DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 April) — The Arroyo administration started in January 2001 with a supposed “all-out peace” policy but two wars broke out against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the President vowed to crush the communist insurgency before her term ends at noon of 30 June 2010.
No peace agreement has been signed with the MILF; the review of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has been rather slow; and Compostela Valley and Caraga in Mindanao (no longer Bicol) are now hosting the biggest number of communist guerrillas in the country.
How the next President will deal with these will be tackled in this second of a series on the “Presidentiables” and their views on Mindanao issues.
On continuing peace talks with the MILF:
Yes, if there are still possibilities for discussions, that have to be explored and completely exhausted. When you stop jaw, jaw jawing which means talking, it’s war, war, war that follows afterwards and now that will not redound to anybody’s favor. Then you have to seek out people who have at least a partially open mind. I understand the complications happen when you have negotiators on both sides who have suffered through so much atrocities over the years that there is very little trust. Perhaps if there is a will, there really will be a way we can find the right individuals to spearhead the dialogue, the talks and the trust-building exercises also.
Aquino on the MNLF:
Well again, with any group that feels disenfranchised, that feels separated from the mainstream, that we will seek them out, have a dialogue and try to come to some agreement as to the end goals
You know when I was President you know how I dealt with them. I declared an all out war against the MILF. Anu-anong peace process iyan, you know iyang mga MILF dating MNLF naging MILF mahigit 30 years yan,30 years na. Meron pang Tripoli Agreement during the time of Pres. Marcos. Peace talks, ceasefire, peace talks for the last more than 30 years. Walang nangyari. Tuloy din ang bombing, tuloy din ang kidnapping so what else is next? The next is you have to wage war to earn peace and if ever the government negotiates again, I would say that the government should negotiate in a position of strength. What kind of government do we have when we cannot impose our laws in our own land?
Estrada on the MNLF
Mahigit na 30 yrs na nga iyang review iyan hindi matapos tapos because this MILF has a different agenda. Yung agendang dismemberment of our country. They want part of Mindanao to be dismembered, to take it away from Philippines put up their own Republic, the Bangsamoro Republic which I will never permit. Because I believe that as President and Commander In Chief I must protect the territorial integrity of our country at all cost.
Gordon: (on the MILF and MNLF)
As far as I am concerned, what we are seeking for is progress in Mindanao for all peoples. First of all, my mindset is that I’m not at war with the Muslims. Call it a Muhammad Ali complex, I’m not at war with the Vietcong. They have not done me harm, and I don’t think they want to do harm to the rest of the country and I don’t think most of the country wants to do them harm either. What I think they are looking for respect understanding and acceptance. So I would do more than talk. I would do good, give, build schools, show a full concentration of schools, of infrastructure such as power, water, accessible power and accessible water to people. Especially in areas of conflict like Sulu, Mindanao, I would fix up the problem of Rio Grande River that perpetrates flooding all the time in that area. I would show them that tourism can be won.
Perlas (on the MILF and MNLF)
The most important thing for example on the Muslim side is to ensure the there’s adequate consultation between MILF, ARMM and MNLF. So apparently much of the negotiations that took place were basically within the MILF constituency of the Muslims in Mindanao. I think there is a possibility really for them to come together to consolidate. For example, what would be the relationship of ARMM to the new juridical entity that will be created, the Bangsamoro juridical entity that’s going to be created out of that MOA, the MOA of Ancestral Domain. That’s one. And then how it will relate that kind of retrospective look on the MNLF agreement because as we know historically, the MI split off from the MN and there’s the historical root. But I have been in touch with both sides, including ARMM so the three parties, in my work in the peace work in Mindanao and I know that there can be a basis for a real agreement. But that agreement we’ll have to define because all three basically emphasizing that the conflict in Mindanao is not a religious issue but it is a social justice issue.
Teodoro (on the MILF and MNLF)
Well, the MILF, I’m going to deal with number one, the open and transparent basis. I think there are sincere people, they really want an end to this conflict but based on studying what had happened to the past, with past peace agreements with the NPA, CPP NPA, with the MNLF and other groups and the CPLA, we cannot rely on peace agreements to have lasting peace. What we need to do is to use the peace agreement as a tool for ensuring physical peace, lack of conflict on the ground. Meaning to say, we cannot see this as a substitute for central government presence as a deterrent to the group that wants to break away from what was talked about and agreed in the agreed upon or from other groups forming because we see this in the MNLF because we have a comprehensive peace for them. After the MILF, if we have a comprehensive peace accord to them, we have MILF. After the MILF if we have comprehensive accord who knows what’s going to happen. There should be national government presence through the Armed Force and the Police so that it can serve as a deterrent for the groups. I am so not ambitious as saying that there will be cultures of peace bred in my lifetime. But what we can stop people from doing is shooting each other because of a problem. They will learn how to channel their hate into one that uses guns towards one venue of channeling hate which is democratic dialogue and democratic discourse.
Villar (on the MILF and MNLF)
Ang sa akin, tingnan muna natin, ang masasabi ko ay titingnan muna natin ang sinseridad dito kasi makikipagsabayan ito eh. Dapat palakasin muna ang Armed Forces of the Philippines at the same time yung sustainable development. Yung development ay isasabay mo din, hindi kailangang isa lamang ang palalakasin mo diyan sapagkat pagka naman sinabi mo na puro development tapos halimbawa yung Abu Sayyaf naman ay ginagawang tuluy-tuloy ung kanilang ginagawa, hindi rin maganda yan. Kailangan namang kapag sinabi nila na kaya nila hulihin ay kaya nila. At dito naman sa development kinakailangan kapag sinabi mong itataas mo, kaya mong itaas. Kaya mahalaga rito ay kung sinuman ang mamuno ng Pilipinas ay may karanasan at subok na ang kakayahan para gawin lahat na sinsasbi nya. [Tomorrow: The Bakwits, NPA, Warlords, etc..] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)