The Challenge Facing Moro Inteligencia

By: Atty. Zainudin S. Malang (LL.M., I.M.R.I., J.D.)


Upon reading the text of my lecture on the development challenges in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, a friend asked me why I only limited my discussion to basic economic issues. My reply to him was that the topic assigned to me under the training design was macro-economics and discussion thereof have a tendency to be limited to basic issues.

However, I also pointed out to him that there is a far more fundamental reason why I stuck to the basics and this has something to do with the challenges facing members of the Moro intellectuals.

About the many challenges – be it economic, political, security, social - facing our area which for decades has been beset by armed conflicts, let me say that in and by themselves, these issues are already daunting in their complexity. But when one tries to correlate these challenges with each other, that complexity is multiplied many times fold. And as we – the intellectuals, the bureaucrats, the leadership - try to find our way in this complex labyrinth of inter-related problems, there is a real risk that we will lose our common understanding of our situation, we will lose sight of our common narrative. Once that happens, we will end up prescribing all sorts of different and inconsistent solutions and start pulling our Bangsa in opposite policy directions. So much for the “best and brightest” being the hope of our community. That is why we need to put forth a common understanding of the basics of our situation before we can offer concrete solutions.

Be that as it may, let me also say that we do not have the luxury of time. To state the obvious, we – our Bangsa – is under time pressure. Thus, once we have put forth a common narrative of the fundamentals of our conditions - after we have deconstructed our misconceptions and re-examined our assumptions - then we should proceed forthwith to coming up with specific solutions. And this brings me to the next point.

We are all aware of the challenges to our Bangsa. But, besides coming up with a common narrative, what is the challenge to the Moro Inteligencia - the ones my friend calls “the best and the brightest”? That challenge, I firmly believe, is learning how to think out of the box in finding solutions to our problems. Why is this a challenge?

Well, sadly, I have seen many friends commit the mistake of assuming that the security, development, and socio-political models and concepts they have learned from their many studies and training can be readily applied to our community “lock, stock, and barrel”. Having studied at the Ateneo, University of the Philippines, Asian Institute of Management, and even prominent foreign schools, our paradigms were shaped by these institutions and in the process, we forgot that the works we have read in these schools were written about, for, and by non-Moros. In general, the concepts and models that were developed in these schools were based on their experience as a society, not ours. For sure, there are lessons we can draw from these. But we should always bear in mind that these models have a set of assumptions for them to work and we need to examine those assumptions to determine if they exist in our community. We must re-examine, in the words of John Nash, the “governing dynamics” underlying their theories. Well and good if, after examining their assumptions, we can conclude that they are applicable to our conditions. Otherwise, we must modify.

Indeed, as any social scientist would tell us, any model can be useful provided it is applied to the right environment – emphasis on the phrase “right environment”. And this has been the pitfall of many proposed solutions and projects in the ARMM. Either there has been little effort at creating the right environment for peace, developmental, or socio-political interventions in our area or little has been done to modify these models to the local environment. That is what I mean by thinking out of the box. And this, again, brings me back to my earlier point. We can only successfully modify these models if we have a unified understanding of the basics of our conditions. If we fail to do so, then that old maxim will come to haunt the Moro inteligencia – of having adopted “the right solution to the wrong problem”.

This is basically the same assessment I have been giving to international developmental agencies, peace agencies, and even government agencies who have asked why, notwithstanding their many developmental interventions and projects, the Human Development Index in the ARMM has gone down rather than up. I told them that far too many of their consultants and far too few of their projects have been informed by the local conditions in our area. By conditions, I refer not only to the tangible physical conditions but the more important but less visible socio-political conditions. Thus, I suggested that they should involve Moros not only in project implementation but more importantly, in project identification and design. The assumption, of course, is that we know more about our situation and are therefore better equipped to identify which problems should be prioritized and to propose viable solutions thereto. But again, this assumption will only hold true if we are able to meet the challenge I discussed above.

Allah has given Manusyaa the ability to think logically. This Akal is not only a God-given gift. It is also a religious duty to exercise it. Therefore, the challenge to Moro intellectuals is to be scientific, systematic, logical, and creative in our thought-process as we navigate through the vast problems laid out before us.