The issues raised toward the Mamasapano incident that resulted to the brutal killing of the 44 members of the Special Action Force at Mamasapano on January 25 must be fully addressed before moving forward to pursuing a lasting peace agreement in Mindanao, the head of the Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) said on Friday.
Former European Union Ambassador to Manila Alistair MacDonald said during a press conference at the Astoria Plaza in Pasig City that “so much” will depend on the results of the investigation into the incident that also resulted to the death of 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants and four civilians.
“To say that the events of January 25th made the successful process of the [implementation of the peace process]more difficult is correct. These issues need to be addressed, but [the process]can and should [continue]as soon as possible, so parties can move forward,” MacDonald noted.
“A number of people call for all-out war, but those who call for an all-out war are not the people who have fight it, not the military, not the police. [They are] not the people who live in areas where conflict will take place,” he added.
Both houses of Congress have suspended the deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will put in place mechanisms for the creation of the Bangsamoro region, shortly after the Mamasapano incident.
Although MacDonald understood the need for the suspension because “emotions run high and trust in the process has been reduced,” he underlined the importance of carrying the peace process forward.
“It would probably as well not to try to take the details of BBL forward at this particular time. Emotions are running high. It would not be a neutral discussion,” MacDonald said, adding that both parties, the government and the MILF, must work together to restore the trust and confidence in the peace process.
Moving forward from the Mamasapano incident is the “greatest challenge” faced by the peace process since the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed in March last year, he stressed.
However, efforts must me made to show both parties remain committed to the process, especially because the Mamasapano encounter “underlined yet again the human cost of conflict.”
In its second annual report, the TPMT, which was set up by the Philippine government and the MILF in 2013 to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement, identified its “multiple challenges” even before the January 25 incident.
Among these are: the completion of the deliberations on the BBL; the preparation for the successful conduct of the plebiscite to ratify the BBL and determine the geographic scope of the Bangsamoro; the arrangement for a smooth transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to Bangsamoro Transition Authority; the support for the region’s socio-economic development; and the inclusivity of all inhabitants of the future Bangsamoro.
Many of these pre-existing challenges will become even more “acute” after the Mamasapano incident.
“But while the challenges are great, the prizes to be gained are even greater–creating a sustainable peace, allowing the region to achieve its full potential and to contribute more effectively to the prosperity and security of the nation as a whole,” a statement from the TPMT said.
MacDonald added he is confident the peace process will continue because this is essential for peace, security and prosperity of the Philippines and the image of the country as a whole.
“Bringing an end to decades of violent conflict is never easy. An incident like that [Mamasapano] tests these mechanisms more than ever, but both parties have said that they are committed to peace, that present circumstances must be addressed, but the peace process must continue.”