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There is plenty of mistrust in peace process

/ 12:34 AM March 13, 2015

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano is talking sense. In fact, he is the only senator who seems to be doing that. In a privilege speech last Wednesday, Cayetano accused the government and the peace panel of knowing that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front protected international terrorist Marwan and did nothing about it. The effort to arrest Marwan inside or near MILF territory in Maguindanao resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force commandos who were attacked by the combined forces of the MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and other armed groups.

Cayetano also called for the replacement of the government’s peace negotiators who seem to be either scared of or are spoiling the MILF, leading some quarters to ask chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer and President Aquino’s peace adviser Teresita Quintos Deles which side they are actually representing, the Philippine government or the MILF. Indeed, the way the government peace panel is behaving makes some people suspect that it is really working for the MILF.

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Peace negotiations require mutual trust. There is none, or very little, in the current peace talks between the government and the MILF. The government peace panel maybe trusts the MILF so much that it has forgotten to protect the welfare of the government and the other people of Mindanao, such as the Christians, the lumad, the Badjao, the Tausug, the Maranao, and other tribes. If you ask members of these groups whether or not they are in favor of the proposed semiautonomous Bangsamoro region or the Bangsamoro Basic Law, some of them will reply that they are afraid of what Muslim leaders can do to them.

For some strange reason, these tribes are not represented in the peace talks. Is it because they are genuinely peace-loving and have not rebelled against the government, like the MILF? Do they have to take up arms against the government before it would deign to talk to them?

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Instead of trust, it seems there is plenty of mistrust among the parties concerned. Worst of all, it seems that the government peace panel is no longer trusted by the people they are supposed to represent. Its members should resign to spare themselves more heartache. And they have nobody to blame but themselves.

It really seems that they are working only for the MILF, not the whole Filipino nation.

For example, Cayetano accused the panel of knowing that the MILF was protecting Marwan but did nothing. On the contrary, the panel worked for the release of MILF commander Wahid Tundok, who was protecting Marwan, after Tundok was arrested in February 2014, Cayetano said. On whose side, really, are Ms Ferrer and Ms Deles?

And the MILF is working very hard to lose the trust of the rest of the Filipino people. For instance, the MILF is giving its report on its own investigation of the Mamasapano clash only to Malaysia in spite of the request of our Department of Justice for a copy.

And that’s final, said Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs. He declined to give details of the report. Why, what’s so secret about the report?

Jaafar delivered a very good prepared speech in pushing for the passage of the BBL. “We have been given a chance to have a time for healing,” he said, “a time when we have the opportunity to have our hearts bound together and to put an end to all this seemingly never-ending military and political warfare, which only brought forth anguish and hatred.”

“It’s time to stop firing our guns and start treating one another as equals and brothers, a time when we stop insisting on our selfish desires and start understanding what the other party aspires, a time when we stop seeking revenge and instead start choosing to forgive the ones who cause us losses and suffering,” Jaafar said.

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“The BBL is not a tool for insurgency,” he added. “It is a move, a first step, to unite all the people of Mindanao to forge a common peace for the sake of progress.”

Very well said, but it sounds insincere in the wake of reports that the MILF is manufacturing arms and recruiting fighters when, according to the peace accord, it should be disarming its fighters.

In fact, there is an arms race in Mindanao, Cayetano said, adding that it was not only the MILF that is stockpiling arms but other groups as well, both Christian and Muslim. Other areas that are under threat from the MILF are building up forces. It is because these non-Muslim areas are afraid of persecution from their Muslim brothers once the BBL is passed and the Bangsamoro region becomes a reality.

But Cayetano said the BBL, or any other piece of paper, is not the way to peace. It is trust in each other, disarmament, and the surrender of weapons.

“There would be no true peace if there is no disarmament,” he said. “Disarmament cannot be a product of peace. Disarmament must be a precondition to peace.”

The senator added: “We should give all Filipinos what we are willing to give the MILF. And we should make the MILF make the same sacrifices that we are all being asked to do.”

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Ghazali Jaafar, Mamasapano, Marwan, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, peace process, Teresita Quintos Deles, Wahid Tundok
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