To end the second longest war in the world – the Mindanao war – has been described before as “mission impossible.” And why not? That war began in the 16th century when the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao particularly the Moslems waged a revolution against the Spanish Colonial rule when the Spaniards “discovered” the Philippines and forcibly colonized the archipelago through sword and cross except the “Bangsa Moro.” The struggle to free the Bangsa Moro from colonial rule continued during the American Occupation and the brave Moros battled the American Colonizers with their “bolos” in suicidal attacks, the reason why the Americans invented a more powerful weapon -the 45 caliber- because the 38-caliber then could not stop a determined Moro warrior to kill one or two soldiers before the suicidal attacker succumb to death. No way would the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao succumb to the power of the colonizers then, the amazing reason why Mindanao has been described as the “land of the brave and the free.”
After the foreign colonizers left, a new breed of colonizers came – the Trans-National Corporations – that have transformed some two hundred thousands of hectares in Mindanao – the choicest of land – into massive plantations to supply the consumerist needs of the people in advanced countries while the Philippines cannot even produce basic staples like rice and milk for its hungry people. Where have all the forest and mineral gone, the richest in the world? Gone to loggers and miners every one!
Thus, the struggle of liberation continued initiated in the 70s by no less than Nur Missuari, a brilliant UP professor then who formed the Moro National Liberation Front. The armed struggle of liberation broadened in the late 20th century with the formation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front led, among others, by Abdullah Macapaar known as Kumander Bravo who is now an honorable Member of the Parliament of the Bangsa Moro Autonomous Region of Mindanao.
Will the struggle of liberation through protracted war continue without let-up in this rich but poverty stricken island of Mindanao? NOT ANYMORE because of the following analysis. Poverty. Social Injustice. Gross inequities. Political patronage. These are the roots of the war in Mindanao that must be uprooted not through bloodshed but by the strength of the human spirit in cooperation, love and service to one another irrespective of creed, race, class, gender, ideology and color. No less than Pope Francis said that “it bids us all to break the bonds of social injustice and oppression that give rise to glaring and scandalous inequities.” How do we then break these bonds of social injustice and oppression? That is what Asec Amenaah Fajardo has been doing all these years to uproot the root causes of the Mindanao War!
Prior to becoming an Assistant Secretary, Ameenah A. Fajardo – a chemical engineer and part of the academe by profession – she has managed to gather extensive experience both in government and business sectors.
Assistant Secretary Fajardo was once a Chief of Staff at the House of Representatives. She also became an Executive Assistant to the Rizal Provincial Government, where she served as the head of the livelihood activities of the Ynares Eco System (YES). She is also responsible for the “Fidel Iodized Salt for the Barangay Health Workers (BHW) Livelihood Program,” which has been throughout the entire country.
She has been actively participating and a volunteer for Disaster Rescue Programs in coordination with Foreign Investors and counterparts, notably for Tropical Storms Ondoy and Yolanda. Recently, their team conducted a medical mission in Marawi.
Asec. Fajardo is being lauded with her accomplishments; she received the Gintong Ina Award for Socio-Economic Community Service in 2001 and the Alay Sa Pamilya Award in 2003, for her dedication to public service pertaining to Livelihood Training and Programs for the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) whereby, she has successfully launched and joined Trade Fairs for our OFW Sector in coordination with different Governmental Offices. In 2021, Asec. Fajardo was recognized by the Guardians Magistrate Advocation’s for Democracy International Inc. (GMADII) and the LuzViMinda International Foundation as Outstanding Public Servant in the Community, Outstanding Women of the Year, and Outstanding Mother of the Year.
Currently, as the Assistant Secretary of DTI, she handles Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), the National Anti-Poverty Commission, Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster, Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, Comprehensive Social Benefits Program for the Wounded in Action – Killed in Action (WIA-KIA) AFP-PNP Personnel, Task Force Balik Loob of DND for Former Rebels, and Strike Team for Indigenous Peoples. In addition, Asec. Fajardo joined DTI Undersecretary for Special Concerns Abdulgani Macatoman at the launching of DTI’s Waste Processing Livelihood in Butig, Lanao del Sur and at the launching of Mobile Rice Mill project at Camp Bilal, Munai, Lanao Del Norte.
Be they persons with disabilities, OFWs, IPs, Moslems or the marginalized sectors, Asec. Ameenah has been capacitating and empowering them to be drawn into the mainstream of development processes, It is her contention that social injustices that consign the Mindanawons in the quagmire of poverty is rooted in the powerlessness or the disempowerment of the people and as a countervailing measure, they must be empowered to have access and control over their resources.
Look at the life of the Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao. They are now the poorest of the poor as their lands have been land grabbed. And when they will stand up for their rights, they are being killed. In fact, in the last five years, 63 IP leaders have been killed. As a countervailing measure, Asec. Ameenah has now come up with amazing projects so that the IPs can now transform their denuded lands into Abacca Plantation as she is mobilizing assistance from the DA, DTI and DOLE. The Abaca Plantation Project will indeed be a liberating force against poverty, climate change and violent extremism.
Asec Ameenah is also advocating for much needed paradigm shift in promoting Filipino products to help the OFWs. Indeed, during the pre-COVID 19 period, some 6,000 Filipinos are going abroad every day, leaving their families behind to find jobs in other countries. Why is this so? Because the Philippines has become the dumping ground of finished products coming from different countries in the world. Don’t you know that buying is like casting a vote, choosing from different economic alternatives? Foreign vs, local. Because of the gospel of lies, false information and advertisement, the Filipinos have been brainwashed to buy foreign products. Look at our malls. Ninety-five (95) percent of the products sold are coming from other countries. Thus, if you buy foreign products, you support the economy and job generation from where the products are coming from. It is time to awaken the Filipino People. When you buy local, you support the livelihood and the job generation of the Filipinos so that the OFWs will just stay in the country caring for their love ones.
Asec. Ameenah Fajardo, you are indeed a new revolutionary to free Mindanao from the quagmire of poverty, from neo-colonial rule. When you went to Kora-kora, Munai, Lanao Sur where you met the commanders of the 75,000 MILF combatants who have ceased fire to now peacefully fight hunger and poverty through cooperativism, you have heard them shouting, “MGA PAGARI AKON, SAMA-SAMA NA TANU KOOPERATIBA! ISA LANG ANG ARMAS NAMIN NGAYON AT YAN AY KOOPERTIBA LABAN SA KAHIRAPAN! What has been impossible, is now becoming possible – TO END THE MINDANAO WAR -the second longest war in the world!
Indeed, for those who have sacrificed, advocated and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of Martial Law and two people-powered revolutions. The ingredients, systems and structures breeding poverty are still as formidable as ever BUT NOT ANYMORE. Indeed, there is no greater grandeur sight in the world than a great leader like you, fired with a great unwavering aim – to empower the IPs especially the Moro people – as a liberating force to end the Mindanao War and to end the leaving of the OFWs to work in foreign lands!