Peace talks need not be complicated
The longer the peace talks drag on or they are suspended, the more serious the threats to our internal security and ailing economy. The government cannot just sit idly by, hoping and crossing its fingers that tomorrow a truce with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will be signed. The peace treaty promises, among other things, to settle who among the armed groups identified with the MILF are its genuine members. It is our understanding that once an agreement is signed, we will be able to distinguish the true rebels from the brigands and the terrorists.
We are concerned that for as long as peace is not achieved, the kidnapping syndicates and the terrorists will remain and even grow their fighting force as quickly as it is decimated. Recently, an Australian national was kidnapped in the same manner as the earlier victims of kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) were abducted. KFR happens in Zamboanga and Basilan, but news about this reverberates in all nooks and corners of Mindanao, scaring away domestic and foreign investors in places like Davao, which are hundreds of miles away.
What is disturbing here is that the culprits are scot-free while the victims languish in the lairs of their captors if, at all, they are still alive. Government forces appear helpless and hopeless and the reason behind this is that there is an ongoing effort to achieve a peace pact with the MILF. Well and good. The problem, however, is the unconscionable delay in the talks. Whenever there is a break from the talks, the suspects regroup, rearm, refit and recruit. The negotiation, therefore, should not go on forever. The government must take the initiative to push the agenda. At this stage of the game, we are certain what are doable and what are allowed by our Constitution. Outside these parameters, anything is unacceptable.
At this stage, the only viable option is to look at how the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao can be expanded, not according to the terms and conditions stipulated under the draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain but on the basis of the referendum that brought about the creation of the ARMM. We support suggestions that the towns and barangays that had voted to be included in the proposed ARMM, but which were excluded, be made part of the expanded area. We too are in accord with the idea of the ARMM getting ample shares from the proceeds of the natural resources found in the region.
Because armament is a sensitive issue, this too has to be seriously addressed. This issue is too serious that any agreement thereon should include the withdrawal of military troops from the area and the dismantling of its auxiliary forces like the Cafgus and CVOs. In this manner, any group that bears arms outside of the Philippine National Police should be considered an enemy of the state.
Peace negotiations need not be complicated. Going to war certainly is.
—RINA DE JESUS,
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