• Can we have a peace process without peace?

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    Fifty-two members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (according to the latest report) are dead. They were massacred, many of them mutilated, in an armed encounter in barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Sunday with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway faction of the MILF.

    This happened while the Aquino government was trying to fast-track the passage in Congress of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (Babala), which seeks to create a new political entity for the MILF to replace the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which was created earlier by law for the Moro National Liberation Front. It is supposed to be a formula for peace.

    Mohaqher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator and presiding officer of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, called it a “mistaken encounter,” caused allegedly by the government’s “failure” to notify the MILF about the movements of the police, who were reportedly in pursuit of a notorious terrorist in the supposedly “government-recognized” MILF enclave under the current ceasefire agreement with the MILF.

    Despite the incident, in which the MILF sustained only light casualties, the ceasefire still holds as far as the rebel group is concerned, Iqbal said. But the immediate reaction of Congress was to denounce the massacre and suspend its hearings on the Babala. “How can you negotiate a peace process when one party is still at war?” Senator Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate committee on local government, which was conducting the hearings in the Senate, was quoted as saying. Some senators, although never known to be the paragon of moral integrity, have disowned their previous co-authorship of the Babala because of the incident.

    In the House of Representatives, the ad hoc committee chairman, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, suspended the hearings upon motion by Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. There was hardly any dissent from any member; on the contrary, a number of them aired their grievance against the MILF’s “continuing recruitment” of fighters in their respective areas in Mindanao, even after it had signed the peace agreement with the Aquino government.

    “It cannot be business as usual,” said Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat, a staunch critic of certain provisions of the peace agreement.

    Several things defy our understanding. The government has said–and nobody has tried to contradict its statement–that the SAF contingent had entered the area in hot pursuit of Malaysian “bomb expert” Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as “Marwan,” said to be a member of the Indonesia-based al-Qaeda cell, Jemaah Islamiyah, in the company of Basit Usman, a Filipino bomb-maker and BIFF commander. They had warrants for the arrest of the two notorious suspects. The policemen were all in their official uniform, and they were clearly embarked on a law enforcement mission rather than on a military operation. Assuming they had failed to give the MILF prior notice of their operations–precisely they did not give such notice to avoid a security leak that could alert their “high-value targets”—-was a “take-no-prisoners” assault the only way to deal with the “unauthorized intruders?”

    Since both parties profess to be genuinely committed to the peace process and to making the ceasefire hold, shouldn’t the MILF have challenged the “unauthorized presence” of the SAF “intruders” first, before opening fire? At the outset, shouldn’t the government have insisted, in the peace agreement, that no MILF “camp or controlled-territory” should be used as a safe haven or sanctuary for terrorists, criminals or bandits, and that the MILF would cooperate with Philippine authorities in apprehending persons wanted by the government for terrorism or other related crimes who would seek refuge in their areas?

    Not everyone, especially those who have a little understanding of military matters, is willing to accept the whole incident as a “mis-encounter.” Many look at it simply as a cold-blooded massacre. A highly trained company of law enforcers simply walked into hostile territory and was wiped out without a fighting chance. They were apparently overwhelmed before they had a chance to respond. Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, those who did not fall at the first burst of MILF gunfire tried to pull back, but they were instantly stopped by the BIFF. And they were not just killed, many of them were savagely mutilated.

    These questions have to be asked: What kind of intelligence was made available to the SAF “commandos” before they entered the area where they were all killed? Did they have any inkling at all that the area they were entering was some kind of “rogue territory” whose population was heavily infiltrated with anti-government elements?

    When the commandos ran out of ammunition, and sent out distress calls for reinforcement and replenishment of supplies, who received these calls and who decided to simply ignore them? Isn’t it unspeakably tragic that while the MILF, which from the very beginning had enjoyed every advantage over the commandos, got reinforcement from the breakaway BIFF, the commandos got no relief or assistance from any allied units because no one wanted to risk any undue consequences to the ongoing peace process?

    So 52 brave policemen are dead, while the peace process, as a consequence thereof, also lies in extremis. Do we honestly believe the Babala would survive, or should survive? Why have we not heard anything at all from the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, who commanded the last siege of Zamboanga where a couple of hundred MNLF fighters were killed and 10,000 homes were razed to the ground? Indeed, why have we not heard anything from the President and Commander-in-Chief himself, who oversaw that disastrous Mar Roxas operation from his own quarters inside the Western Mindanao naval base? Why the Sphinx-like silence?

    Have we not run out of sand in our shores where this particular ostrich could hide its head while this crisis rages?

    As for the rest of the Aquino government, is the suspension of the Babala hearings the best possible response we could expect from Congress? Wouldn’t it have been better if the Congress had summoned the highest leaders of the MILF to explain to the nation why the massacre was necessary, and the mutilation of some of the dead policemen could not be avoided? And why we must remain as eager as all those foreign NGOs, the Malaysian government and the other foreign powers in defending a peace process that, as of now, seems to promise so little peace.

    fstatad@gmail.com

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    28 Comments

    1. The Philippines should not be stupid to negotiate “peace” with terrorists and rebels while there is a ceasefire.

      The Philippines should not relinquish its freedom by discriminating against its own citizens by granting more favors to a group of terrorists and rebels.

      It is treason to negotiate “peace” with those rebels whose ultimate aim is to acquire Philippine territory.

      They are simply our enemies. And, Congress and the Executive should declare WAR against the enemies of the nation.

      It is grossly disappointing that majority and leaders of the Senate and Lower House of Representatives (Congressmen) are bereft of simple common sense and wisdom to defend our Lupang Hinirang at Handang Mamatay dahil saiyo Inang Bayan!

      We must defeat and obliterate our enemies who have killed many of our own sons and daughters.

      Today, a sad Philippine Tragedy directly smacks our face, each and everyone of us Filipinos! – countless of our Filipino mothers lost their sons and daughters!

      And Philippine Leaders who are empowered by the people are only good at political grandstanding in the media by rationalizing!

      Can you not see? We are at war!

      How can we live with this conscience of giving up our freedom in Maguindanao or in any part of the Philippines?

    2. If there is any sense of humanity left inside the president’s heart, he should be able to admit responsibility as the commander-in-chief! if he didn’t sanction that police operation, the responsibility still stops at his office. if he knew about that operation, then the more he should be guilty for leaving those boys with no support!

      • Aquino will never admit that he made a mistake. His crooked mind will say that he is always right. GOD help the Philippines.

    3. Autonomy should be given only
      to civilized group not to terrorists
      group like MILF or BIFF.They are
      Barbarians, they are treacherous
      and cannot be trusted.
      Many wonder why the Aquino government is so eager to give
      these terrorist groups a Substate
      within the country.
      It is to the best interest of the
      Country and the Filipino people
      to stop BBL or we’re going to be
      at the mercy of terrorist groups.
      It’s a pity we have an incompetent
      and pussilanimous government.

    4. Time for large scale crack down on shabu distribution, as well as DVD sales so that the cash flow of theses Islamists takes a painful hit.

      Full frontal assault on ABU Sayyaf likewise !

    5. With MILF – deal is off. We cannot trust this Moros. If given autonomy, am sure those unarmed Filipinos especially Christians are surely be annihilated. Muslims could let go of their arms for they want blood of thier fellow citizens. They want to dominate and Islamize Mindanao if not the whole Philippines. Yes, these dead SAF are real heroes and divine sign not to pursue this BABALA. Mabuhay tayong mga Pilipino at magdasal para sa tunay na kapayaan!

      • Corrected comment: With MILF – deal is off. We cannot trust these Moros. If given autonomy, am sure those unarmed Filipinos especially Christians are surely be annihilated. Muslims could not let go off their arms for they want blood of their fellow citizens. They want to dominate and Islamize Mindanao if not the whole Philippines. Yes, these dead SAF are real heroes and Divine sign not to pursue this BABALA. Mabuhay tayong mga Pilipino at magdasal para sa tunay na kapayaan!

    6. This administration should stop trying to be peacekeeper rather than a peace-maker. Many administrations had done that and failed. ERAP tried to be a peace-maker when he declared all-out war against this rebels but unfortunately, his stint was cut short and all he had accomplished in this area was reversed after he was robbed of his position. These rebels will not give up their main goal of seceding from the Philippines so no administration should negotiate with them and impose on them our sovereignity instead.

    7. I have seen enough of the worse president anyone could ever think about. It is time for the armed forces to take over. They can bring the killers to justice and bring law and order back to the country. They can stop corruption by jailing all those already identified. In five years they can hold free election using an open and honest election counted by people. A military controlled government can force us to change for the better. We are now at our worse.

      • Though i am not an Erap fan, i agree with what he said, don’t trust MILF and other muslim rebels in Mindanao… Eradicate all these MILF camps as what Erap did before….

    8. Throw away to the waste bin the BBL as there is the Constitution that guarantees all Filipinos their basic rights and equal protection to all citizens of the Philippines including those religions like Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Hindi, Budhism and all types of religion. BBL is purely a Muslim- inspired law which is secular and applicable only to people of Muslim faith but not to all, regardless of religion, and as such, does not apply equally to all faith or sect or religion, hence violative of the Constitution. Basically, the Mindanao region has its own political subdivisions, like towns, provinces, cities and regional districts which has its own local government under the Local Government and Administrative Act. To create a region which is autonomous or independent from the national government, and give it fully political, social, and economic power would amount to giving the Region of Mindanao SOVEREIGNTY, with its own army ( national and security forces , police and military), foreign and trade policy, it’s own government of whatever form they decide. In essence the Region is geographically parceled out as a separate region equivalent to an independent State or Country of which the Philippine Government has no geographical, political, economic and social jurisdiction at all. This is not to happen and must not be envisioned under the BBL, if at all passed into law. In fact such law(BBL), is a surplusage as this is covered by the Phillippine Constitution, and even if ruled Constitutional, which I strongly disagree, the BBL is just an exception to the Local Government and Administrative Act.
      I strongly protest against the passage of the BBL, not only it is unconstitutional for being unlawfully granting Sovereignty and creating another State or Country separate from the Philippine Republic. It also afford non-equal protection clause to all citizens of the Philippines since it only applies to people in Mindanao of Muslim faith! In effect, the law creates an…

    9. no doubt pnoy will fight over his dead body for the creation of bangsamoro nation because that’s his dad’s promise to rashid lucman, the father and founder of bangsamoro. the two were best friends during their days at the manila times and the chronicle as journalist.
      filipinos must revolt against pnoy and his cronies thru people power before everything get worsen.

    10. My deepest condolences to to fallen SAF. Who ever plan this operation should be held accountable. They are the one who sent this young inexperience SAF team to their death.

      They know it’s MILF Camp and it’s their MILF version of SAF team. If they send 50 SAF to serve Warrant of Arrest – it may make sense to MILF. But sending 400 strongly equipped SAF? Are they try to overrun the camp? No one should expect shake hand and hugging will happen when you send 400 SAF to MILF SAF camp. Someone in PNP must answer all this question.

      Probably some rogue elements in the PNP try to sabotage the Peace Deal.

    11. This is unforgivable many are demanding for resignation of pnoy and I agree totally. I wish somebody among pnoy’s close advisers would convince him to do a GMA and say I am sorry on TV with Kris giving him tips on how to look remorseful and to close his mouth and look straight at the camera while entoning his apology to the relatives of thehapless vvictims of the massacre. With his simple mind pnoy will be easy to convince then after doing this he finally steps down realizing for once that he has sunk to the lowest possible status of his person and humanity then he marches to his sunset of his infamy. Please forgive my over eager imagination but there is nothing wrong with wistful thinking is there?

    12. The murderers should be made to answer just like ordinary criminals. Peace without justice is no peace at all.

    13. No autonomy to Muslims should be given. The goal of Islam is world domination.
      Having a small autonomous region for Muslims will not stop them from the pursuit of the ultimate goal.
      Their holy book allows lying to non-Muslims to further the world domination goal.
      They are not to be trusted.

    14. I beg to disagree. First thing first. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? THIS GOVERNMENT MUST ANSWER THE PEOPLE OF THAT BASIC QUESTION.

      FOCUS ON THE INEPT GOVERNMENT. MILF’s response is secondary at the moment.

      Why?

      It seems that the Government is just as dangerous as the MILF even for the policemen.

    15. The suspended hearings in the House and in the Senae should not be reopened unyil the MILF agrees to completely lay down its fighters’ arms and the MILF-BIFF fighters who massacred the PNP-SAF commandos are charged in couirt.

    16. How is that? The MILF asked rescues from BIFF and massacred the SAF commandos, while the Army near the incident area were reluctant to rescue their fellow law enforcers because of the ongoing ceasefire agreement even knowing that the SAF were already being muredered. This Filipino Army commander who received the rescue message must be very stupid. The SAF leader is even more stupid because he did not request for an Army units as backup in entering a dangerous territory.

    17. The Chief Retardate is still waiting for instructions from his foreign masters as to what to say. Lets look at the bright side: this will help crystallize in the minds of our our soldiers the idea that something drastic must be done to rid this country of this blight called the yellow ribbon regime.

    18. Kalimutan na niya dapat. PresiNoynoy will NOT get any nobel or Europa-Karma or France or Saudi-Arabia peace prize. Not even a FAMAS-award peace price.

    19. peace talk is OVER…don’t deal with the terrorist… Trust no More with these groups

    20. sonny dela cruz on

      Where is the leadership of the Commander in Chief. It happened in the jurisdiction of the Philippine Island not in another country. Why do they need to ask permission to MILF, MNLF or BIFF to enter their territory to arrest fugitives of the law, are these part of Mindanao not part of the Philippines? Are these Moros not Filipinos too? The President should order all out war against these Moros. After the fighting then they talk and put behind bars those Moros who participated in the massacre of the SAF Police. Dismantle all the Moros camp, put all this Moros in a reservation like the American Indians if they want a separate and be independent people. These Moros don’t deserve to be a part of the Filipino society. They are not a civilized people, they are stink.

    21. I will be the first to declare that the 49 dead policemen are real heroes, because of the ultimate price they paid, it is very possible that they have prevented the eventual islamization of the Philippines…

      Rest in peace, God bless their souls…our hearts go to their families. I saw the posted pictures, they are gruesome…yes, it was a massacre alright…

      Stop the Bangsamoro NOW! I challenge everyone to read the Quran online, free to understand that in Islam, they are to practice Taqiya tand Kitman to advance Islam any way…that’s why we can NEVER trust the Muslims, ever…

      Why, even Muhammad broke his own valid, existing treaties, as soon as he grew in power and in numbers…

      I don’t even ride the LRT whenever I see Muslims riding too…I am sorry, but they have made me avoid them…look at what’s happening all over Europe, which was so nice to have accepted them as Muslim refugees, some 20-30 years ago…and now they are trying to islamize every host country…

      Filipinos, wake up! Thank you Pope Francis, this is clearly a divine sign…

    22. I am a simple, undergraduate Filipino citizen perfectly understands your article sir Kit Tatad. I don’t know with the government and the stated names of officials if they could understand you now. Nakakalungkot…. nakakasakit ng damdamin, Wala akong karapatan sana na makialam dahil I am a servant of God pero ‘di ko kayang manahimik pagkatapos ng lahat ngmga nangyayari sa ating bansa. Hidni mo maramdaman na tao ang treatment ng ating gobyerno sa ating mga mamamayan. If only may unity ang lahat ng mamamayan ng Pilipinas, matagal na itong tapos.

    23. Roldan Guerrero on

      I have been commenting for many times why BSA is so interested in forcing by all means of the BBL passing into law. I will repeat it again, it is BSA`s plan B that in case his annointed will lose in the 2016 elections, he and his cohorts will use the place as their sanctuary. The fact alone that BSA fears so much to be jailed after his term, makes my thinking positive. Estrada had been jailed on issues of hueteng money which is not a government money, and his act of jailing Arroyo for minimal sum, minimal because,it does not involve a billion of pesos, while Aquino himself will be facing plunder of government funds involving BILLIONS of PHP, it might even reach a consolidated amount into TRILLION(s) of PHP. We all know these people and I hope so much that they will face the consequences of their crimes. I would be very happy to see the longest list of plunderers subjected to prosecution after BSA will step down, expecting him to lead them!

    24. There can never be peace in Mindanao if the MILF and BIFF continue to have arms.

      Our SAF police forces can not enter the territories controlled by MILF and BIFF. There is no need for our police forces to notify these groups that they are coming and are in pursuit of criminals. After all, these territories are also part of the Philippines.

      I do not agree to give our Muslim brothers their own autonomous region in Mindanao.