Basilan Army commander seeks dialogue with Abu Sayyaf; shocks ARMM adviser
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–The newly installed Army commander in Basilan said a dialogue with the Abu Sayyaf was among measures he is considering for peace to finally reign on the island-province.
The comment shocked an adviser to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao but was welcomed by the governor of the strife-torn province.
Colonel Rolando Bautista, who took command of the 104th Infantry Brigade on Thursday, said it was his priority to “promote dialogue with those who want to discuss peace with the government” even if they belonged to the Abu Sayyaf.
“I am open to waging peace with the Abu Sayyaf Group,” Bautista told the Inquirer in an interview after assuming his new command. He said he knew that the Abu Sayyaf also wanted peace.
Alvin Dans, a senior consultant to Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said Bautista’s proposal came as a shock. He noted that the Abu Sayyaf was a terrorist group.
But Basilan Governor Jum Jainuddin Akbar said that while the Abu Sayyaf was notorious, she understood Bautista’s line of thinking.
A dialogue with the extremist group, she said, might be a much better approach to the search for peace and progress in her province.
“There’s nothing wrong with it. Whatever it is that can help us achieve peace is most welcome. If we can achieve peace through non-violent means, then it would be better,” Akbar said.
Bautista said a dialogue with the Abu Sayyaf might be an unpopular move but he added that the Bible teaches man to reach out.
“God said you reach out not only to your friends but to your enemies as well,” he said.
Bautista said a sincere search for peace entailed dialogue and he would start reaching out to the Abu Sayyaf by tapping the help of Muslim religious leaders in Basilan.
“Whatever my intentions I will course it to their elders. It would be very challenging but we can always try. If we don’t try it, misunderstanding would prevail,” he said.
Bautista said he was not considering deadlines in his quest for a dialogue with the Abu Sayyaf.
“The search for peace has no timetable,” he added.
But he clarified that it did not mean the military would not pursue those he labeled “spoilers.”
“For those who resist as we offer our left hand, we also have our right hand to deal with spoilers,” Bautista said.
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