Zamboanga City— Senatorial aspirant Cesar Montano is hopeful that peace will still be attained in Mindanao. Wearing a Muslim turban, the same headgear he used in his award-winning movie “Bagong Buwan” which tackled the century-old conflict between Christians and Muslims in the land of promise—Mindanao, Montano said “the problem in Mindanao is not about between Muslim and Christian per se. While there is a difference in religious belief, the root of the conflict emanates from social inequality.”
Montano said it is a pity that “development has not come to Mindanao in spite of the development aid that have poured in”. Worse, he said, is the innocent civilians are caught in the middle of the armed conflict. “The biggest casualty of the armed conflict are the children and the mothers who have to flee their homes and stay in refugee camps where the facilities are not adequate,” emphasized Montano when interview over the local radio after the Team Unity lunch at the residence of the Lobregats, their hosts in Zamboanga City.
Montano believes that “peace in Mindanao will come if a genuine and sustainable development program is pursued vigorously. These development programs should benefit not only the Christian settlers but our Muslims brothers as well,” reiterated Montano. He said the solution lies in an honest to goodness social justice program as captured in his C.E.S.A.R. agenda. He expounded on this by saying that his priority is the protection of children, especially those caught in the crossfire. He said he is also very much against children being used as combatants or even couriers by armed groups. Related to this, he bats for quality education in all levels for Mindanaons, one that will give them access to social mobility. “We need more school houses, not weapons of destruction,” said Montano. Montano also stressed the need for fast, efficient and effective delivery of basic social services like low-cost but decent housing, health care including affordable medicines and vaccines. Lastly, Montano said the law on agrarian reform should be implemented so that the Mindanao tillers of the land could enjoy the fruits of their labor. “Land reform”, he said, “should be complimented by the necessary infrastructure support like irrigation, farm-to-market road, warehouses, and even farm technology.”
Montano considers himself an adapted son of Mindanao. He said his exposure to the Mindanao situation while filming “Bagong Buwan” has opened his eyes to the harsh realities and complexities of the conflict. And like in that movie, he is hopeful that the solution will come in due time. He promised to prioritize Mindanao in the allocation of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) if elected as senator this May 14.