 sacks of organic fertilizer and assorted vegetable seeds.

In a seemingly unconventional way of soldiering, I have found a sense of fulfilment beyond the guns and combat operation that soldiery is traditionally known for. Today, we have an ongoing Organic Vegetable Farming Training conducted together with the Provincial Agriculture Office. We will also be conducting a training for Bamboo Craft making for the BDS of Lower Waywayan, an Ornamental Flower Growing training for the BDS of Purok Linao and many other trainings intended to improve the methods of the people in their income generating activities. The Federated BDS Association is also organized in such a way that they are able to plan out their development. They have the marketing committee that will look for market of the different products and services of the group, an education committee which plans out all the trainings that will improve their membership, a membership committee, a monitoring committee and another for finance and audit. In this system, the ordinary citizen becomes the primary proponent of their development while the soldiers conducting PDOP together with another partner from the Provincial Agriculture Office provide guidance in their undertakings. We hope to formalize a group among government agencies and other concerned institutions as a form of convergence of support systems to communities like Don Mariano. When this happens, the community is in charge of their development backed up by a support system where they can receive guidance in how to go about with their plans as a community.

People ask me how are these methods relevant to fighting insurgency and winning the peace. I tell them that we cannot be fighting all the time. Bottom line of the conflict in our country is that we want to live good lives. Whether one is on the side of the government or that of the insurgency, the normal person just want to be able to live a full life.. The present method tries to achieve that and more. While people have so long been afraid of conflict erupting when soldiers come to their communities, they have now called for more soldiers to come into their community and bring in the services that they badly need. The propaganda that soldiers commit abuses to civilians in communities are overused lies intended to perpetuate the exploitation of the insurgents. These methods also paved way to secured atmosphere that enabled other groups to come in and make their own contribution.

Very recently, one group decried militarization in the communities because of the presence of the soldiers. However strong they try to gather some attention to their allegations none bothered to support them as the soldiers brought with them the many benefits that they have been longing to receive. Also, while they try to manipulate popular opinion with their twisted rationale, no formal complaints have been filed against the soldiers in proper venues. This is an obvious acceptance that their claims are mere efforts to discredit the gains in peace and development that is now rampant in these communities. In due time, we feel that they themselves will surrender their efforts to the collective agenda being fostered by this new partnership between the government and the populace which will ultimately defeat insurgency and elevate the state of our beloved country.

Tomorrow, I will present to the members of BDS in Purok Lower Waywayan a comprehensive business plan that will begin with the launching of their product up to working system for them to collectively maximize productivity of their skill. Well that’s part of a day’s work. In a surprising way, soldiers have now become truly servants of the people. A soldier is called to protect. In the Philippine setting, protection is no longer that against gun toting groups; rather it is protection from poverty. Sadly, these gun toting groups also are victims of poverty that need protection. Ironically, soldiers are also victims of poverty as they themselves are members of our poverty stricken society. In the end the key to overcoming these obstacles is not through the barrel of the gun but rather by working together as one big family even outside the convention of traditions.

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