‘Gov’t keen on peace despite incidents’
The government will take up the Al-Barka incident with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) if talks with the secessionist group resume in early November in Kuala Lumpur.
Secretary Teresita Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process, said the government would continue with peace talks even as it pursues “criminal elements” among Muslim rebels responsible for killing 19 soldiers in Al-Barka, Basilan, recently.
The government has denounced the deadly attack on its soldiers, who were pursuing criminals, while a ceasefire was in effect. The MILF, on the other hand, said the military had violated the ceasefire agreement by straying into a no-battle zone and for failing to coordinate with them.
Despite angry calls for an “all-out war” with Muslim rebels, President Benigno Aquino III has said he would stick to the peace process.
“Because of what happened in Al-Barka, when the two panels meet, they will discuss what should be done so that those that need accountability would be taken to account and so that a similar incident would no longer happen,” Deles said in an interview over government radio dzRB.
“We will pursue law enforcement (operations) against criminal elements but we will also continue the peace process. So we will separate that from the talks with the MILF.
“We really have to find a solution to the problem… where criminal elements sometimes mix with MILF forces on the ground,” she added.
Deles on Friday said the government was reviewing the ceasefire agreement with the MILF.
She said it was “not likely” the ceasefire agreement would be done away with following a review of its mechanisms. She said the two sides would “see if we can improve/strengthen (it) and how.”
The government and the MILF have been engaged in peace talks since 2003 and have a ceasefire in place for the negotiations. Malaysia is standing as the facilitator of the talks. Other countries are involved in monitoring the ceasefire.
The MILF has said that it, too, remains committed to the talks aimed at ending a decades-old rebellion that has left 150,000 dead since the 1970s.
Stop to bombings
Meanwhile, an alliance of peace advocacy groups in Manila has joined calls for a stop to military bombings in Zamboanga Sibugay and asked both the government and the MILF to defuse the situation.
“We fully support the President’s stand that we cannot create the supreme injustice of pushing more soldiers, rebel mujaheedins and innocent civilians to die in an all-out war in our desire to bring to justice a few erring elements,” the Mindanao Solidarity Network (MSN) said in a statement.
It added that the best way for justice to be served the soldiers killed during the ambushes as well as for all “victims of war” was to fast-track the political settlement of the Mindanao war.
MSN is composed of Balay Rehabilitation Center, Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, Center for Peace Education, The Peacemaker’s Circle Foundation, Inc., GENPEACE Anak Mindanao, PInay Kilos, Pilipina, Initiatives for International Dialogue, Binhi ng Kapayapaan, Young Moro Professionals and World March for Peace.
In Davao City, activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes and members of the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) are running for peace this morning from the Davao Medical School Foundation to the Brokenshire College.
The activity is called “The All-Out Run for All Out Peace.”
“We want to show that we’re not for all-out war. We’re weary of war,” Shirley Mercado of MPC said by phone.
“Are we planning to head for the same disastrous scenario that we witnessed during the wars in the past? Experience has shown that the Mindanao crisis cannot be solved through a purely military solution because the problems in Muslim Mindanao are multi-faceted—poverty, lack of basic services, economic injustice, deficiencies in governance, criminality, terrorism,” the MPC said.
Administration Sen. Francis Pangilinan also cautioned the administration against implementing a “broad” military operation against the Moro rebels.
“(B)ombings and the capture of rebel camps do not necessarily lead to victory in the field… We must win the peace. Military operations, war, and destruction will not achieve this.”
Lamitan City Mayor Roderick Furigay said lack of economic opportunities was the main reason many people had become lawless, with some even actually joining the extremist Abu Sayyaf.
He said guns and ammunition had only partially addressed the growing concerns peace and security in the city.
The Lamitan City government, he said, has embarked on a massive rubber planting program and other economic development programs. With reports from TJ Burgonio and Christian Esguerra in Manila; Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao, and AFP
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