‘All-out peace’ impossible with MILF around – Erap

August 28, 2008





With continued talk from Malacañang of an “all-out peace” in Mindanao while the military pursues the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)’s commanders who led their fighters in attacking civilians in Mindanao provinces, killing them, including children, former President Joseph Estrada in a radio interview yesterday stood firm on his position that eradicating the separatists’ activity is the only solution to peace in Mindanao.

At the same time, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) finally condemned the recent spate of

rebel Muslim attacks on civilians in Mindanao. But it was evident that despite the condemnation, the OIC did not condemn the MILF but its alleged “wayward elements.”

It was also evident that the OIC wants peace negotiations to resume, and for the Philippine Government (GRP) to grant the MILF its ancestral domain as stipulated in the aborted Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain.

The OIC group’s Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu condemned what he called “illegitimate acts conducted by wayward elements” of the MILF.

In a statement Ihsanoglu expressed his “concern over reports that the Philippine government intends to freeze the (draft agreement) which came about as a result of strenuous, long and sincere efforts by both sides.”

He also said it was “unfortunate to let undisciplined elements from the MILF determine the course of negotiations or halt the peace process.”

For his part, Estrada pointed out that the Philippine government may not achieve its aspiration for President Arroyo’s “disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) of the MILF as a condition in a peace agreement when the MILF is pushing for secession and independence in establishing an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

Estrada stated that too many civilians and Filipino soldiers have already suffered from the attacks of the MILF, citing statistics of killed and wounded soldiers as well as of evacuees while stressing that these attacks must be put to an end.

In a press statement, Estrada said: “So many innocent civilians, including priests, women and children, both foreigners and Filipinos, have been kidnapped, raped and tortured by the MILF. How can we continue to tolerate these crimes against our own people?” Estrada added.

He clarified that during his administration, the GRP also underwent extensive peace talks with the MILF before going on an all-out war with the MILF and that his government only decided to pursue an “all-out war” when, upon reaching an agreement, the MILF within three weeks of signing the agreement attacked the town of Kauswagan and burned six children to death.

It then became clear that the MILF was not sincere in its quest for peace but sincere instead in its quest for power and secession, and employing terrorist acts in the area.

“I am deeply concerned for our brothers in Mindanao. It is very regrettable that the efforts of our soldiers and the success of the all out war during my time was put to waste by the current administration when it allowed the MILF to return, upon the incumbent President’s assumption into office,” he said.

Estrada also clarified that he is also an advocate of peace but maintains that peace cannot be attained in Mindanao as long as the secessionists remain and are entertained.

Malaysia has agreed to extend the presence of international truce monitors in Mindanao for another three months in a bid to reduce the skirmishes between government forces and the MILF.

The decision was made during the meeting in Kuala Lumpur this week between government and MILF negotiators in the presence of the Malaysian government, who have been brokering peace talks between the two sides.

Philippine troops also yesterday overran another MILF stronghold, while taking Camp Bilal, but Commander Bravo who is said to hold that camp, was nowhere to be found.

In a related develop-ment,Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro yesterday expressed alarm over the resurgence of a Christian- vigilante group that warned the Moro rebel group to stop its assaults and terror attacks in Mindanao or else the military will also go after them and that the Ilagas face consequences.

Teodoro stressed that the resurgence of the Ilaga group is not a solution to revive the peace and order situation in Mindanao.

The Defense chief meanwhile noted that having police auxillaries could be of big help in protecting the communities in Mindanao.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) command center officer-in-charge Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia also commented that the military on the ground will not allow the Ilaga vigilante group to operate against the MILF faction since the military forces have launched its offensive operations against the Moro group.

For his part, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief director General Avelino Razon Jr., yesterday claimed that the Ilaga group would be apprehended by policemen if they would be caught carrying unlicensed firearms.

Razon explained that vigilantes and the indiscriminate arming of civilians are not allowed as he reminded the Ilaga members that they would have to acquire authorization from the local police before carrying firearms

He also pointed out that the creation of police auxillary units is the solution to address problems such as the vigilante and rebel groups.

“That’s the reason we formed the police auxillary units in Mindanao”, Razon added.

The Reform Ilaga Movement (Ilaga) group was active in the 1970s and they are armed group known for vigilante-style combat against the MILF.

But Malacañang’s chief lawyer says there is nothing wrong with the reactivation of the anti-Muslim vigilante group following atrocities committed by the MILF.

Department of Justice (DoJ) secretary Raul Gonzalez saw nothing illegal with the revival of the Ilaga, a Christian vigilante group, to protect innocent civilians from the atrocities of the “It’s not illegal to form a group.They have not done anything wrong or any criminal act that would warrant the filing of charges against them.”

Gonzalez stressed that the so-called Reform Ilaga Movement could be held liable if its members engage in extra-judicial killings because it is against the law.

The justice chief said that arming oneself for protection is not a crime and one has the has the corresponding license and permit to possess a firearm.

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Loren Legarda for their part, said the resurrection of the Ilaga, that has been dormant for decades now, just adds unwanted religious elements in the Mindanao conflict, a throwback to the situation in the 1970s.

“Definitely it’s going to exacerbate the armed conflict. I will not even call it an insurgency I think that because of the declarations of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) owning these rouge commanders, or these other operatives that demotes the situation from insurgency to a mere situation of banditry. As they say in international law, a situation of an armed conflict,” said Santiago.

“It might prove terminal to these MILF leaders because Ilagas are composed of Christian settlers who are determined to defend their settlements against what they look upon as marauders. They do not agree with the claims of the MILF or MNLF members that these members have a sovereign to their homeland. They believe that it is the Ilagas who have their homeland in Mindanao, because they were the original settlers there.

Legarda said:“We should allow our soldiers and the police to do their jobs. We cannot allow civilians to take the law into their hands because that will only worsen the problem. The level of violence and atrocities in Mindanao got ratcheted up because of the tit-for-tat mentality in the 70s fostered by numerous armed groups. We must learn from that mistake and nip this problem in the bud,” she said.

Santiago said the ongoing armed conflict in Mindanao falls solely under domestic law and penal code, not international law.

“Many presidents have already tried their best and could not solve the problem. It seems to be intractable as other inter-domestic problems of our conflict,” Santiago said in a press conference.

“The Muslims are a minority in Mindanao the majority are now Christians, so they can claim protection only in the name of an indigenous community as protected by our constitution. But they cannot claim that Mindanao is completely theirs in near sovereign terms.

“In the first place, the constitutional provision on sovereignty of national territorial integrity prevents any Muslim group from claiming the right of cessation.

“I understand some of them had gone to that extent. They believe that since they are suffering, they can secede from the Philippines and that’s not allowed by the Constitution. They’re only allowed an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. Now autonomy is defined by our Constitution by exclusion. It excludes certain areas from evolution to the autonomous region and the autonomous region as envisioned by the Muslims today by the MILF and MNLF goes beyond the limits of our constitution.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, on the other hand, said there should be no slowdown in the military operations against the MILF even if Ramadan is approaching.

“If they will ask for my two cents opinion, we should not think of religious rights to impede restoration of law and order in the country. At this point it will be counter productive for the military or the government to be talking about ceasefire. Otherwise, it will betray their weakness if they have any weakness,” Enrile told reporters during the weekly Kapihan sa Senado.

“Personally, I think, as far as the government is concerned, law and order must be maintained and restored,” he said.

Enrile, however, stood opposed to the reported planned move of Malacañang to seek the assistance of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to help break the stalemate in the peace talks.

“I can only go back to history. This is an internal problem and we should keep it at that. We should not internationalize it. We negotiate with our recalcitrant elements in the country in other venues. But we must always maintain that this is an internal problem and we should not allow other national interests or international personalities to get involved in solving our own internal problems,” he said. With Angie M. Rosales, Gina Peralta-Elorde and AFP







Advertisers




Advertiser



Comments

Got something to say?






View My Stats