SPECIAL REPORT The “Presidentiables” and Mindanao 2010-2016 (3):The Bakwits, the NPA the Abu Sayyaf

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 April) – There were more villagers displaced by war under the Estrada administration in 2000 but the Arroyo administration will be known in history as the only one that made world history as having “the biggest new displacement in the world” out of 4.2 million newly displaced in 2008, the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) said in its April 2009 report.
By end of 2008, the Philippines’ IDP population in Mindanao had gone down to 308,000. As of March 17, 2009, the last report of the National Disaster Coordinating Council’s (NDCC) on the IDPs in Mindanao, the number of displaced had gone down to 209,320. How many evacuees are sill languishing in evacuation centers in Maguindanao or with their relatives, no one can say for sure.

But the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office in Maguindanao reported that as of March 15, 2010, there are still 18,964 bakwit families (about 100,000 persons), 10,544 of them inside evacuation centers.

How will the “Presidentiables” deal with the bakwits? The New People’s Army which now has the strongest force in Mindanao’s Compostella Valley and Caraga? The Abu Sayyaf?

On the ‘bakwits’ (internally displaced persons)

Aquino:
Actually the very first person that I have talked to who has agreed to serve in the Cabinet, is Dinky Soliman. She has demonstrated competency in these things as regular in as simple as in disasters after typhoon and so on, were something as basic as pre-positioning relief supplies so extant. I will tap on her expertise. She will be focusing on that particular problem amongst others, kasi the other naman is seasonal in effect but that which is persistent already will merit a high priority. We put our citizenry to safe areas first. Hopefully voluntarily then afterwards deal with whatever causes you want to stabilize the situation whereby they can assume normalcy of life as soon as possible.

Estrada:
Immediately the government should give priority to the evacuees. Yan sinasabi ko. Kawawa ang tigadito sa Mindanao. Kahit na halimbawa may peace and order dito sa GenSan pag sinabing Mindanao kasama rna buong Mindanao kasama nang GenSan kasama na lahat halos kaya nakapanghihinayang ang Mindanao.

Gordon:
War isn’t going to solve it.

Perlas:
If the new government starts in July next year after the national elections then there’s a possibility to start the process. Which would actually mean a ceasefire on all sides and therefore the possibility that some of the people can go back to where they’re going. It totally depends on the speed, on the integrity and the trust in the process.

Teodoro:
Well the evacuees, if it is safe for them to return to their villages, which it is now because of the military suspension in Central Mindanao, and we are very thankful that it is holding. And that also proves the sincerity on the part of the MILF Central Command to keep the peace in the area principally because we want the evacuees in Maguindanao to be able to return to their villages. There are two cases there eh, one is there is an actual fear of returning and number two also is we fear that keeping the evacuation centers, it may create a culture of dependence on the evacuation centers also.

On continuing peace talks with the National Democratic Front.

Aquino:
Also (continue talks) but there are some that are really ideologues, that have a goal that is disparate from that which I have to do if I’m sworn again to defend and uphold the constitution.

Estrada:
Of course I have to negotiate with them first, I said.

Gordon:
I will walk my talk. I will bring development. I will bring infrastructure in the area.

Perlas:
The only way to really negotiate with the NDF is to address a question which I totally agree with and this is the question of social injustice in the country and the structural process of injustice. As long as there are a lot of poor people who are not benefiting, as long as our governance is corrupt and basically self centered and not concerned for the benefit of people, then you are going to have the actual structural condition for the NDF and as well as the NPA to actually prevail. Even if there are pockets, these pockets can become very active. I think we have to remove or we have to show first the will of the new government to address structural issues, the systemic issues, the precondition for rebellion not only in the Muslim side but also On the NDF side and then with that sign of political will then it’s really possible to negotiate

Teodoro:
There are now negotiations towards seeing whether or not resumption of peace talks is possible. For me, I will still pursue the formula of amnesty. Because in the amnesty proclamation we do not intrude into prerogatives of Congress while we get the funds for, theoretically honest to goodness social integration program for the rebel returnees. What do I mean when I say we do not intrude into the prerogatives of Congress, the peace negotiations putatively with the NDF anchor on such issues as social justice, agrarian reform. We do have a Congress, they have former members who are now part of the Congress. Republic Act 1700 which disallowed the teaching or preaching or membership in any organizations which was quote unquote “communists” is now repealed. You can well advocate communism in the street just as long you don’t bear arms for it. So I mean that facet of the negotiation should be put in the negotiation formula. But I am very happy that the government is negotiating without a ceasefire request.

Villar:
Well, ang sa NPA, ito makakalutas lang dito talaga ang pagdevelop ng lugar. Alam naman nating lahat na kapag hindi mo nadevelop yung lugar ay magkakaroon ng mga ganyan. At maliwanag na kailangang ipakita mo sa tao na umaangat talaga yung buhay nila, at dun sa area makikita naman talaga na yan kasi yan ang area na mahirap kaya hindi mo rin naman masisi ung mga mahihirap sapagkat dumadami, nakita mo yung mga nabanggit kong area na Compostela Valley at Caraga ay diyan naman talaga mahirap ang buhay kaya lumalaki din diyan ang insurgency.

On the Abu Sayyaf

Aquino:
It has to be two fold. One is again you have all the necessary forces available to go after them and seriously go after them without let-up and at the same you have to try economic intervention or intervention in the economic sphere whereby there is not that necessity to go up into the hills and engage in banditry.

Estrada:
These are terrorists. The more so that no negotiation is possible with them. Kailangang abuhin talaga iyan.

Gordon:
I’m talking about all out peace offensive, all out progress offensive, all out full-court press on schools, education. I’ve spoken with the Abu Sayyaf many times. I recorded them and they never spoke a word an anger against me they never threatened to cut the heads, they did not even use the word “pugot.” They just said what they have to do, I said you don’t have to do that, and when they said, sabi ko sa kanya kay Al Bader Parad and they can attest to this, “huwag mong gawin iyan sinasabi mong gagawin mo,” sabi ko “alam kong matapang ka pero alam kong nangyari sa iyo iyan dahil sa kakulangan sa Sulu at alam mo na nirerespeto kita, Senador ako kinakausap kita, at gusto kong malaman mo na pag ginawa mo iyan mamamatay ka rin, madaling pumatay ng tao mahirap magbigay buhay pero sabihin ko sa iyo pagka ikaw ginawa mo iyan mamatay ka sa isa o dalawang buwan, pero ito sabihin ko sa iyo pangako ko papaaralin ko ang anak mo para hindi maging katulad mo.”

Perlas:
The Abu Sayyaf situation is totally different because that’s terrorism, and of course the government will not tolerate terrorism. But even before moving all out to suppress the Abu Sayyaf there will have to be peace feelers also with them to address whether the conditions of rebellion has a legitimacy beyond just plain terrorism. If it is just plain terrorism then unfortunately there’s no basis for peace.

Teodoro:
No negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf or whatsoever. I mean they have already proven that they have no redeeming value except to be a lesson that terrorism will not pay. But then again, this is a touchy question because you have children combatants, you have women combatants. It’s a difficult situation to deal with, and only the combination of an honest to goodness law enforcement and honest to goodness development also in the area because it is only perhaps now that they have been feeling the effects of the national government presence in the area, because the local governments particularly in the municipality of Tipo-tipo – it gave birth to three other municipalities — the capacities of these local governments have still to be built up.

Villar:
Sa akin naman sa tingin ko, wala naman tayong magagawa sa Abu Sayaf, talagang maliwanag na banditry naman talaga yung ginawa nila at dapat naman kasi ihiwalay naman natin sila sa legitimate concerns ng ating mga kababayan doon at hindi naman kasi dapat na sila ang magiging impression sa ibang mga kababayan, sa mga kababayan natin doon. Sa tingin ko ibang grupo naman ito at sila wala naman tayong choice diyan at talaga naming viniolate yung ating batas at dapat naman silang parusahan doon. [Tomorrow: The Warlords, Loose Firearms] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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