A strategy of peace, not war
The dangerously deteriorating situation that the country is now in, marked by killings and bombings resulting in the meaningless death of thousands of people, is a result of the “war strategy” that the Duterte regime has adopted. This strategy, which began as a “war on drugs,” has now been expanded into a “war on terror” in Mindanao.
The drug war has led to mass killings mostly in urban poor communities. In less than three months, its death toll has reached more than 3,000, including innocent civilians.
The war against the Abu Sayyaf, a small bandit group, has led to the bombing and destruction of villages in Mindanao. An intensified military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in southern Sulu province was ordered by President Duterte after the beheading of an 18-year-old hostage. At least 30 of the Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in a week-long offensive, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
It is reported that the attack on the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan triggered the bombing of a night market in Davao City, which killed at least 14 civilians. Abu Sayyaf first owned up to the bombing in Davao, but later clarified that the killers were from another group sympathetic to them.
Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) calls for a stop to the mass killings of suspected drug users and pushers in urban poor communities. The police campaign against drugs can be intensified by targeting the biggest drug lords and their protectors.
The war on the Abu Sayyaf bandits can be waged with targeted military operations, instead of bombing entire villages. The bombings, which have resulted in massive loss of lives, only invite increasingly desperate communities to hit back at forces deemed supporting the government operations.
The human casualties of this war strategy—the so-called collateral damage—are very high. This war plays into the hands of the US war on terror, which has been rightly condemned by President Duterte in his recent speeches. It also plays into the hands of the rightist forces, including the “war hawk” generals.
A war strategy has its own dynamics that cannot be easily controlled. The war itself is a declaration of a state of lawlessness, a state of belligerency; the imperative being the extermination of the combatant forces engaged in war. If the war continues, it could also create a scenario leading to the declaration of martial law. Already a “state of lawlessness” has been declared by the government.
This war strategy is clearly not in the best interest of the masses.
The PLM calls instead for a strategy of peace in Mindanao, an inclusive process that involves all Bangsamoro forces, not just the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front; a strategy that addresses the basic causes of the conflict, based on the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination.
We reiterate our call for a “peace strategy” with the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front/New People’s Army. Such a strategy must address the root causes of the insurgency, including such urgent issues as the impoverishment of the masses, implementation of genuine agrarian reform and labor rights.
Lastly, we call for an end to the terror sown by the war on drugs in urban poor communities. We call for a peace strategy that stops the killings in the communities and arrests and prosecutes the big drug lords and their protectors.
—SONNY MELENCIO, chair, Partido Lakas ng Masa, [email protected]
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