MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 29 January) – An indigenous peoples’ alliance accused Senator Alan Peter Cayetano of fanning anti-Moro sentiment and of being “painfully unversed in the intricacies of the peace problem in the country.”
In a statement Thursday, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said Cayetano’s reactions on the clash between Moro rebels and the Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police stirred up “public opinion against the Moro people.”
Forty-four SAF operatives died Sunday in a clash with Moro rebels in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town in Maguindanao. The policemen went to the area to arrest suspected terrorists Zulkifli Bin Hir alias “Marwan,” allegedly a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah, and Basit Usman of the Abu Sayyaf.
KAMP also criticized Cayetano’s withdrawal of co-sponsorship of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Tuesday, citing the MILF’s “lack of commitment, to peace, development, and the rule of law”.
“The senator must understand that the ‘rule of law’ inscribed in the Philippine constitution is not the basis of the peace talks. The peace talks should be based on the unity to address the root causes of insurgency that is necessary for a just and lasting peace. To demand to play by one side’s rules is a display of condescension which is unfruitful in the negotiating table,” KAMP spokesperson Piya Macliing Malayao said.
In announcing his withdrawal of support to the BBL, Cayetano accused the MILF of merely wanting power more than peace and planning to put up a “totalitarian kingdom” that will be a safe haven for terrorists.
But KAMP said the senator only fanned popular anger over the death of the policemen, and placed the blame entirely on the MILF.
Malayao said the peace process is not a mere question of power. “The peace process is aimed to address the long-wrought oppressions of the Moro people, and empowering the Moro people to realize their right to self-determination.”
“It is sad that a legislator, more so a senator, harbors such ignorance of the peace process,” she said.
“Instead of focusing on how to address the historic injustice against the Moro people, Senator Cayetano’s words and actions is adverse to the pursuit of a just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” she added.
Aside from Cayetano, Senator JV Ejercito also announced he was withdrawing his support to the BBL.
Both PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas declared they did not know about the operation.
Roxas said the question of who ordered it will be tackled by the board of inquiry.
In his televised address Wednesday night, President Benigno Aquino III did not categorically say who sanctioned the operation. He said it’s not always necessary for police operations to have prior approval from higher-ups.
Aquino’s speech dwelt mainly on the urgency of capturing Marwan, citing his reported involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings and other acts of terror.
The president also said the incident should not stop the peace process from pushing through.
Police Director Getulio Napeñas, who was relieved as SAF commander after the Mamasapano clash, has owned up full responsibility for the botched operation.