12 August 2012
The Mindanao Peoples Caucus calls on all peace loving peoples of Mindanao and the entire country to close ranks and unite behind the earnest efforts of the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to put a final closure to the armed conflict in Mindanao by signing a peace agreement at the soonest possible time.
MPC believes that the current attacks in the municipalities of Datu Unsay, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are being used as a proxy war by politicians and powers that be in Mindanao who feel threatened by an incipient peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.
The developing scenario is reminiscent of MOA-AD in 2008 where provocation and harassments were launched by armed groups to cause chaos, confusion and hysteria among the people.
From the reports of Bantay Ceasefire, the sporadic attacks by the BIFF have already affected seven towns in Maguindanao and one barangay in Pikit, North Cotabato, displacing around 7,000 families.
While BIFF may have grievances, MPC believes that there are influential politicians riding on in their issues in order to create a scenario that will put to serious question the viability of signing a peace agreement with the MILF. This is an old recycled tactic that is being used every time there is a clear breakthrough in the negotiations.
MPC is also deeply concerned over messages circulating via mobile phones, Facebook and other social media networks on rumors and false information, causing public alarm and panic in the conflict-affected areas.
We urge fellow peace advocates and media to help verify and validate information so that we will not become willing victims of war propaganda.
MPC calls to mind its 16 April 2011 meeting with Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato, leader of the BIFF, who said that he will leave it to the MILF to negotiate with government. His group does not need to negotiate. The peace panels can continue the talks “at kung maganda ang resulta, automatic, agree na kami”. But, “to see is to believe, huwag agad maniwala sa mga salita nila. Hindi na kami madala sa deception ng gobyerno, the MOA-AD is the best proof of such deception.”
Given the positive developments in the peace talks, with the panels already at the homestretch of the negotiations, we challenge the leadership of BIFF to maintain its “wait and see” attitude and not to make further moves that can only derail the negotiations and put civilians in precarious and uncertain conditions in the evacuation centers.
We call upon Moro civil society to initiate intra dialogues among the Moro political elites who could have valid concerns and fears of an incipient political settlement with the MILF.
It is time to unmask the interests and handiwork of those interest groups who clearly benefit from the status quo that the peace negotiation seeks to change. As a self-styled traditional Moro politician aptly said “pag magka pirmahan na ng peace agreement, saan na kami pupulutin?” Indeed, selfish as it may be, the current breed of traditional politicians stands to lose if the status quo will be changed. Thus some of them have already started moving – just as many of them did in 2008 in the run-off towards the signing of the MOA-AD.
We call on Secretary Jesse Robredo and OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman to ensure that the Local Chief Executives, who have recently taken their oath as member of the President’s Liberal Party, will support President Aquino in his desire to resolve the armed conflict in Mindanao and that their actions on the ground are consistent with the national policy.
MPC also recommends an independent investigation over the ambush incident which happened inside the premises of the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi City. Again, let us not simply lump this incident with the BIFF attacks as this is clearly a distinct and separate case and hopefully isolated as it happened in an academic community.
MPC calls upon friends, allies and supporters of the GPH-MILF Peace Talks to closely guard and protect the gains of the peace process. Let us work hand in hand in order to overcome whatever move that will derail the negotiations. This is a critical moment in our long journey to peace. Let us unite and contribute our time, energies, resources, talents and creative ideas in order to bring about a peace agreement.
When the peace talks resumed in 2009 after the post MOA-AD debacle, all the efforts and interventions of the peace panels and peace advocates were designed to prevent a repeat of the MOA-AD tragedy.