Chief Justice appeals for peace, rule of law | Inquirer News

Chief Justice appeals for peace, rule of law

/ 01:12 AM January 28, 2015

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno: To seek revenge would only worsen the situation  INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno: To seek revenge would only worsen the situation INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–Saying revenge would only “add to the darkness,” Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday called for sobriety and the rule of law in the wake of the encounter between police and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Maguindanao province, where at least 44 elite police officers were killed.

In a rare statement, Sereno aired an appeal for peace as she reaffirmed the judiciary’s commitment to rule of law.


“A call for war and retribution should never be made lightly and should remain always a final option. It should certainly not be made in the heat of the moment and in the face of, as yet, unclear facts and confusing narratives,” Sereno said.


“Let us instead all contribute to our nation’s search for just and lasting peace by encouraging all parties to bring any conflict to the table of peace instead of the battlefields of war,” she added.

In the House of Representatives, lawmakers said the government must stand behind the slain police commandos instead of pinning the blame on them in the interest of peace talks.

Peace with justice


“If we want peace, there should be justice,” said Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, who in 2000 was wounded in action fighting MILF rebels as a junior officer.

Sereno expressed the high court’s “deepest sympathies” to those left behind by the slain officers.


“We deeply mourn for those killed, and weep with their families as we would weep for our own kin. No words are enough to console the families for their loss, perhaps even the promise of earthly justice will sound hollow at this time. But I ask them now to cling to the hope that there is always the eternal realm,” Sereno said.

The Chief Justice issued a similar statement following the killing of Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Reynerio Estacio on Feb. 28, 2014, in the hands of motorcycle-riding gunmen.

Sereno then condemned the killing of the judge, who was known for being fearless in handling high-profile cases.

In apparent reference to the case, Sereno said: “We have sworn to render justice as a sacred duty, even if our very lives demand it, in the same way that our soldiers and policemen have given their lives for the service of this country. Some of our very best judges have also fallen, and we continue to mourn for them, and feel their absence.”

Appeal for calm

Sereno appealed for calm pending the release of a full report on Sunday’s clash, feared to further delay the peace process.

“During this time, we must ascertain facts to avoid confusion and acknowledge the complexities of the situation to allow for the rule of law to truly prevail,” said the Chief Justice.

To seek revenge, Sereno said, would only worsen the situation.

“Lives have already been lost. More violence and more deaths will not contribute to the cause of peace; to paraphrase a great civil rights leader, violence begets the very thing it seeks to destroy and adds deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars,” Sereno said.

“Let us not add to the darkness but to the light. It is the only way that we ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen policemen would not be in vain,” she added.

Support troops

Alejano said the government should support the troops. “It seems we’re on the side of the MILF and we’re blaming the PNP. The government must take a strong stand in support of the PNP,” he said in a voice laced with emotion.

He pressed President Aquino to unequivocally show support for the slain SAF members who entered territory claimed by the MILF in pursuit of two fugitive terrorists, one of whom was Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” a Malaysian bomb expert linked to the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

“It’s important to see a leader standing behind its troops. If the troops feel that the leadership is not behind them, there will be demoralization,” Alejano told a forum.

Return seized weapons

“What will the government do now? Will we just file a protest? What about those who were killed?” he said.

As a gesture of sincerity and to build back confidence in the peace talks, Alejano said the MILF must return all the weapons and equipment they took from the SAF troops.

Another Magdalo representative, Ashley Acedillo, said the government should also demand that the MILF turn in all of its forces involved in the clash.

“If their reason is the lack of coordination, does it mean that if our troops don’t coordinate, their answer is just to kill them? What does this say about the MILF? We’re now in the midst of peace talks, but their propensity is to resort to violence,” he said.

He said it appeared from the condition of the SAF members’ remains that it was not a simple encounter, as evidenced by their “broken skulls and severed limbs.”

Bangsamoro Basic Law

Acedillo said it was irresponsible to claim the incident was isolated and should not affect peace talks and the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The clash on Sunday was the first violent incident between the government and the MILF since both parties arrived at a peace pact last year.

As an offshoot of the peace deal, Congress is currently deliberating the BBL, which will create a new politically autonomous entity for the Bangsamoro people to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“They said prior to this incident that constitutionality was the foremost issue in the BBL. Now it’s not the only issue but also its viability. Do you think after we sign this law, there will be peace in Mindanao?” he said.

Surrender two terrorists

ACT-CIS Rep. Samuel Pagdilao, a former police general, said the MILF should go one step further by surrendering the two terrorists the police commandos were pursuing: Marwan and Basit Usman, commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“They are being coddled, obviously, by the same group that we’re negotiating with to have peace,” he said. “Why are these two international terrorists still here enjoying not captivity but protection obviously?”

Pagdilao said even if there was no coordination with the MILF, the area of the clash remained a Philippine territory, even though it was being claimed by the rebel group as its own.

“For purposes of sincerity and confidence building, they should turn in Marwan and Usman,” he said.

Acedillo said the deadlines announced by the government for the enactment of the BBL should be set aside for now, while an investigation was being undertaken on the Maguindanao incident.

He said rushing the passage of the BBL would not solve the problems in Mindanao, noting that there were still other parties to contend with, including certain factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) opposed to the deal, led by fugitive Nur Misuari, and the BIFF.

Furthermore, Acedillo said he received reports that the MILF forces in that part of Maguindanao were known to be cooperative with the BIFF.

Another problem, Alejano said, was the fact that the MILF “has no control over its commanders.”–Reports from Tarra Quismundo and DJ Yap



CJ Sereno calls for sobriety on Maguindanao carnage

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IN THE KNOW: Maria Lourdes Sereno

TAGS: clash, Maguindanao, MILF, peace, peace process, Police, rule of law, Supreme Court

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