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Reflections on the Mamasapano Incidents and its Effect to the Peace Process

Posted on 02 March 2015 by Zehlhez

Guiamel M. AlimOn January 25, 2015, a contingent of the Police Special Action Force (SAF) conducted a discreet operation to arrest 2 suspected terrorists in Mamasapano municipality, in the province of Maguindanao, south of the Philippines. The US offers 5 million US dollars for the arrest of a Malaysian-born terrorist and a local terrorist-partner now operating in the Philippines. Some 300 specially trained police joined the operation in the wee hour of January 25, 2015. They killed one of the terrorists and wounded the other but an encountered with the MILF who were staying the area resulted in the death of 44 of the police, 18 MILF forces and 4 civilians including a child. 13 schools were closed affecting some 5,963 pupils/students and 124 teachers in 4 barangays (villages). An estimated 1,500 individuals were displaced.

As a result of the incidence, the deliberation on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will be the basis for running a new political government,has been suspended indefinitely by the Philippine Congress. It will no longer subscribe to the timeline as earlier agreed upon between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) . Series of public hearings are being conducted by the congress both the senate and the lower house to determine what happened.Among the recommendations of the congress for a joint military operations against the suspects in the killing of the police.All the ranking officials of the AFP and the PNP were summoned to the hearings to tell their stories.  It is found out that failure of coordination as main reason for the mis-encounter between the police contingence and the MILF. Due to lack of coordination, the Armed Forces of the Philippines had not been able to support the Police earlier on. But the congress is putting the blame on the MILFeven before the investigation is concluded accusing the latter to have cuddled the terrorists.

Because of the incidence, people are divided. Some members of the senate and lower house withdrew their support to the BBL.  Some Christian sectors are calling for an all-out-war. Some other sectors including leaders of the Catholic church, are asking the president to resign. Prejudices against the Muslims run high again after the incidence.

An all-out   operation against the suspects in the death of the 44 SAF is being hatched. There is a noticeable massing and movement of government forces in many parts of Maguindanao province where the incidence happened. Thousands of IPDs are still not back home due to fear and uncertainties. 6,662 civilians are directly affected. 13 schools  affecting thousands of students have to close due to the incidence. For now, they survive on supports from government agencies and civil society organizations. But how long this support will last is uncertain.

The chair of the MILF panel talking to the government was invited to the senate hearing to explain their side  of the incidence. It was only then that the tension calmed down a bit.  The possibility of an all-out –war becomes remote after the MILF has spoken in the senate. But surely the discussion of BBL is definitely not to be done in the coming days. There is a consensus from the congress that the BBL will only be pursued after the investigation of the Mamasapano incidence is thru.

 

Implications

As it stands today, although the tension has subsided, the congress has indefinitely called off the deliberation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law pending the result of the on-going investigations. This means that the target date for the passing of the basic law will also be substantially delayed, if not permanently called off. The delay will deprive the MILF to run an interim government for at  least 1 year prior to the holding of a regular elections to choose the new set of officials that will run the new political government. This runs against the provisions of the comprehensive agreement being the basis of drafting the basic law. This being the case, the MILF chances of winning seats in the scheduled elections becomes nil.

Another possible scenario is for the MILF to reject the new law, if it is mangled. If the draft law proposed by the MILF and the government will lose important provisions that will allow substantial power and resources for the new autonomous government, because of the incidence, this will definitely be rejected by the MILF as in their pronouncement. Should this happen, the MILF is left with 2 options. Either to proceed to ask UN intervention or to withdraw totally from the peace process.

The last scenario may lead to a renewed hostilities and more displacement.

We had visited the site of the incidence with other NGOs and talked to some of the residents including the wife of one of the civilian victims. They are worried of the coming days and still entertain fears of future violence. They also talked about the future of their children who are now out of school because of the closure of the schools and the lack of adequate food in the evacuation sites.

Our contingency plans

Looking at this present situation, the CSOs are contemplating on the following contingency plans:

  1. Repeated calls for an immediate conclusion of the investigation by an independent and non-partisan truth commission to ferret out the truth so that justice can prevail and the peace process can move forward;
  2. Strengthening and re-activating  the local monitor groups to keep tract of the present volatile situation and protect the communities in case violence becomes inevitable;
  3. Implementing a national healing day for peace and unity  that will involve Civil Society Groups  in Manila (North Philippines) and Mindanao (South Philippines) as a means of uniting the civil society in its opposition to all-out-war and a call for pursuing the interrupted peace process to finally end the violence in the south;
  4. Constituency and unity-building  for Bangsamoro-led  civil society organizations and peoples’ organizations to support the call for peace in the midst of what happened in Mamasapano;
  5. Engaging in a multi-cultural  and interfaith forum to avert increasing mutual prejudices among different faith groups in Mindanao;
  6. Sourcing out supports for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the battled areas of Mamasapano that adversely affected the lives of more 1,500 individuals and more than 5,000 pupils, 140 teachers in 4 villages of Mamasapano where the incidence happened.

 

As of now, no violent clashes have been reported between the MILF and government forces. However, a violent skirmishes between the MILF and the rival BIFF is reported to have occurred in North Cotabato with casualties from both warring group and the displacement of thousands of civilians.  As of this writing, the tension still exists.

 

Guiamel M. Alim

Chairperson

Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Inc.

February 20, 2015

 

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