Friday, March 20, 2015

Peace is worst collateral damage of Mamasapano incident: KFI Executive Director Alim

From the Website of MILF

Peace is worst collateral damage of Mamasapano incident: KFI Executive Director Alim

In his speech delivered during the launching of Grassroots Peace Monitors Network (GPMN) that coincided with the 47th Anniversary of the March 18, 1968 infamous Jabidah Massacre at Corrigidor Island, held at the KDFI Training Hall, Cotabato City, Mr. Guiamel Alim, Executive Director of Kadtuntaya Foundation, Incorporated (KFI), one of the pioneering and prominent non-government organizations in Muslim Mindanao, and of the  Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) said that, “The hardest or worst collateral damage in the Mamasapano incident is peace”.

Below is the detailed speech of Director Alim during the GPMN launching:
Today is the anniversary of the infamous Jabiddah Massacre where more than 60 Bangsamoro youth were killed and also the birth of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The post-Mamasapano tragic incident is painting a grim picture of the future for the  Bangsamoro. What we expected to be a peaceful transition to the BM government is now being challenged by the on-going violence and the threat by congress to set aside the BBL or at least introduce amendments that will clip what they consider excess  powers and authority and resources. This sudden  change of landscape  in the peace process is creating an environment of frustration after 17 years of dragging peace talks and the high expectations from CAB that has led to the crafting  of the BBL which is taunted to be an instrument of peace in Mindanao.

We were all caught flatfooted.

The Mamasapano incidenct happened when many of us  were part of  the euphoria of imagining a more  peaceful and inclusive society through the BBL.  It happened in the midst of people scrutinizing the contents of the BBL to ensure the welfare of their respective sectors. It is safe to say that most of us if not all were in a preparation mood before the incidence happened. Preparing to see a new government that will change our lives; 

But the tragedy happened unexpectedly. 44 members of the PNP-Special Action Force, 18 combatants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and 5 civilians; and 8,000 civilians were the immediate victims of that unforeseen circumstances.  The post-Mamasapano all-out-offensive euphemistically called  all-out-law enforcement operations is taking its toll in the lives of the civilians and the innocents. 

Latest reports revealed that some 24,704 families composed of around 140,000 individuals had been displaced since the beginning of the operation in 12 municipalities of Maguindanao. Between1,200-2,000 pregnant mothers are living in difficult conditions in evacuation centers fearing an increase of infant mortality rate. 

More than 40,000 pupil-students affected by the operations in 13 municipalities are out of school some of them would not be able march during their  graduations, an occasion that every student and parents always look forward to.  

While living in evacuation centers, their parents would not be able to send them to school next year. And unlike the children of the SAF, they will not have scholarships. While not in school, where will these young adolescents go?

Many of the IDPs are suffering from various diseases, hunger, lack of clean water and heat inside scorching plastic tents. The government is spending 11Million Pesos per week to support the needs of the IDPs, money that is worth spending for development activities. A military spokesperson (Col.Cabunoc) confirmed the need to end the operation because “kawawa naman ang mga sibilyan” (the civilians are so pitiful).

There are perceptions that the continuing all-out-offensive or surgical operation which has no definite timetable to end, is a collective punishment against the BM for what happened in Mamasapano. Granting that some 130,000 persons (BM) had been displaced and more than 100 BIFF are dead according to the military, leader of the JIM and his colleagues arrested and some 40,000 Bangsamoro children are out of school, is this not enough yet to revenge the death of the SAF? 

The unfair treatment being accorded to all the victims of the unfortunate incidence (mis-encounter vs massacre) is giving an impression that the BM is less Filipinos than others. While the SAF 44 is heroically treated and their families given all-out-support and their children with scholarships, the BM victims, BIAF, their widows and children do not receive the same kind treatment. While we are made to cry and grieve over the death of the SAF members that perished in Mamasapano, no one is crying and grieving  for the other victims.

But the hardest or worst collateral damage in the incident is Peace. 

Before the infamous Mamasapano incidence, important activities in preparation for the new government were underway.   More aggressive public consultations on the BBL  were separately and jointly conducted by BTC, OPAPP and CSOs to make the public understand better the contents and intentions of the BBL. There was also a massive popularization of the BBL through IEC materials, radio talk shows, etc. The congress has created the BM AdHoc committee with 75 members to stir the discussions of the draft BBL in the congress.
Hearings and deliberations of the BBL both by Senate and House were conducted and open debates on the pros and cons of the BBL  were held. Different sectors  were coming out with their respective positions regarding the BBL.

The MILF in preparation for the election in 2016 had already organized their Political Party. Donors’ forum on the Bangsamoro Development Plan were held to solicit financial and technical support for the upcoming government. Some international NGOS were helping develop Human Resources to make the BM government live to the expectations of its constituencies.

The ARMM government has organized its transition committee  for the proper turn-over of ARMM to the new government.

Initial operationalization of different commissions in preparation for the BM government (TMPT, IDB, TJRC, Policing, etc) were also held. Renewed TOR for the various existing peace mechanisms on the ground (AHJAG, CCCH, IMT, ICG) to maintain the environment of peace were done.

Some NGO leaders are thinking of creating political parties that will  banner the advocacy for open governance and inclusivity  participate in the forthcoming elections. These are just few of the preparation done to welcome the new government.

However, the political landscape has changed.  All of these are momentarily halted or slowed down, in a transition to the unknown.

The euphoria of the BBL has suddenly stopped. The much taunted  instrument of peace is now under heavy scrutiny to a point that it may be watered down or set aside completely within the present administration. 

The post Mamasapano incident also refreshes wounds of prejudices and chauvenistic attitudes, feeling of hatred and biases  and distrust have resurfaced. Call for all-out-war has filled   the air. 

Polarization among the citizenry has replaced consensus.  When nothing is done to avert the trend of thinking of some our leaders especially in the congress, the risk of negating the positive impacts of the 17 year investment for peace is not remote. Frustrations emanating from high level of expectations make peace vulnerable. 

A friend of mine asked me a question, “what can be more frustrating, a watered down BBL or no BBL at all? I think a watered down BBL and no BBL at all are two sides of the coin. That was my answer.

Possible Scenarios and Challenges

Many still believe, especially the MILF that the passage of the proposed BBL or enhanced version is the best case scenario. Some lawmakers, however, are saying that only an amended BBL may have the chance to be passed. 

It is now very difficult to insulate the BBL from politics. The BBL issue is now intrinsically linked to the Mamasapanao incident. The Mamasapano incident is also hunting the president who is also the author of the BBL. The politicians, especially the opposition are using the issue of the SAF 44 to discredit the administration as well as the MILF and the BBL to advance their political interests. This is politics.

Some groups are also riding on the issue. The citizenship issue on MILF leaders, Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and BTC Chair and MILF Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal is also on the line. The same is also true for the resignation and impeachment of the president. The credibility of the president is at stake. The BBL is also at stake. Will the president be able to still muster political capital to support the BBL? Will it succumb to a watered down version? Will the MILF accept a BBL version that is diluted? Or will it rather wait for the next administration to pursue the peace process? Either way, there will always be implications.

What should be the right attitude?

Shall we lose hope or continue to embrace it? Are we CSOs ready for whatever may happen? Can we be more pro-active rather than just be reactive? What about the INGOs? Have you not developed the fatigue syndrome after 17 years of supporting the peace process? What about the grassroots communities? Can we still have the resilience to cushion the possible effects of violence? Are we ready for another round of watchdogging?
The answers to these questions are the very reasons why we are here. 


Our main objective in this assembly is to consolidate and pool together our efforts in solidarity to support the peace process, especially monitoring and protecting the rights of civilians. Specifically, we expect in this assembly a more structured and organized interventions in the peace process, especially our monitoring works on the existing ceasefire and peace agreements. We also expect commitment of support from the different local and international organizations in our work.

Among others, those that attended the launching of GPMN were Father Robert Layson, Council member of the Mindanao Peace Caucus (MPC), Jude Jover from the indigenous peoples, Malaysian International Monitoring Team Head (IMT Mission 10) Major General Datuk Sheikh Mokhsin Hassan, and representatives from various local and international agencies  such as UNCHR, UNFPA, OCHA, UNICEF, AFP, etc.

Mr. Abdulbassit Benito, Executive Director of the MPC also attended and delivered a message.