Estrada has lost the right to speak out on peace process-MILF | Inquirer News
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Estrada has lost the right to speak out on peace process-MILF

Communist rebels, Aquino gov’t bicker on ‘prisoners of war’
/ 05:13 PM August 14, 2011

OZAMIS CITY, Misamis Occidental, Philippines — A war of words has erupted between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and former president Joseph Estrada on one front, and between the Philippine government and the communist rebels as represented by the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army on another front.

“Be quiet,” the MILF told Estrada who earlier cautioned President Aquino about the rebel’s proposed peace pact with government, calling for a Bangsamoro substate.

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Khaled Musa, deputy chair of the MILF committee on information, told Estrada to “rectify his sins.”

Musa, in a statement posted on the MILF website, pointed out that to show military victory, Estrada led government troops in entering the MILF’s Camp Abubakar, bringing roasted pig and beer.

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Roasted pig is haram (forbidden) in Islam.

Government troops captured the rebel group’s administrative complex in July 2000 after a five-month long military campaign that started in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

“This ignorance and insensitivity to what Muslims believe are not helping in the resolution of the Moro Question and the armed conflict in Mindanao. Instead, these promote too much animosity and rift in the religious divide in this country,” Musa added.

Musa described Estrada as “not equipped to grasp the intricacies of the various forms of governance” in politically mature societies such as Europe.

Estrada earlier took issue with Mr. Aquino’s meeting MILF chief Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo and warned that the rebel group’s substate proposal would lead to the establishment of a separate Moro republic.

But lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), said she would rather see them exchange words than see tensions leading to war in Mindanao.

It would be better if the public discussions were based on the substantive issues of the negotiations and not just rehashed positions founded on bias and prejudice, Arnado said when asked to comment on the ensuing word war, in the sidelines of a seminar here on the Mindanao peace process.

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“(But) Estrada has no credibility to comment on the peace process. He has squandered his opportunity to make Mindanao peaceful by his all-out war policy in 2000,” she added.

“He must therefore defer to the wisdom of President Aquino about peacemaking,” she pointed out.

The MILF been engaged in a 14-year-long peace negotiation with the government which has been on its concluding phase since mid-2009.

From demanding independence, the Moro rebel group has since settled to a special autonomous arrangement with government to pursue its aspiration for self-governance.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said declaring four captured jail officials as prisoners of war (POWs) was “an act of humanitarianism.”

Government peace negotiators with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the CPP’s political front, earlier said the granting of POW status was an act that could only be taken by a belligerent force.

But the government’s assertion, the CPP said, “betrays a poor understanding of international humanitarian law and a predilection to selectively apply it against the CPP-NPA-NDF while refusing to recognize the status of belligerency of the revolutionary forces.”

The government has been urging the CPP to have the New People’s Army (NPA) release the four jail officials who were taken captive on July 21 in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

In a statement, the government panel headed by Alex Padilla said “these acts committed by the NPA are nothing short of criminal.”

But the CPP hit back, saying: “On the one hand, the government measures the revolutionary forces against the standards of international humanitarian law and human rights protocols, which govern the conduct of states and belligerents. Yet it denounces such humanitarian acts as according prisoner-of-war status to captives, and insists on treating the revolutionary forces as criminals instead of a belligerent force engaged in a civil war.”

In Ozamiz City, Carylle Bajuyo, wife of one of the captive jail officials, insisted his husband and the three other colleagues, “are not combatants.”

The NPA command in southern Mindanao earlier said the jail officials “were carrying out duties as functionaries of the reactionary state’s prisons which serve as a vital cog in the government’s counterrevolutionary war.”

It referred to them as “(Philippine National Police) PNP)/(Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) BJMP personnel.”

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TAGS: Armed conflict, Communist Party of the Philippines, communist rebellion, Insurgency, Joseph Estrada, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro rebellion, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, New People’s Army, News, prisoners of war, rebellion
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