Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Philippines: Leaders call for sobriety, faith in peace process amidst challenges

Source: Government of the Philippines

MANILA, Jan. 28 -- Leaders from various sectors called on the public to remain committed to the peace process amidst recent challenges, especially the tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25, which claimed nearly 50 lives.

“[It’s] difficult but we still have to believe in the peace process. My brother, a captain, was killed in Basilan in 1998. I dedicated my support to waging peace in memory of his sacrifice,” Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said. The solon intimated that among those killed in Mamasapano was his cousin.

“The natural emotional tendency is to condemn, to doubt, to grieve and to call for aggression,” he added. “But the courageous thing for us to do is to pray and to believe, still.”

“The CBCP [Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines] mourns with the families of the gallant policemen, victims of an utterly senseless act of violence in Mindanao,” CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said. According to Villegas, while the CBCP condemns such violence, “we cannot side with those who call for the discontinuance of peace talks.”

“If anything, this sad incident underscores the necessity and the urgency of arriving at a solution that is not rushed but that is inclusive, principled and just to all,” Villegas said.

Several civil society organizations also called on the public to remain sober in the wake of the tragedy and highlighted the necessity of continuing with the peace process.

“As a nation, we need to be reminded about the importance of peace in Mindanao. We reiterate that between an ‘all-out war’ vs. an ‘all-out peace’, the former has been proven to be the most expensive,” the Al Qalam Institute said in a statement.

“We call for sobriety for all, including our policy makers, pleading and imploring your kind hearts not to derail nor halt the legislative hearing on [the] Bangsamoro Basic Law [BBL] because this will just clearly hinder us in attaining our goals for lasting peace in Mindanao,” the statement of the Lanao Peace Advocates reads.

The organization also reminded the public that “the tragedy should not be used to blind us in attaining what we desired as outcome of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF].”

“We call for all parties to continue pursuing the roadmap for peace in Mindanao,” it added.

“We maintain our support for the peace process,” the Mindanao Business Council said, while urging leaders in government and the private sector to be “careful and prudent in issuing public statements,” and asking members of the business community to extend assistance to the victims and their families.

“We need to recognize that our government and the MILF have established a ceasefire mechanism to handle proper coordination protocols on the ground,” the Al Qalam Institute reminded the public. “Despite several major conflicts in the past, the mechanism allowed the peace talks to continue and move forward for more than 16 years.”

Ceasefire is working

Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chairman of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), has reported that retrieval operations of the dead, wounded, and surviving Special Action Force personnel have been completed.

“We want also to report that we were able to immediately restore the ceasefire,” Galvez added in his report. Members of the government and MILF ceasefire committees, along with the International Monitoring Team also facilitated the retrieval of those who died and the safe passage of those who were still inside the area. More than 30 lives were saved from the brunt of the encounter in Mamasapano and civilians were spared from displacement through the ceasefire and peaceful evacuation of the troops.

“We would like to acknowledge the courage and boldness of our International Monitoring Team Member from Norway and Joint CCCH staff under MILF’s ceasefire chair, Rashid Ladiasan,” Galvez added. “Notwithstanding the ensuing intense firefight they proceeded to the encounter site to effect the ceasefire and facilitate the extrication of surviving troops and retrieve the cadavers under PNP SAF.”

The CCCH was created in 1997, and is composed of members from both the government and the MILF, along with neutral parties. Its mandate is to monitor the implementation of the GPH-MILF Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities and settle complaints on ceasefire violations to contain and prevent conflicts from escalation. The IMT, on the other hand, monitors the ceasefire, socio-economic and humanitarian agreements between the government and the MILF.