On the eve of the fasting month of Ramadan, Cotabato City was rocked with two powerful explosions.  The first one happened in an empty lot with no reported casualty while the second was in a busy national highway at an eatery (Café Florencio).  Five were wounded; one of them, the night manager, succumbed to death a few hours after.

People are looking for answers.  As usual police investigation and ‘intelligence’  work would yield NO results and people would, as usual, bury their dead' lick their wounds, and rebuild their lives. 
The tragedy that struck Cotabato City on the evening of the 9th of July followed the ‘shootouts’ between AFP and Moro Rebel Forces on the previous Saturday and Sunday in Datu Piang, Datu Saidona and in Pikit.  The shootouts were reported as a firefight between the AFP and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or BIFF. 
As usual, the AFP counted the casualties on the side of the enemies and the BIFF did the same, with the civilian populace getting the real brunt of the shootings. Without sounding pathetic, the whole tragic drama follows the usual ‘script’ – first is the skirmishes between the two armed groups; then followed by displacement of civilians the the move to safer grounds; then bury your dead; lick your wounds and move on. What else is new…? 
What we are actually seeing unfolding and are beginning to see again is a never ending cycle of struggle, ceasefire, talks, agreement, promises, unfulfilled promises, resumption of struggle, a never ending talk, an agreement never kept and promises never redeemed.  To describe it more crudely but closer to the truth… What we are actually seeing is a new way of packaging (akin to the electoral hocus pcos) of something like a déjà vu!
Ah! We welcome Ramadan, praying and hoping that the month-long fasting would serve as a ‘respite’ albeit short from any form of violence! The big explosions gave way to the preparation of the fast and the traditional ‘buca’ (breaking of the fast) each day.
Meanwhile, analysts both from the military on each side of the divide, private sectors and CSO seek to understand the bits and pieces.  Each military analysis would have their separate connections and conclusions depending on their principals’ reading.  The CSOs follow suit, their calls and advocacy bear the colors of their principals. Then the people in situ who are the actual victims are never heard. They remain the voiceless and often times, they appear as real ‘pawns’ in a chessboard.
The real question people ask is NO LONGER whether there would be an enduring peace in their lifetime but whether they and their loved ones would be able to survive the power and the wealth ‘game’. All the slogans used and all the press releases are words bereft of any real meaning outside of sound bytes.  The people have long been inured to these promises.  The greater number of them do not even own the lot where they houses are built. With all the hullabaloo about land reform in the Bangsamoro, the greater number of farmers remain tenants. 
How can these people understand a ‘homeland’  or ‘ancestral domain’ when they do not even own any piece of land? It is for this reason that bomb explosions, armed skirmishes and the like bear the markings of political agenda and vested interests.
At the heart of the agenda lie the hapless civilians with very little choice for lack of education and economic opportunities.  They scamper for safety when they hear rumors of war; they duck when shootings begin; and they flee to evacuation centers when their communities become scenes of battles. 
What is truly amazing is the capacity or resilience of these people to begin life anew… A sort of after the ‘deluge’, the sun rises again.  They go back to their farm, rebuild their homes, and plant again.

Well, explosions on the eve of Ramadan are like earth tremors. People living along the rings of fire, learn how to live and dance amid dangers of earth movements.  They eke their living always with a mantra on their lips: “Keep us safe, ya Allah – the All Merciful and All Compassionate”!
Fr. Eliseo Mercado is senior policy adviser at the Institute for Autonomy & Governance. Follow him on Twitter @junmeromi.