Military would rather be doves than hawks in dealing with MILF

Although Garcia was seated on the extreme right some ten seats away from Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu and his father, first district Rep. Pax Mangudadatu, he stood among the VIPs gathered for the launch of the Mindanao Week Of Peace, in his full military uniform.

For many, the military is synonymous to war but Garcia wants to rebuke this notion.
"Of the many sectors in the government, it is the military that is longing for peace. We're always in the battlefront when there are wars and thus the first to be killed," he said.

Garcia told MindaNews he wants the war with the Moro rebels finished, preferably through peaceful means so that they could go back to their barracks.

"Instead of addressing internal threats, we could re-sort our energies against external threats, guard our waters from foreign threats," he said.

Garcia's jurisdiction, which includes parts of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces, is not so much known for the communist insurgency but more for the Moro rebellion.

As far as the MILF conflict is concerned now, Garcia said, they would rather be doves than hawks. The government's official policy on the MILF peace process is to uphold the "primacy of the peace process." For the communist rebels, the peace process has been suspended.

Garcia narrated that military commanders down to rank-and-file members within the 6th Infantry "Kampilan" Division based in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan, have been undergoing peace seminars for about a year now.

"No less than 200 soldiers have undergone peace trainings. We've been taught conflict management, capacity-building skills for peace. It is part of the government's program to achieve peace in Mindanao," Garcia said.

The peace seminars, he added, have been "reaping fruits," noting the absence of intense fighting between government security forces and the MILF rebels lately in the area.
 
"The peace seminars taught our combatants to learn to respect the MILF rebels," he said, adding the presence of the International Monitoring Team has helped a lot in the relatively peaceful condition in conflict areas in Mindanao.

Malaysia is heading the IMT and at the same time brokering the peace process between the government and the MILF.

Garcia expressed hope that both sides will soon ink a peace agreement. The Mangudadatus are as hopeful.

The elder Mangudadatu, who once sat as government peace panel member in the talks with the MILF, called for unity in the bid to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

"It is my vision to pacify, unify and reconcile the various tribes in the province. We want to demonstrate that there is peace in Sultan Kudarat because if we will not do that, who will do it for us?" Mangudadatu said.

"The best way of approaching (the Mindanao conflict) is by way of talking," he added. The younger Mangudadatu said the celebration of the Mindanao Week Of
Peace is a good opportunity for the people to understand and value the importance of peace.

"With peace, there is direction. But without peace, we would not know where we will be going," Gov. Mangudadatu said, adding peace would bring development to communities

Cotabato Archdiocese Auxiliary Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo said it is the duty of everyone to work for peace.

"There should be fire in our hearts strong enough to work for peace in Mindanao. With this week of peace celebrations, we want to show to the world that in Mindanao, there is unity. If there is unity, peace is not impossible," Bagaforo said.

Rudy Rodil, vice chair of the government peace panel, attended the launching of the Mindanao Week of Peace here.

In a forum, he spoke about the history of the Moro people for a better understanding of the Mindanao conflict.

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