Duterte to gov’t: pursue talks with MILF, NDF

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said Sunday at the city government's television program, "Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa" (From the masses, To the masses) that the government must continue talking peace amid ‘unpeace’ in Mindanao, including the possibility of reopening talks with the communist-led New People's Army.

Duterte, who is also Southeastern Mindanao's Regional Peace and Order Council chair, said what happened in Bansalan, Davao del Sur where ten people were killed when a bomb exploded on June 15 outside a Weena bus has also happened around the world. 

Around 15 minutes after, another bus also owned by Weena was bombed in Cotabato City but no one was hurt. 

Last week, Major Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command, told MindaNews the suspects and their location have already been identified but that they were not yet ready to reveal them to the public. 

Also last week, an extortion group operating in Maguindanao province claimed it was behind the bomb attacks against a bus company plying the Cotabato-Davao route. 

In a letter, a group identifying itself as Al-Qubar, told Bernardo ‘Digoy’ Valdeviezo, Jr., one of the owners of Peoples’ Transport, that the recent attacks against the company were executed to show the government their group “is a force to reckon with.”           

Chief Supt. Romeo Gatan, deputy chief of the Police Regional Office No, 12 based in General Santos City, said the group is notorious in extorting money from big business establishments in the region, including Peoples’ Transport.

The group’s base is somewhere in Maguindanao and its operations include North Cotabato and nearby provinces in the region, reports from the police intelligence said.  

Gatan alleged the extortionists are linked with a local terror group but he didn’t name the group.

Duterte brushed aside possible military involvement in the extortion threats and refused to comment on allegations the MILF was behind it. He also said the NPA does not resort to bombing, although it would burn buses after asking people to disembark first.

He said, however, that the arrest of the suspects will be a "tall order" at the moment.   

The government should initiate a move for a more thorough peace process amid terrorism causing ‘unpeace’ in the island region, the mayor said.

He cited that it should push ahead in talking peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and possibly reopen talks with the NPA.

The National Democratic Front withdrew from the talks in August 2004 in protest over the government's alleged failure to exert efforts to have the CPP-NPA and NDF political consultant Jose Ma. Sison removed from the United States list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Duterte said Malacañang has not consulted him on Afable's replacement but hinted the new chief peace negotiator should not come from the religious community, referring to President Arroyo's appointment of peace advocate Fr. Eliseo Mercado of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).

Mercado decided against accepting the June 15 appointment on June 20. On June 21, Newsbreak announced that Malacanang had called on outgoing senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. for the post.

Duterte said terrorism has affected people around the world everyday, as can be seen on international television. 

"We are having a serious problem on how to face this challenge," he said.

"But we shouldn't be paralyzed by it," he said, adding the problem is "not insurmountable."

He also said the problem of violence cannot be solved by a violent solution.

The mayor pushed for finding the root causes of the problem by exploring other means, especially non-violent ones.
 

He said the extortion threats related to the bus bombing in Bansalan were a form of terrorism. But he said authorities should talk first with the possible culprits.

"It is easy to criticize, condemn terrorism, but it is hard to understand why terrorism is there, why they became terrorists," he said.  (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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