According to the provincial administrator of Basilan, more than 900 families have been displaced as a result of the added deployment of marines in Basilan in response to the beheading of 10 members of the Philippine Marines who were slain in an encounter with the MILF in Al-Barkah town.
Who committed the beheading and why did the perpetrators committed such act is a very controversial and sensitive issue that should have been responded with discretion rather than warmongering. For weeks, it is as if every Muslim has to answer for the act of beheading and Islam is once again put in the limelight and debate.
While the MILF owned their responsibility over the death of the 14 elements of the Philippine Marines. They qualified this as a legitimate one for it was a consequence of the Marines’ forced entry in their recognized political territory in Basilan.
For those who are not familiar with the on-going GRP-MILF peace negotiations, it might be difficult to understand why such territories exist? In previous agreements, the two groups have come to terms about respecting MILF camps and presence to avoid conflicts in these areas – an agreement that is prone to violation.
Since the signing of the ceasefire agreement, the Philippine government under President Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has called a series of all-out wars against the MILF that resulted to thousands of displaced Moro people in Mindanao: the all-out war directed at Camp Abubakar in 2001, the Buliok War and “selective attack” on MILF areas in 2003, and the on-and-off skirmishes between the GRP and the MILF as a result of the military’s “hot pursuit” operations against the Abu Sayyaf.
In the case of the beheading of the marines, series of investigations have been conducted by both the MILF and the local government of Basilan, and both have unearthed previous atrocity of the Marines that might lead to the answers on who and why such beheadings took place: that the military operation did not take place only on July 10 but days before it and that these created “fear and chaos” among the community.
But nobody from the military and the Arroyo administration wants to hear what the MILF or the people in Basilan has been shouting for almost two weeks now -that the MILF is not responsible for the mutilation of the bodies of the marines.
Secretary Norberto Gonzales and the Armed Forces of the Philippines would hear none of these results and the calls of non-government organizations for a stop to the pursuit operations. The bloodthirsty cabinet members and hawks in the AFP are whipping up the public’s sympathy over the beheaded marines and using it as a take-off point in calling for an all-out war against the MILF.
Had Fr. Giancarlo Bossi not surfaced in Karumatan, Lanao del Norte, the AFP would surely unrelentlessly pursue the MILF for what they believed as “coddling” Fr. Bossi’s kidnappers.
Now, Basilan is once again hostaged by more than 5,000 soldiers mostly coming from the two battalions from the Philippine Marines. The 103rd Brigade of the Army, naval and air forces are also being readied for strike.
Most of the people in Basilan are reminded of the 2001 intensive military crackdown, where 14 battalions from the AFP were deployed and in 2002 a US-RP joint military exercise also took place in Basilan.
Basilan had been black and blue from previous military operations and exercises. Numerous human rights violations were reported: cases of torture, extra-judicial killings and disappearance against what the Arroyo administration believed to be Abu Sayyaf sympathizers and members in Basilan.
The people in Basilan fear this will again escalate into an all-out war. And we people of Mindanao fear that this will spill-over the whole of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The Moro people have had it with the all-out wars! If the government is true with peace negotiations then it should prioritize its peace agenda in Mindanao. Even the future of peace negotiations was not tackled by the government in the SONA. Her praise for the Philippine Marines obscured the human rights violation record of the marines and the rest of the Philippine military in Basilan.
The Suara Bangsamoro reiterates its call for pull-out of the military in Basilan. Let the cool heads and the peacemakers (if there are still left) in the cabinet come forward and listen to the people’s call for peace and not military operations in Basilan.
Amirah Ali Lidasan
#12 San Pedro St,, Kimpo Subdivision
Tel/ No.: 064.421.3057