DAVAO CITY – To stop the military offensive in Central Mindanao and resume the course of the peace process with the Moro secessionist group, a peace network said President Benigno Aquino III is still the best person to make this happen.
This was the statement from Patricia Sarenas, convener of the All-Out Peace network and chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode), as they announced last Monday their upcoming activities in pursuit of the resumption of the peace process.
The peace process, particularly the drafting of a law granting a new autonomous region for Muslim Mindanao, is in peril in the wake of the Mamasapano incident where 44 special police forces were wiped out while targeting a suspected foreign terrorist.
But a Mindanao-based lawmaker, Attorney Carlos Isagani Zarate from the Bayan Muna Partylist, doubts Aquino is still sincere on the peace process.
“How can he become the best person (for peace) when he is the one sabotaging the peace process by approving a US-backed covert police operation…without following the established mechanisms and protocol between the government and the MILF?” asked Zarate.
Zarate raised apprehension that with the “bungled” Mamasapano operations, “not only 67 lives were unnecessarily lost, the entire peace process is now becoming a serious casualty, too.”
The lawmaker wants Aquino to be held accountable as he doubts the president’s sincerity to resolve the current conflict in Maguindanao.
Thousands of Muslim civilians from several towns in Maguindanao have been displaced since last week following joint military and police operations in areas occupied by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a secessionist group suspected by the military of protecting suspected foreign terrorists.
Reports from the Maguindanao provincial government estimated 5,000 persons have evacuated to government centers or safer grounds.
These events have worried several groups looking forward to a resolution to the ancestral domain problem in Mindanao, as Sarenas said only the president can bring this issue to a resolution.
“He is still the best person to make this happen. He is the only president that has brought this (peace process) this far,” said Sarenas.
It was Aquino who met face-to-face with the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2011 to re-open doors for a peace agreement, which has led to the signing of a peace agreement and the crafting of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Sarenas added that through his word, Aquino could appease lawmakers and military officials over the Mamasapano incident as she said this was an event beyond the control of the peace mechanisms. She said efforts of the ceasefire committee between government and the MILF had prevented an eruption of conflict for the past three years.
Sarenas implied that even military officials “are tired of war” and would favor a stop to the offensives.
Another convener of the network, Memen Lauzon from WE ACT 1325, called for government and the public to unite for peace.
“We know that the Mamasapano have divided many of us, but let us remain steadfast for peace,” Lauzon said.
These calls face opposition from lawmakers who expressed reservation in finalizing the BBL due to the incident, as some senators also criticized the government’s peace panel over their position they said favored the MILF.
The All-Out Peace network will launch several activities on March 6, marking the 40th day since the Mamasapano incident.
An interfaith prayer starting from a mosque in Almendras Gym will proceed to a unity walk to San Pedro Cathedral. Bells will ring in churces and mosques by noontime, and a concert dubbed “MusiKalinaw” will culminate their activity at Taboan stage in Matina Town Square. (davaotoday.com)