Posted on Tuesday, 25 October, 2011 - 14:44
The difficult peace process cannot be enhanced by shedding more blood and generating more ill will.
Manila, Oct. 25 – “We will not pursue all-out war; we will instead pursue all-out justice.”
With finality, President Benigno Aquino III yesterday declared this amid persistent calls made by lawmakers and politicians to launch an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“There have been calls to wage an “all-out war” against the MILF. While it is tempting for government to join the chorus in calling for blood, we believe that such a course of action is not appropriate at this point. We are not interested in knee-jerk reactions that will jeopardize our efforts to address the roots of conflict in the region,” he stated in a press briefing held in Malacañan.
On October 18, 19 soldiers were killed in a bloody encounter in Al-Barka, Basilan while operations were being held to pursue lawless elements. Among these criminals include Ibrahim Malat Sulayman, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group and a notorious criminal wanted for nine counts of murder.
Aquino said that choosing war over peace talks will result to further problems. “It is so easy, out of frustration, to close the door on negotiations at this time. If we go down this path, more innocent civilians will be put in harm’s way. The difficult peace process cannot be enhanced by shedding more blood and generating more ill will. We have to exhaust all possibilities for attaining peace through dialogue.”
The President said that he has instructed intensified operations against all the criminal elements. “The mailed fist of the state will be brought to bear upon them so that justice may be served. There is no question that the state will find them; the only remaining question is when. There will be sacrifices in addressing this decades-old problem.”
Aquino urged all sectors to cooperate in this endeavor. “This is not a purely military or police effort. Our local government and community leaders must assist in our efforts to achieve a holistic solution to the problems of the region,” he said, stressing that the government will always be mindful of the safety and needs of the people.
“Let me remind everyone that there are those who will try to use this incident to gain political leverage and further agitate the public. Rash decisions fueled by a thirst for vengeance can only serve to dishonor the memory of the 19 brave souls who died last week, and the many others lost in our efforts to win the peace,” he added.
Statements of support
Various sectors, particularly in Mindanao, called on the public to support Aquino’s decision not to pursue an all-out war against the MILF.
Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said “War mongering will only worsen the situation and stokes sentiments that are divisive and counter-productive. Sobriety is called to fore in these trying times and patience should prevail to give peace a surviving chance.”
Rep. Pangalian Balindong likewise said no to total war in Mindanao. “To wage 'total' war is by definition to take huge numbers of innocent lives--- and perpetuate the cycle of senseless violence, death, and destruction.”
In the same light, the Association of Women Religious in the Archdiocese of Cotabato stated that all-out war can cause massive displacement as what happened during the time of former president Joseph Estrada. “In an all-out war, it’s the civilians that will suffer, anger and hatred among people will escalate especially among those who lost their loved ones because of war.”
Fr. Robert Reyes, more popularly known as the running priest, said that violence breeds more violence. “Right now, we need to re-assess our ways during armed struggles. With the President’s decision not to wage war against the MILF, I just hope that the constituencies of peace will grow.”
The San Carlos Borromeo Parish Pastoral Council, in its statement, appealed for “peace and sobriety in this most trying time for us Mindanaoans in the wake of the Basilan crisis.”
“We condemn in the strongest terms, violence and criminality. We appreciate the stand of the President to pursue the Peace Process as well as the MILF's suggestion for an impartial investigation. We, however, seek justice for the 19 young soldiers and 5 MILF combatants who were killed,” they also said.
The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy also called for the “immediate conduct of an investigation to pinpoint once and for all the culprit of these atrocities and spare the innocent civilians from armed hostilities.”
On the other hand, the Bangsamoro civil society organizations in South Central Mindanao expressed support to the steadfastness of Secretary Ging Deles in pushing for peace initiatives in the region.
As the Al-Mujadillah Development Foundation said in a statement in support to President Aquino's call for everyone to come together to achieve a holistic solution in the region, "lahat ng para sa kapayapaan ay dapat magkaisa at di manira ng mga taong tunay na nagtatrabaho at tumutulong upang makamit ang kapayapaan at kaunlaran ng ating bansa."