Govt insincere in Moro peace talks; sobriety, justice urged

Jan. 27, 2015

DAVAO CITY—The local country chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) on Monday said the government showed “insincerity” to the ongoing peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after elite cops of the Philippine National Police raided an MILF base camp on Sunday at Tukanalipao village, Mamasapano, Maguindanao without prior notification and coordination.

“This is a big blow to the Mindanao peace process and shows the utter lack of sincerity of the Aquino government towards peace. The mere fact that government troops entered the area of the MILF without even coordinating with it despite prior GPH-MILF peace negotiations is proof of treachery,” ILPS-Phils Secretary General Norma Biñas said.

Biñas said the government is to be blamed for the “Maguindanao bloodbath” after it violated a certain protocol and eventually failed to inform the concerned authorities which led to the instant death of at least 64 elite cops in an encounter with MILF troops and BIFF forces.

According to MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, the clash was triggered by lack of coordination on the SAF operation.

“President Aquino, as Commander-in-Chief, and local government Secretary Mar Roxas, with his jurisdiction over the Philippine National Police and its elite Special Action Force (SAF), should explain the armed aggression on the Moro people,” Biñas said.

The group warned of a “humanitarian crisis as thousands of civilians are evacuating the bloody battlefield fearing more clashes between assaulting government troops and fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), joined by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).”

On Monday, as tension and fear gripped the whole village of Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, more than a thousand have fled their homes and sought refuge to safer places as “operational assessment” was being undertaken by the military following the bloody encounter with Moro rebel groups.

On Tuesday, several groups called for “sobriety” in the wake of the Mamapasano incident.

In a statement Tuesday, the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia of the Ateneo de Davao University “is once again calling for sobriety and encourages everyone to make an extra effort for peace and justice.”

“This may again divide our nation in looking at the conflict in Mindanao as different groups made statements that seem to create more confusion, misinformation, and disunity among the Filipino people,” the group said.

The group urged the government to conduct a “third party investigation” and stressed “we need to learn more about the dynamics and complexities of the situation in Mindanao. We need to work together for our peace and security.”

“We need to recognize that our government and the MILF have established a ceasefire mechanism to handle proper coordination protocols on the ground. Despite several major conflicts in the past, the mechanism allowed the peace talks to continue and move forward for more than sixteen (16) years.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has also decried the Mamapasano incident and branded it as an “act of violence against human life.”

“While the CBCP vehemently condemns this act of violence against human life no matter what the avowed purpose of such violence may be, we cannot side with those who call for the discontinuance of peace talks,” CBCP President Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said in a statement.

“If anything, the sad incident underscores the necessity and the urgency of arriving at a solution that is not rushed but that is inclusive, principled and just to all,” said Villegas.

Both groups have also demanded justice for the families of fallen elite cops.

“We demand justice for the families of the fallen policemen! We demand justice for the deaths of the MILF troops! If the intel report is correct, then we demand that the AFP – PNP – MILF capture Malaysian national Zulkifli Bin Hir alias “Marwan”, who is allegedly a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah,” said Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia.

CBCP’s Villegas said:”With profound sorrow but with faith in the Resurrection, the CBCP mourns with the families of the gallant policemen, victims of an utterly senseless act of violence in Mindanao, already weary from battle and conflict.”

“As a nation, we need to be reminded about the importance of peace in Mindanao. We reiterate that between an “all out war” versus an “all out peace”, the former has been proven to be the most expensive one. In an “all out war”, innocent civilians are displaced. Properties are destroyed. Children are forced to live in evacuation centers,” the group said.

For his part, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman on Monday has called on all stakeholders not to let the incident “derail the ongoing peace process.”

“As stakeholders, we must guard the gains in the ongoing peace process,” Hataman said.

Hataman also called both parties [the government and MILF] “not to let the case affect the ongoing peace process.” This as he warned that “detractors might use the incident for their own agenda and try to sow discord and derail the peace process.”

Hataman said the ARMM government has extended assistance through its Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART) by sending in 600 packs of relief goods to assist around 563 families that have been displaced due to the conflict.

Meanwhile, GPH Peace Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, in a statement Monday, said “the incident and other recent acts of violence by other armed groups manifest the diverse security challenges that confound the peace process.”

“But our resolve to see through the process of legislating the Bangsamoro Basic Law and implementing the different normalization programs, including the security components, is only further strengthened. With better cooperation we will be able to prevent these kinds of incidents.”

For ILPS-Phils, “the decades-long conflict has left 150,000 people dead and aggravated the stunted development in the country’s poorest region. Over a million civilians have become internally displaced refugees at the height of the government’s all-out war.”

“We call on the monitoring team, the international community and peace advocates to intervene actively in preventing more clashes initiated by government troops on the Bangsamoro people,” the group urged.

Meanwhile, a progressive lawmaker on Monday said the early Sunday dawn’s clash between the PNP’s elite cops, the MILF and the BIFF has scarred the peace efforts for a genuine peace in Mindanao.

“The recent incidents in Mindanao (Zamboanga bombing, Maguindanao PNP-MILF-BIFF encounter, etc) showed that finding genuine peace in Mindanao is still as elusive as before even as the Aquino government is rushing the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL),” said Bayan Muna Rep.Carlos Zarate.

Zarate said that the clamor of the Bangsamoro people for their right to self-determination has not yet been fully addressed by the Aquino government.

“As it is now, very clearly there are groups that are apparently still left behind under the present scheme of things because it is not fully addressing the Moro people’s historical quest for self-determination.”

“Even as we condemn the loss of lives in these incidents, Congress must also conduct a thorough investigation, particularly on the Maguindanao encounter since it appears that there was breakdown in the established mechanisms agreed upon by the GPH and MILF,” Zarate stressed.

For its part, Suara Bangsamoro claimed that the Aquino government “adheres to the global anti-terror policy (reward system) which will put every Moro community a legitimate target.”

“Moro men as suspects could always affect peace efforts in Moro areas,” said Jerome Aba, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro.

The incident has also triggered the Senate on Monday to suspend its deliberation on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in the wake of Sunday’s killings.

“We cannot help but suspect that the supposed serving of warrant against terror suspects, which eventually became a raid that led to MILF’s base camp was conducted in time with the deliberation of BBL,” Aba said.

Aba said the government apparently “cast doubts” to the capacity of Bangsamoro government to have its own security forces in various areas it deemed as territories.

“Senator Marcos should be reminded that what should be investigated is the false report that led PNP-SAF to attack an MILF area,” added Aba. (

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