The quest for just and lasting peace

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Dr. Christine P. Oriel

9bFilipinos all over the globe were shaken by the deaths of 44 Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNPSAF). The operation that led to the deaths of more than a dozen police personnel aimed to serve the warrant of arrest on high-ranking terrorists Basit Usman and Zulkifli Abdhir.

On January 25, three platoons of the elite SAF police squad entered the guerrilla enclave of Mamasapano, Maguindanao southern province in the Philippines. It was reported that the bloody encounter was a result of the fire fight between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and government forces and some rogue units of other rebel groups.

The MILF accuses the government of violating their peace accord when the operation was not coordinated. They further argue that the area under the agreement is under their control and any military operation must be corresponded. Public officials, mostly lawmakers, were quick in blaming MILF for the bloodbath and called out for an immediate junking of the peace accord. But who is really to blame for this atrocious confrontation?

Critics of President Benigno Aquino Jr. blamed him for giving the go signal despite the weak intelligence and planning. Many were aghast and infuriated by the president’s decision not to pay his respects to the fallen SAF members as their caskets arrived in the city. It was even reported that the president even scolded the families of the victims for pushing for justice for their loved ones.

Many described the president as callous, arrogant and insensitive. They said his crime is more than just heartlessness. Aquino actually has blood on his hands when he let his best buddy, the suspended PNP General Allan Purisima, oversee the operation, his critics say, adding that he kept high- ranking government officials in the dark about the attack that led to lack of coordination and the reinforcement being withheld. After all, he is the commander- in-chief and should be responsible in an operation as big as this.

Different political groups called for the president to step down.

As the finger pointing continues, the families, although promised financial support, want something more than what is doled out. They demand truth and justice for the fallen heroes.

The war in Southern Philippines and many parts of the countryside has been ongoing for decades. The government’s attempt to resolve the rift has always been addressed by military action, back channeling negotiations and lopsided agreements.

For us to understand this recent catastrophe, we must understand its root cause. Poverty, human rights violations, lack of sovereignty and autonomy are the real perpetrators.

Unless these grass root issues are addressed, they will continue to propel the unrest and instability. The only road to just and lasting peace is by resolving these ills and imparting social justice, not through capitulation or “wiping out” of the enemy.