War does not distinguish among faiths. War snuffs out lives – Filipino lives. I am SAF. I know war. I fear the day when my family comes face to face with it. Even as we seek justice for my fallen comrades, let us repeat again and again: War is not the solution. I hope you sign my petition. Together, let us send this message: Peace is the answer.
Survivor of Mamasapano Massacre of Philippine National Police Special Action Force commandos, posted on Change.org
ALL-out peace,” the name of a long-established Facebook page supporting talks with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has been adopted by a new movement also backing government efforts to end hostilities with the MILF.
Launched last Friday at the Quezon Memorial Circle, Cagayan de Oro and Davao City, the movement calls for continued peace efforts, rather than intensified hostilities.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor and administration ally Mujiv Hataman graced the rotunda event, which also rang a peace bell and had a peace march. In Cagayan de Oro City, Christians, Muslims and soldiers exchanged flowers and embraces.
Also calling for peace last week was a petition posted on Change.org reportedly by a survivor of the Mamasapano battle, who used the pseudonym Jason Navarro on the advocacy website. And MILF rebels registered for the 2016 elections, to vote for officials of the Bangsamoro government envisioned under the MILF pact (though Front leaders did not sign up, noting that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) had yet to be passed).
The advocacies come amid the military’s assault on the extremist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, in which seven BIFF rebels were reported killed as of last week. And President Benigno Aquino 3rd is pushing Congress to pass the BBL by its adjournment on June 11. The legislation is needed to implement the MILF pact.
The problem is trust
What’s wrong with this picture?
First, the rallies, the petition, and the voter registration do not address the real problem facing peace efforts: not the lust for war and revenge, but the loss of trust among Filipinos in Aquino, his peace negotiators, and the MILF due to their actions during and after Mamasapano.
As last Thursday’s column “The National Security Myth” explained, “Mamasapano’s carnage shows that the MILF still harbors elements with no respect for law and law enforcers, and gives succor to extremists, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Malaysian and Filipino terrorist bombers targeted by the SAF. Moreover, as fellow columnist Rigoberto Tiglao pointed out on Monday, the Front has yet to renounce its avowed goal of secession from the Republic.
“Indeed, when asked in a forum last November why the CAB had no provisions explicitly acknowledging the Constitution and Bangsamoro’s inclusion in Philippine territory, as past peace pacts did, chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the MILF was sensitive to such statements, because it considered unjust the conquest and incorporation of Muslim areas into the Philippines.
“Which raises a bigger worry about the MILF Agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL): Having put soothing rebel feelings above affirming national sovereignty, did the government peace panel accept other provisions harmful to national security and interests? Such doubts grew even more with Ferrer and Peace Process Adviser Teresita Deles’s] staunch defense of the MILF in Senate hearings on the PNP-SAF debacle.
“President Aquino’s own insistence on enacting the BBL in a few months also raises grave concern that he is compromising the Republic just to be able to trumpet a deal and, as critics have charged, get in line for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Hence, Congress and the Supreme Court must go through with a fine-toothed comb the BBL, the CAB, and the latter’s annexes, addendum and Framework Agreement. Then they must repair or void those provisions likely to erode the territorial integrity, national unity, sovereign authority, peace and security.”
Plus: the MILF must do its part in dispelling BBL fears, say, by hunting down the fellow bomb terrorists of killed Malaysian extremist Zulkifli Hir or “Marwan”. That kind of trust-building actions by the Front is what peace advocates should urge, rather than just making motherhood statements to end war.
Don’t let extremists take power
To repeat, then, the obstacle to the peace deal is not a drive for all-out war, but the loss of trust in the negotiating parties, both Malacañang and the MILF. And Aquino’s deadline to pass the BBL largely unchanged or “undiluted, and his peace panel’s plugging for the Bangsamoro pact are actually making people even more wary about it.
The other flawed thinking among peace advocates is their unspoken view that if the Bangsamoro pact and law are implemented as they were framed by the government and the Front, it would lead to lasting peace.
In fact, if the BBL and the MILF pact enable entities with terrorist and separatist leanings to take power in Bangsamoro, it would lead to even greater threats and conflict.
Already, terrorists like Marwan have found refuge in rebel areas of Mindanao, which they consider safer havens that even Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. There would be more of them if the groups that have coddled Marwan and others come to power in the envisioned Bangsamoro.
And if separatists dominate the regional parliament and declare independence, that could spark a full-scale war, with possibly even foreign forces getting involved.
True peacemakers should work with Congress to counter such terrorist and secessionist scenarios, by inserting provisions condemning lawless violence and secession, and banning from public office those who harbor, support, or fail to take action against terrorists or separatists.
The struggle for peace must include effective measures to counter the forces of extremism. Otherwise, it would only plant the seeds of more heinous conflict.