Vital revelation!

We never knew that the main reason why former President Joseph Estrada was ousted from office was due to his refusal to heed the advice of the US to forego his all-out war against the MILF in 2000. It is indeed a vital revelation that can affect the narrative of that war! It is straight the horse’s mouth, so to speak!

He made the disclosure during his interview with reporters recently. It was published in the October 23 issue of The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

He said US Defence Secretary William Cohen was the one who delivered the hard message. But Estrada did not listen and unmoved. In his characteristic ways, he continued the offensive but ironically towards the end of 2000 he tried to sue for peace and asked the MILF to return to the negotiating table. The MILF did not agree, except on the condition that the peace talks would only resume if held under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) or any member state.

The peace offer did not materialize because Estrada was impeached and jailed for plunder offence. Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the office almost in silver platter, and occupied it for over nine years. She immediately sought peace with the MILF and replaced the all-out war policy of Estrada to all-out peace policy. She asked Malaysia to facilitate the resumption of the peace talks, a role that is carried on to this day.

It is very hard to believe this Estrada’s revelation. The incident happened almost 16 years ago.  Many people only remember it in their sub-conscious minds. But it is Estrada who is speaking, and we don’t see any good reason not to take his words. In fact, his confession earns him more minuses than pluses.

Estrada, now Mayor of Manila City, was painting a similar scenario that what happened to him might happen to President Rodrigo Duterte who has been making highly critical statements against the United States since he assumed office in July this year.

On the all-out war, we wanted to forget the memories of the all-out war. We wanted it placed in the dustbin of history. We prefer to have new lives and relationships with the Estradas. But certainly we cannot speak for those victims of the offensive. More than one million people were displaced by the offensive. Forgetting and forgiving, which can only come from them, is not a practical formula. There has to be justice instituted.

This is the reason that any political settlement of the conflict in Mindanao could not be complete without the parties undertaking transitional justice. There has to be healing process.

Sad to note, however, that the report of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) which contains 109 recommendations has not be attended to appropriately by the previous administration. Instead of creating National TJRC for Bangsamoro (NTJRC-B), the functions including the recommendations were lodged to the various agencies of government especially the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

What is in store for the TJRC Report under the Duterte administration? It seems there is a silver lining for a better arrangement. The MILF keeps on asking government to comply with its obligations contained in the Report.