Dureza: “speculative statements” on bombers can ruin peace talks

“We must not hurl accusations and refrain from issuing provocative statements if we don’t have enough proof,”  Secretary Jesus Dureza said in a press conference in Makilala town hall last Wednesday.Dureza, on orders from Malacañang, visited Makilala on Wednesday to check on the Tuesday evening blast that killed six and injured 32 others.He met with police and military officers and local officials, including North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Piñol.Pinol, in an interview after the blast, blamed the MILF for the worst bombing in North Cotabato since 2002. He described the bombing as ‘evil, godless, and full of terror.’    

“I hold the MILF responsible for the recent atrocity.  I don’t know if I can still see them (MILF leaders) face to face after what happened,” he said in an interview over DXND Wednesday morning.

A statement like this, according to Dureza, “is unfair. “We can’t just blame the whole organization of the MILF for the attack if we can’t show any proof,” he stressed.

On Tuesday morning,  Pinol sat beside MILF peace panel member Datu Michael Mastura as he joined other Mindanao leaders in urging both the government and the MILF to continue talking peace, during the All Mindanao Leaders’ Peace Consultation convened by the Bishops-Ulama Conference in Davao City.

MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu challenged the governor to show proof the MILF was behind the bombing. “There is no reason for the MILF to orchestrate such attack in a time that both parties are trying to work on the stalled peace talks,” he said.

Sheikh Mohammad Muntassir, head of the MILF’s Dawah Committee, the second highest authority in Islam in the MILF hierarchy issued a statement posted in the MILF’s website, www.luwaran.com on Wednesday noon, condemning the bombings in Tacurong and Makilala as “the handiwork of Satan and soulless criminals.”

“We join all peace-loving peoples and groups in denouncing these bombings as acts of barbarism,” Muntassir said.

In Malacanang, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to join forces in the hunt for the perpetrators of the spate of bombings in Mindanao.

According to Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, the government has also enlisted the help of the Government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front ceasefire committee and joint action group to identify and arrest the culprits behind the "dastardly bombings."

Dureza called on media to avoid being caught into the “propaganda thing” about the recent violent incidents in Mindanao in their reportage. “Instead, we must focus on the efforts that everybody is doing – the government, MILF, peace advocates, and other groups – to resolve the impasse in the GRP-MILF talks.  I believe everybody wants peace,” he stressed.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao People’s Caucus said accusations and threatening words will not help but would only add fire to the already heated conflict in Mindanao.

“No more word war, please.  It doesn’t help at this point in time, especially that we’re again faced with many violent incidents like bombings,” she told government and MILF officials. 

Bunye asked the public to be “calm and sober.” He said they will “continue to urge the Senate to prioritize the passage of the anti-terror bill for our security forces to be given more teeth and a better fighting chance in dealing with the remaining terror cells in the country.”

“Let us not put more lives at risk when we can do something about the threat posed by terrorists now,” Bunye said.  (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)