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Senators slam Palace’s failure to contain violence in South

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:33:00 09/03/2008

Filed Under: Armed conflict, Security (general), Safety of Citizens, Congress

MANILA, Philippines?Senators Tuesday slammed Malacañang for not doing enough to contain violence in Mindanao.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II said the Arroyo administration?s strategy of gradual or incremental military presence in Mindanao was insufficient to ?smother? the conflagration which has led to more isolated acts of terrorism.

?As the tense situation escalates, civilians will decide to carry arms, form their own vigilante groups. We need to overwhelm them, there is not enough military presence because the military is still weighing the need for more troops,? Roxas said in an interview with reporters.

He said that in contrast to former President Joseph Estrada?s all-out war policy against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), he was advocating intimidation through a broader military presence in Mindanao to suppress violence.

?I don?t think they have a full grasp of the situation,? Roxas said.

Sen. Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III said that Malacañang was showing ?reluctance? in going full blast in containing the Mindanao situation.

Aquino said the government was not only slow in deploying more troops to hot spots, it was also late in mobilizing its resources to help thousands of families who fled after recalcitrant MILF commanders launched attacks in central Mindanao.

?Could this be a pretext to emergency powers?? asked Aquino who had earlier warned that the current situation was getting close to the conditions prior to the declaration of Martial Law.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan condemned Monday?s bombing of a bus in Davao del Sur that killed at least six people as proof of the authorities? ?apparent laxity and lack of determination to protect the people.?

?Our police was supposed to be on heightened alert because of the first day of Ramadan. If a crime this terrible can get past our authorities, how can we assure the public that their police can protect them?? Pangilinan asked.

?We cannot always be a step behind in the fight for peace and order. Our authorities are not supposed to just chase suspects after lives have been lost and fear has been sowed among our people. They are supposed to uncover these plans before they happen and prevent criminals from succeeding.?

Sen. Joker Arroyo said the administration should not await the Supreme Court decision on protests against the scuttled memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA) with the MILF in pursuing peace initiatives.

?Any decision the Supreme Court will finally render will help shape the policy on the dispute, but it will not be the solution to the conflict, as some mistakenly assume,? Arroyo said in a statement.

He said the problems spawned by the aborted agreement, like the dislocation of civilians and the future of the peace process, ?rest on the shoulders of the political departments of the government, namely, the executive and the legislative, not the judiciary.?

Arroyo was reacting to Chief Justice Reynato Puno?s statement that the Supreme Court remains sensitive to the complexity of political issues that are exclusively within the powers of the executive and the Constitutional questions that petitioners have raised.

?The high court?s delicacy indicates its respect for the axiom that judicial action cannot be a substitute for executive responsibility,? Arroyo said. With reports from Edson C. Tandoc Jr. and Leila B. Salaverria

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