Renewed fighting between government troops and secessionist Moro rebels in the southern Philippine regions of Mindanao has led to more calls for peace from various quarters.
President Noynoy Aquino launched an “All-Out Justice” military campaign authorizing the bombing of Moro communities suspected to be rebel hideouts.
This came after the Al-Barka Basila Incident or the killing of 19 Philippine Army soldiers in firefights with the rebel fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Between the Lines digs into the circumstances surrounding the infamous Al-Barka Basilan incident.
The hostilities has resulted in the fleeing of more than 20,000 villagers and fears of human rights abuses by rampaging government forces:
The initial findings – THE INVESTIGATION IS STILL GOING ON – as reported in the command conference with the President and the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) top brass last Friday, was that the soldiers who died shouldn’t have been sent there in the first place. They died because they were sent there unprepared and without planning, so much so that they were practically sent there to die.
But even before this fiasco, peace negotiations with Moro rebels have not made much headway. Blogger Vencer Crisostomo attributes this to the Aquino government's lack of “a sincere plan yo genuinely address the roots of the armed conflict”:
The government peace panels under OPAPP (peace adviser) have wasted an opportunity to sign a peace agreement and have sabotaged the peace process with the NDFP (National Democratic Front) and MILF by employing a flawed framework among others, by arrogantly refusing to honor previous agreements and agreed upon processess, and utilizing the peace processes as a military psy-war arm.
Reese's my random thoughts… observes that President Aquino's “all-out justice” is really no different from “all-out war”:
PNoy authorized the AFP to bomb MILF camps in Zamboanga Sibugay and to undertake intensified ground operations in Basilan and Lanao del Norte in order the flush out the supposed perpetrators of the Basilan and following other attacks attributed to alleged bandits/”rogue” MILF commanders.
Is “all-out justice” means displacement and violations of the rights of 16,000 civilians? Which prior to the Basilan incident there were already 125,000 evacuees in Mindanao because of continuous military operations?
Thoughts from an Insomniac is against the declaration of an all-out war in Mindanao:
To end the peace talks and declare an all-out war against the MILF would mean the waging of a campaign which would not only be based in Basilan, but would also cover areas as far as Lanao del Norte, Sarangani and Davao del Sur…
The blood-thirsty public in the Capital may find it easy to raise their fists in the air and shout “avenge the soldiers.” And they can confidently do these things because their homes are far from the reaches of the MILF's mujaheedin. But how about the people of Mindanao?
Broadcaster Julius Mariveles laments the war mongering prevalent among some sectors in the mass media:
I can only hope that station owners and managers can be more conscientious in arming broadcasters with the necessary tools and skills for them to competently report and dissect issues such as this that are of great national importance.
Failing to do so would only lead to the dumbing down of an audience and justify an all-out war that will be disastrous to the people of Mindanao.
But the most tragic part is the fact that some broadcast journalists who, consciously or unconsciously, support an all-out war in Mindanao have conveniently forgotten the sufferings wrought on the civilian populace in Negros island by the Total War Policy of former President Corazon Aquino.
Raissa Robles calculates the cost of war in Mindanao by recalling former President Joseph Estrada's “all-out war” against the MILF in the year 2000:
During Estrada’s two and a half-year presidency, 471 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and 222 government soldiers were killed.
We can presume that most of the fatalities occurred during the 2000 All-Out War.
In addition, during the same period, the MILF claimed 92 rebels were injured while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported 270 injured – or 431 injured from both sides of the conflict.
Veteran journalist Carlos Conde writes of the plight of Moro refugees displaced by decades of fighting in Mindanao:
To say that Unsay and his fellow villagers are used to a life of constant displacement is inaccurate. “We are forced to lead this kind of life,” he said. He pointed out that even though they can afford to build concrete houses, many villagers built huts made of grass and bamboo because these “would be burned anyway.”
Dr. Carol Araullo sums up the historical roots of the armed conflict between the Moros and government forces in Mindanao:
There is an ongoing war between the Philippine government and the MILF over the historic demands of the Bangsamoro for the right to self-determination and to their ancestral domain. These inalienable rights of the Moro people have been denied them by the Spanish and American colonialists then by what they call the Manila government post-independence, thus bringing about their marginalization and oppression as a people for centuries up to the present.