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Pausing For Peace, Chasing Out Rogues

August 20, 2008

The guns have fallen relatively silent during the past 48 hours in Lanao.

(A late-breaking report as at midmorning today says the army is engaged in gunbattles with MILF rebels in the town of Shariff Aguak in Lanao Del Norte that has left one soldier wounded so far.)

Everyone down south and here in Manila are taking stock and pausing for peace as political and civil society leaders across the board denounced the murderous rampage of Moro rebels at the start of the week.

After putting the military on war footing for any further trouble, President Arroyo is pursuing wider consultations on the embattled peace process with a meeting tomorrow of the broad-based Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.

This is finally a step in the right, and wise, direction for Mrs. Arroyo, with even members of the political opposition being invited to attend the meeting which will coincide with the second, and possibly decisive, full bench session of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the MoA-AD.

That widely disputed agreement, which the MILF insists is already “binding” although it has only been initialed, has come under intense question because it proposes to carve a sovereign Bangsamoro State within an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with treaty-making powers, separate armed forces, electoral, and other prerogatives of a separate nation.

For the first time since the eruption of public uproar and the violence, Malacanang yesterday struck what sounded a contrite tone, and restated its commitment to peace:

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza: “We’re very sorry and we’re very saddened by this. I compare this (the talks) to a shattered glass. It would be very difficult to put the pieces together. But we have not changed our policy. In Mindanao, there is no alternative but peace.”

The other voices:

Kolambugan Lanao mayor Beltran Lumaque:”They killed innocent, defenseless civilians. People are traumatised. We need food, medicines. We want the soldiers here.”

Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the objective is to push these MILF groups out of the areas where they can wreak havoc. He estimated their forces to number about a hundred and are not supported by MILF leaders who still believe in the peace process.

Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo said the attacks on civilians had changed the way people looked at the MILF.

“Muslims and Christians alike condemn the terrorist acts of the MILF,” Dimaporo said.

“I’m sure that their inhuman acts in Lanao del Norte have eroded the respect for the cause of the MILF even from those who help the MILF.”

ARMM Gov. Zaldy Uy Ampatuan said dialogue between the Moro people, including the MILF, and Christian leaders was needed at this time.

Beverly Selim-Musni, InPeace Mindanao convenor:“We are asking the government and the MILF to give primacy to the peace process in order to resolve issues.”

The chair of the Oro chamber of commerce and industry Rodolfo Menes called on officials not to issue statements that could inflame the situation.

“Let us be circumspect on this thing and not exacerbate the situation by saying irresponsible side comments. There must be a steadfast solution to this situation,” Menes said.

The chair of the Philippine Islamic Council and Center for Moderate Muslims, Professor Taha Basman: “(We) condemn the raging war in Mindanao, the burning of churches and the mounting destruction of heavy collateral damage inflicted on innocent civilian sectors (of society)—Muslims and Christians alike,” he said.

Northern Mindanao Ulama’s League officer Sultan Nas Natangcop: “I believe this (the violence) is just a temporary situation. I liken this to being stricken with the colds, which can be immediately cured. In fact, [life in] Iligan and Marawi are already beginning to normalize.”

Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen: “Civilians were the ones killed. It’s really atrocious,”

“The life of a Muslim is no more than the life of a Christian.”

Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Mujiv Hataman: The killings in Kauswagan and Kolambugan in Lanao del Norte are against the rules of war in Islam.

“Do not kill an old man, a woman or a child. Do not injure date palms and do not cut down fruit trees. Do not slaughter any sheep or cows or camels except for food.”

“Do not burn houses and places of worship such as churches, temples and monasteries. Leave priests and monks alone and do not molest them. These are the rules of war in Islam.”

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said the United States and the Philippines were “friends for life” when asked if Washington would freeze assistance in the wake of the attacks.

“We’re not going to walk away just because there have been a few bad days,” Kenney said, adding she was hopeful the two sides could return to the negotiating table.

President Arroyo ordered massive relief operations for thousands of people displaced by the violence.. Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral and Health Secretary Francisco Duque will personally oversee “intervention measures” and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, will “trigger the release of funds for relief and rehabilitation of affected families and other victims.”

The Toll: 38 dead, including three soldiers, while dozens of others were injured and nearly 10,000 displaced.

This is where things stand at the moment and At Midfield humbly joins in the call for peace.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2008 4:38 pm

    It may be, but from its track record of speaking with a forked tongue and the need to keep a measure of ‘deniability’, it regularly let’s its supposed ‘lost commands’ or rogue sub-commanders to carry out the dastardly attacks on civilians. What is frightful is the prospect that with the government now seeking to renegotiate the MoA-AD, the MILF negotiating panel is severely red-faced and will be itching to redeem its credility in the eyes of their foreign ‘sponsors’, and the hawks within the ranks of the MILF high command.

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