ON Wednesday, albeit very tardily, AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang Jr. ordered an all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), whose violent attacks have displaced more than 20,000 civilians in central Mindanao, and who figured prominently in the Mamasapano Massacre that took the lives of our Fallen 44 PNP-SAF commandos.
Catapang–who has been abetting BS Aquino’s efforts to lie about the de facto president’s true involvement in the Mamasapano tragedy and has admitted that he did not urge his commander-in-chief to do something to help save the lives of the PNP-SAF commandos–ordered government forces to finish off the so-called rogue group of MILF separatist rebels.
To many Filipinos, this AFP offensive is long overdue, and certainly too late to save the lives of the slain commandos. But now that it has happened, we join everyone in saying that it is most welcome, commendable and necessary.
The atrocities committed by the BIFF are many and well-known. One noted journalist memorably described atrocities as “vicious promissory notes for debts to be collected.”
It’s morally clear that it is time to collect on many debts owed by the BIFF. So we are glad that the AFP is leading the way.
One insolent BIFF commander boasted that they wanted a “rematch with the SAF.” He also challenged senators, congressmen and President Aquino to join the fighting in Mindanao.
His wish has been granted, because now the AFP-PNP is pursuing the BIFF wherever they go. If Catapang is to be believed, the campaign will not stop until they are hunted down to “the last man.”
We can only hope that this action also sends the message that for all its stupidities the Aquino Administration is fully prepared to fight and crush all lawless groups, not only in Mindanao but throughout the entire country.
It should also serve notice on all foreign nationals fighting on the side of Muslim separatists. They will be hunted down like Marwan.
Likewise, foreign countries helping out in forging peace in Mindanao should scrupulously refrain from interfering in our affairs. The situation seems to be fully under control by our police and military forces.
General Catapang is reported to have told all military unit commanders in Central Mindanao to conduct joint law-enforcement operations with the PNP within the framework of ceasefire mechanisms in order to avoid clashing with forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). This is fitting because peace and stability is the work of both the AFP and the PNP.
“We must remain united in our common fight against lawlessness and terrorism. Let us show the enemies of the State that we are a formidable force that we will continuously pursue them anywhere they go,” the AFP chief said.
This offensive should also make clear an important point of state policy. We may have a ceasefire and peace talks with the MILF, but the campaign against lawlessness and atrocities should go on and not slacken. Peace negotiations do not suspend the operations of law and morality.
The peace process notwithstanding, Mamasapano has ineluctably forced us to recognize that we are engaged in a war against lawless groups, not only in Mindanao and Sulu but in the entire country.
The ceasefire agreement, the unconstitutional and treasonous peace agreement (CAB) signed last year and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL) should not handcuff state policy in dealing with lawlessness and terrorism.
Government peace negotiators, no less than MILF negotiators, must keep this ever in mind.
Looking at the recent AFP in the round, it’s probably fortunate that the decision to declare all-out war against the BIFF was made by the AFP chief of staff, and was not left in the hands of President Aquino. For he might have been paralyzed in making a decision.
This way, the nation may be assured of a real chance at peace and stability.