Mindanao business, civil society groups: Continue peace process
COTABATO CITY, Philippines–The Mindanao Business Council (MBC) and civil society group have sounded off apprehension over the recent Maguindanao violence, which resulted in the killing of 44 members of the police’s Special Action Force, and appealed for sobriety and immediate aid to victims’ families.
Vicente Lao, MBC chair, said in a media statement that the carnage should not be a cause to abandon the gains of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“The January 26 bloody incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao should not be the cause to derail the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress,” Lao said.
Lao said Mindanao businessmen have become concerned about the possible consequences of the “recent tragic incident” as emotions have remained high.
“We appeal to our leaders in government and private sector to be careful and prudent in issuing public statements,” Lao said, because information was still vague. He added that “we maintain our support for the peace process.”
In Iligan City, the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation (MPI) also called for sobriety and calm and cautioned against mounting calls to abandon the peace process.
The group said it was supporting instead moves for the conduct of an “immediate and thorough investigation into the incident.”
“The government and the MILF should hold responsible those in ultimate command of the forces who failed to assure the proper conduct of the operations and coordination between the forces of the government and the MILF,” it said in a statement.
MPI is engaged in training peace and development workers.
“[It’s] difficult but we still have to believe in the peace process. My brother, a captain, was killed in Basilan in 1998. I dedicated my support to waging peace in memory of his sacrifice,” Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. said in a statement.
He said that among those killed in Sunday’s clash was a cousin of his.
“The natural emotional tendency is to condemn, to doubt, to grieve and to call for aggression,” he added. “But the courageous thing for us to do is to pray and to believe, still.”
“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,” the Al Qalam Institute said in a statement.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said that “those responsible must be sanctioned pursuant to law immediately” but warned that the incident “must not be used as an excuse to dump the peace talks between the government and rebels.”
In the wake of the massacre of SAF commandos in Maguindanao, some civil society groups are worried the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) could be sidetracked because of the political circus that could arise.
A joint statement of 20 peacebuilding groups in Lanao del Norte pleaded to Congress “not to derail nor halt the legislative hearing on the BBL” so as not to affect the peace roadmap defined by both the Philippine government and the MILF.
“We call on the Senate and the House of Representatives to proceed with their legislative work on the Bangsamoro Basic Law while the PNP, AFP and our President attend to this crisis. Our Senators and Congressmen have come a long way in consulting our people in order to pass the Basic Law,” said Bantay Ceasefire, a grassroots organization independently monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire accord between government and the MILF.
“Let us not stop this process now. We cannot afford to stop,” it added.
Bantay Ceasefire also appealed to Senators Ferdinand Marcos, Allan Peter Cayetano and JV Ejercito “to continue the committee hearings on the BBL.
“We are sad that Senators Cayetano and Ejercito reportedly withdrew their authorship of the BBL. In the interest of peace and for sake of all peace-loving Mindanaoans who are pinning our hopes on the passage of the BBL, we appeal to the sense of statesmanship of our political leaders to await the outcome of an independent investigation,” the group said.
“Like the Senators and Congressmen and especially the PNP and AFP, we too would like to know what actually happened. We want to know who ordered the SAF to go to that area,” it further said.
Sunday’s clash also triggered a war of words in social media, principally on Facebook. And the arguments mostly centered on whether to go to war again with the MILF.
MPI noted that “there are clamors for an all-out war, vengeance for the deaths of comrades, and justice through violent means, especially through social media.”
It urged netizens to exercise self-restraint in offering their thoughts to others through social media.
“We call on all people of the Philippines and elsewhere to be responsible and reasonable in posting to and commenting through the web and on social media platforms. It is appropriate to be critical, but also important to be rightly informed,” MPI asked.
“We call on individuals, groups and institution to show restraint in posting and giving comments that may only serve to propagate hate and prejudice, misinformation and further spread chaos and confusion among the Filipino people. The ‘virtual’ arguments in social media can have very real consequences for people on the ground,” it added.
In Davao City, Davao del Norte Representative Anton Lagdameo emailed a statement correcting reports that he has withdrawn his support to the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
“I’d like to clarify that I have not withdrawn my support for the BBL,” Lagdameo said.
He said like anyone else and in the “interest of peace in Mindanao,” he has been seeking for answers.
“We need to know and understand what happened and why, so that similar tragedies may be prevented in the future,” Lagdameo said.
Also, several members of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro have expressed their continued support for the peace process, according to a news release by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Among them was Anak Mindanao Party-list Representative Djalia Hataman.
Bai Sandra Sinsuat Sema, who represents the first district of Maguindanao and Cotabato City, said the encounter was regrettable “especially at a time when our collective effort towards achieving peace in the Bangsamoro Homeland is gaining significant ground.”
“I ask that the incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, will not become a stumbling block to the Bangsamoro people’s pursuit of peace and happiness,” Sema said.
Ad hoc committee chair and Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez also earlier said that the peace process “is the product of 17 years of negotiations, and this cannot be stopped by this occurrence.”
Reports from Charlie Señase, Ryan Rosauro and Tito Fiel, Germelina Lacorte and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao
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