Rule of law in peace process
We at the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy express our deepest sympathies to the families of the members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, who sacrificed life and limb in the service of our nation. We likewise extend our condolences and sympathies to the other victims of the deadly firefight between the PNP and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters/Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that rocked the town of Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.
Aside from the tragic deaths and casualties on both sides and the displacement of families forced to flee their homes, the disastrous encounter has also shaken the trust and confidence in the ongoing peace process. Together with the recent bombings in other areas in Mindanao, it underscored the urgency of addressing the myriad issues underpinning the Bangsamoro problem. These critical issues, if left unresolved, could tear asunder the tenuous peace fashioned after years of fractious negotiations. We fervently pray that this terrible incident will not derail the ongoing peace process.
Protocols have been set for the conduct of military and police operations in the areas identified as MILF camps, specifically to prevent misencounters. The protocols have been highly instrumental in the capture of wanted criminals. The lack of coordination with the concerned authorities following the agreed protocol is perplexing. This deficiency underscores the need to revisit the framework for cooperation between and among military, police and civilian authorities in undertaking highly sensitive operations.
We therefore welcome the creation of a Board of Special Inquiry and the MILF internal investigation. However, to remove any hint of bias, we join the call for an impartial inquiry by an independent body composed of persons of unquestionable probity and integrity, with established records for advocating peace and development in Mindanao, representing key sectors and stakeholders.
We acknowledge the MILF’s efforts “to work for the restoration of normalcy within the area” through the GPH (government)-MILF Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities and the International Monitoring Team, existing transitional mechanisms established by virtue of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
We call on the MILF leaders to cooperate in the investigation, and to submit to the findings. Let the chips fall where they may. If trust and confidence is to be strengthened, there must be an unequivocal commitment to the rule of law by all.
While we await the release of findings of both the government constituted board and the MILF internal investigation, we call for sobriety and urge our legislators and officials to exercise prudence in their statements. We believe the peace process cannot and should not be held hostage by the Mamasapano incident, tragic though it may be. Incendiary statements are reckless and serve no purpose but to unnecessarily fan the flames of anger and hate in an extremely tense environment.
We know that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) cannot be the panacea to the complicated and deeply-rooted problem in the region. But we firmly believe that the BBL is the transformative medium that sets in place the vital foundation for establishing sustainable peace and inclusive development to a much-marginalized and severely neglected sector of Philippine society.
We reiterate our support for the passage of the BBL and urge our legislators and officials to continue with its review. We further exhort all advocates for peace and democracy to call for sobriety and temperance in this period fraught with emotion and sentiment.
The use of force and violence is an extremely perilous means of attaining a set objective, with disastrous impact on the lives of the innocent. Further, violence begets violence in a never-ending cycle. Only peaceful resolution of conflict can cut this pernicious cycle.
Despite our differing ethnicities, religious affiliations, ideologies and economic classes, we all are, in the words of Pope Francis, children of God.
Let us all join hands in honoring the ultimate sacrifice paid by the fallen policemen. Let us all pray for lasting peace, commit to an abiding respect for human life and uphold the supremacy of the rule of law.
Salma Pir Rasul is executive director of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy.
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