On the escalating armed
conflict in Mindanao
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
August 26, 2008
Responsibility for the escalating armed conflict in Mindanao should be
laid squarely on the US-backed Arroyo regime. Through its self-serving and
deceitful maneuvers, the Arroyo regime has severely damaged the peace
process, provoked armed confrontation, and allowed escalating foreign
intervention in the country’s internal affairs including armed conflicts.
The Arroyo regime, with US instigation and support, negotiated in bad
faith and raised the expectations of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
and Moro people, when the GRP negotiators agreed to the signing of the
Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA). The MOA, while
recognizing on paper the Moro people’s right to self-determination, in
particular their right to their ancestral domain, was calculated to
flounder and fail in the face of legal challenges and the unfounded outcry
that it would dismember the Philippine Republic.
The Arroyo regime knew that the MOA would require constitutional changes
and that the Supreme Court’s intervention was very likely. Malacañang took
no effort to unify its allies from among the Christian and Moro
reactionary political leaders to accept the MOA. It was a calculated risk
the regime took given its sinister agenda of neutralizing, if not
destroying, the MILF as a revolutionary armed force and thereafter,
coopting its leadership.
Opportunistically, the Arroyo clique wished to take advantage of the
situation that the MOA would precisely entail constitutional revision, in
order to open the doors wide open to its bid for term extension via
Charter change or Chacha. However, by raising MILF expectations then
backtracking on its commitments, the regime also set the stage for
escalating armed conflict. Clashes between the MILF and the AFP ensued
after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the MOA
signing, thereby threatening the fragile ceasefire between the GRP and
On one hand, the MILF must investigate and make accountable its commanders
involved in reported attacks on civilians in North Cotobato, Basilan and
Lanao. On the other hand, the responsibility of the US-Arroyo regime in
the deteriorating situation in Mindanao cannot be overemphasized.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines’s (AFP) pursuit operations against
MILF commanders Umbra Kato and Bravo will merely result in further
escalation of the armed conflict. The MILF as a revolutionary force will
not surrender its military commanders to the Government of the Republic of
the Philippines (GRP). The government’s insistence would only result to
more armed confrontation and cause greater damage to civilian lives and
property whether Christian, Moro or lumad.
The mechanisms embodied in the ceasefire agreement between the MILF and
the GRP are the only proper and effective ways to approach the heightened
armed confrontation under the present circumstances. The MILF must ensure
that those responsible for attacks on civilians will be held accountable
and that these attacks will stop.
Nonetheless, government and media reports must not be one-sidedly and
uncritically accepted. The MILF claims that the hostilities in North
Cotobato were provoked by AFP troops moving into or in the vicinity of
MILF areas even before the MOA initialing. They distinguish and
differentiate the situation and events in North Cotobato from those in
Lanao del Sur and Norte.
Aside from continued military operations, the Arroyo regime persists in
undermining the peace process by Arroyo’s latest pronouncement that
"engagements with all armed groups shall be about disarmament,
demobilization, and rehabilitation” and that her regime will pursue peace
talks with “communities” instead of armed groups. From the horse’s mouth,
the real agenda of the GRP is thus revealed as well as the real cause of
the failure of the earlier GRP-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) talks
and the current prolonged impasse in the GRP-National Democratic Front of
the Philippines (NDFP) talks.
The Arroyo regime shows no real interest in resolving the underlying
issues of the armed conflict with the MILF which includes the historic
denial of the Bangsamoro’s economic, social and cultural rights, foremost
of which is the right to a homeland and self-rule.
The Arroyo government has also undermined national sovereignty by allowing
US involvement in the peace process and in the forging of agreements, as
well as US involvement in the military operations against the MILF. The
Arroyo regime is further exposing itself as a puppet dancing to the tune
of US geo-political and economic interests.
The GRP and MILF must immediately return to the negotiating table and
resolve the issue of the Bangsamoro ancestral domain on the basis of prior
agreements and consensus points.
The GRP must abandon its policy of escalating its offensive military
operations and of allowing US military and political interventionism.
It is the GRP's continuing attempts, with the connivance of the US, to
coopt or ensnare the MILF into a negotiated surrender and use the
negotiations to remain in power, that has derailed the peace talks and
caused the renewed outbreak of hostilities.#