Kulambugan, Lanao del Norte Scenes


August 21, 2008




Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a grand hazard to peace in the Moroland.

For messing up with the peace process and making a hash of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domains (MOA-AD) for her own power programme, she has instigated a series of armed offensives from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and handed over deadly pandemonium to the Moro and non-Moro populace of Lanao del Norte.


                                        ---- Sultan Macasalong Sarip, Chairperson, Suara Bangsamoro-Northern Mindanao Region



Photos courtesy of Suara Bangsamoro-Northern Mindanao Region


August 21, 2008
Sultan Macasalong Sarip
Suara Bangsamoro-Northern Mindanao Region
E-mail: suara_nmr@yahoo.com

We hold Mrs. Arroyo accountable for fouling up the peace process,
handing over catastrophe to Lanao del Norte and arousing anti-Moro

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a grand hazard to peace in the Moroland.

For messing up with the peace process and making a hash of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domains (MOA-AD) for her own power programme, she has instigated a series of armed offensives from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and handed over deadly pandemonium to the Moro and non-Moro populace of Lanao del Norte.

While we denounce in the strongest manner the terroristic actions that took place in this part of the country these past few days that claimed lives of innocent civilians, we urge concerned agencies to do fact-finding missions and unearth the truth behind these chaos. We express doubts with the government’s monopoly of airwaves and non-stop blaming of the atrocities committed by the MILF, while the latter is insisting that they are not behind the bombings in Iligan and the killing of the civilians in Lanao del Norte. We fear that interest groups who will benefit from this war situation have a hand to this violence. And surely, Mrs. Arroyo as a patron of anti-Moro hysteria since 2001 earns ground for her another round of all-out war against the Bangsamoro.

We condemn Mrs. Arroyo and Malacanang’s war propaganda and combative
stance. We warn the US-Arroyo regime not to exploit this situation of unpeace to justify militarization, and the eventual entry of US troops which, time and again, were driven out by the people of Lanao.

We are tired of endless wars, the bombing of our farmlands, terrorizing of our communities and the destroying of our mosques in the name of the “war-on-terror.” Let us remember that the huge bulk of Maranaos who joined the call for the ouster of Joseph Estrada because of his all-out war policy in 1999-2000 contributed much to his political demise. Lest Arroyo forget to realize the lessons learned the tragic way by Joseph Estrada (who now suffers historical amnesia), she would surely suffer the same ugly fate.

In the face of Mrs. Arroyo’s insincerity to the peace process, we enjoin the Bangsamoro to continuously assert its legitimate struggle for the right to self-determination. Genuine freedom is unachievable in talking to a fake, puppet, corrupt and fascist regime who owns an Olympic record of using the Moro people, especially the Maranaos, to make possible her everlasting reign. ###




Press Statement
22 August 2008


By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant
National Democratic Front of the Philippines

In line with her brutal policy of suppressing the revolutionary forces of the people, Gloria M. Arroyo has apparently closed the door to peace negotiations by declaring that she would negotiate with “communities” rather than with the armed revolutionary movements like the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), unless they first surrender and agree to be subjected to “disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation” under the terms of the continuing system of oppression and exploitation.

Arroyo misses the whole point about the peace negotiations as a mutually agreed process for the conflicting parties to address the roots of the armed conflict and work out agreements on social, economic and political reforms in order to realize a just and lasting peace. She is excessively obsessed with the vain wish to destroy or debilitate the armed revolutionary movements through all-out military force. This is complemented by her notion that she can use sham negotiations to trick these movements to capitulate or to paralyze them with indefinite informal talks and ceasefire.









She overestimates what she and her armed forces can do and underestimates what the people and the armed revolutionary movements can do against her regime. She is oblivious of the fact that the entire ruling system and her regime in particular are rotten to the core and are beset by a grave socio-economic and political crisis, that her armed forces are already fatigued and demoralized by the failures and defeats of Oplan Bantay Laya and that the armed forces of the NDFP and MILF can deliver more lethal blows to their common foes if they simultaneously intensify their offensives in their respective territories.

Indeed, it can be expected that the level of armed resistance by the revolutionary forces and people will rise on a nationwide scale because in the first place the Arroyo regime is carrying out a brutal policy of suppression and is escalating military campaigns against them. All the organized forces, institutions and people interested in the realization of a just and lasting peace through peace negotiations should press the Arroyo regime to end its brutal policy of suppression, to stop the depradations and atrocities of the reactionary armed forces and to undertake serious peace negotiations with the NDFP and MILF in accordance with previous agreements. ###










InPeace Mindanao
Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao
August 21, 2008

Arroyo's policy shift in peace negotiations will intensify conflict in Mindanao

Mrs. Arroyo's policy-shift in her administration's peace negotiations to 'disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation' will spell more disaster than bring about peace especially in Mindanao.

Already, Malacañang has hinted at reneging on with its Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front through a policy of 'review' and 'non-renegotiation.' Now, government reportedly wants to directly relate with communities, side-stepping revolutionary organizations if they refuse to lay down their arms.

Disarmament and demobilization should logically be at the tail end of any negotiated political settlement, after the more substantive agenda such as economic, social, and political rights and welfare are resolved. Mrs. Arroyo wants to short-cut the substantive agenda in its talks with the MILF and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). This policy practically shatters the building blocs that were conscientiously built by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and other protagonists in the armed conflict.

At worse, this policy negates confidence-building with parties across the negotiating table which is direly needed at this hour. At worst, it is totally abandoning the framework that political and social justice are prerequisites to peace.

This move, like Arroyo's reported laptop-throwing fit in Malacanang, shows that she wants swift, militarist solutions. Arroyo is showing contempt against legitimate armed social movements of the MILF and the NDFP that have existed for decades because of poverty, hunger, and repression.





In other words, Arroyo is adopting an ahistorical approach to peace; and for this she would repeatedly fail like previous administrations which have adopted an all-out war approach to the armed insurgency.

By abandoning the peace process with the MILF and NDFP, Arroyo is laying the ground for localized martial rule in many conflict areas. Arroyo's plan to "directly talk to communities" instead of revolutionary movements representing constituencies is a mere cover up for "localized peace talks," an approach that has sought to divide-and-rule communities instead of address the roots of insurgencies.

Arroyo's localized peace talks dovetails into sinister moves of local governments and landowners to arm civilian populations supposedly to deter armed attacks by Moro rebels. Armed vigilantism is a throwback to the days of Martial Law when landlords and politician-warlords fanned Muslim-Christian conflict to their benefit. We fear that instead of pushing for GRP and MILF accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, arming civilians will lead to the further breakdown of law and order.

Peace advocates insist that the negotiating table, not all out war, is the most viable option to ease tensions on the ground and properly seek justice and indemnification for slain and displaced civilians. The people of Mindanao refuse to be dragged into anarchy and a contrived discord between Muslims and Christians. The people likewise refuse to be dragged into Arroyo's Cha-Cha dancefloor. We say 'No to All-Out War!'

Atty. Beverly Selim-Musni
Cell No. 09209893390



Mindanao peace group says Arroyo must be made accountable for spoiling GRP-MILF pact; US should keep out

Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao
August 16, 2008

We in the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace Mindanao) support the Moro people's right to self-determination and authentic peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

We believe that peace in Moroland can only be achieved when the roots of armed conflict -- economic inequality, political marginalization, national oppression, and imperialist globalization--- are addressed.

We are saddened, however, that the political machinations of the Arroyo regime lead to the further minoritization of the Moro people instead of upholding their right to self-determination.

Arroyo has demonstrated a lack of sincerity in the talks, moreso, in the implementation of any peace agreement with the MILF. Recent developments reveal that Malacanang has consciously kept the contents of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) from public view in order not to expose early on its hidden charter change agenda. It has therefore deliberately omitted a process of genuine consultation in order to spring this surprise and mask its ill will before the MILF. Arroyo foists the MOA-AD on the Filipino people as an instrument of political self-perpetuation rather than as an agreement that will genuinely promote Bangsamoro self-autonomy.

It has ensured the predominance of warhawks in the GRP peace panel and appointed General Hermogenes Esperon as peace adviser to create an opening for Arroyo's term extension through a make-believe self-autonomy agreement. Arroyo sugar-coats her bid for Charter amendments as a move to peacefully resolve the Moro conflict. In the end, the Arroyo government's overtures for peace are mere rhetoric. It is patently chauvinistic because its overarching policy is all-out war against the Bangsamoro people.

The unfolding events in Mindanao are consciously being steered by the Arroyo government. She is mobilizing the country's political and economic elite at the national and provincial levels to foment their deep-seated anti-Moro chauvinism to justify the current military offensives and enforced displacement of over 150,000 Moro and non-Moro people.





We warn against efforts by vested interest groups and clans who are fanning "Muslim-Christian enmity" to preserve their monopoly of landholdings and political clout in Mindanao. Religious conflict is being stirred to cover up the real nature of the Mindanao conflict--- landgrabbing and land monopoly by elite families and clans, big business, and TNCs and MNCs, on one hand, and landlessness and agrarian unrest of Mindanao peasants regardless of their race or religion, on the other.

We are also apprehensive of the meddling of the United States government in the peace talks through the US Institute of Peace (USIP) and the presence of US troops in ARMM areas. The USIP entered the peace talks as a facilitator since 2003 and, together with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, has discreetly influenced much of its outcome. It has employed "coercive diplomacy" or the "carrot and stick" approach in the drafting of the GRP-MILF peace agreements that promise to pour in some $30-million in post-agreement funds while US troops are on a standby attack mode in the pretext of counter-terrorism. Its maneuverings have ensured the big role of the US, along with other advanced countries that have spread millions of Official Development Aid (ODA) in ARMM, in the envisioned Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

We condemn this US intervention as it derails genuine peace for the Moro people and equates peace with the security agenda of the United States in Mindanao and Southeast Asia. The US has been forthright in admitting that it is 'involved' in the peace process with the MILF to rid Mindanao of its self-defined "terrorists." Its strategic motive is to establish US foothold in oil, natural gas, mineral ore, and agribusiness interests in the region.

The people of Mindanao, especially the Moro people, should bear in mind the historical wrongs inflicted by the United States Empire, which continue today with its bogus 'war on terror', US military deployment, and economic plunder of natural resources that abound in Moro territories.

The Filipino and Bangsamoro people should make the US-backed Arroyo government accountable for scurrying the peace process. A 'people's review' of the MOA-AD should be undertaken if only to salvage the document as an authentic instrument for Bangsamoro self-determination. We demand for a grassroots-oriented and solidarity-based process that is complementary and parallel to genuine peace negotiations where the Moro people and their leaders can be given the opportunity to share their vision of self-autonomy and right to self-determination, far from the need for political survival of the Arroyo regime, and the interventionism of the United States. #



Out Now! Mindanao
US Troops Out Now!-Mindanao
Press Statement
August 21, 2008

OUT NOW! questions US troops involvement in Philippine Army operations in Baliki, Midsayap

The US Troops Out Now Coalition-Mindanao questions the presence of US troops involved in actual combat operations in pursuit of Moro rebels in Mindanao.

Philippine military operations have involved American soldiers that were reportedly commissioned to detonate unexploded bombs in Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato last week.

The American soldiers were sighted by a Mindanews news team who chanced upon parked vehicles bearing VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) plates in Midsayap. The team reported seeing four American soldiers in a hilly portion of Barangay Baliki, near a detachment of the 38th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army on August 17. Government air strikes against MILF positions, the report said, had started on August 10.

Next to the February 4 massacre in Maimbung, Sulu where residents claimed to have seen US soldiers accompanying local troops in military operations, the Baliki incident is another proof that the United States has been engaged in actual military intervention in Mindanao wars.

While Philippine Army officials try to justify the US troops' participation as mere assistance in ordinance disposal, this shows that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is blurring the distinction between 'exercise' and 'actual combat' to legally justify permanent American presence and engagement in Mindanao.

Government's failure to disclose to the public the Terms of Reference (TOR) governing the presence of US troops in Mindanao, including the docking of US warships like the USS Vandegrift in March this year, is highly suspect.

Out Now!-Mindanao is apprehensive that US military presence is part of the US government's double-edged policy of engagement with the MILF. While it facilitates peace negotiations and provides post-settlement aid package on one hand, it is engaged in counter-insurgency pursuit operations in the guise of counter-terrorism on the other.

We call for appropriate Senate and Congressional investigations into increasing US military involvement in Mindanao and US meddling in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations. The VFA clearly surrenders our national sovereignty and is being used to legalize the wanton exercise of US hegemony in the Philippines through terror-mongering.

Bishop Felixberto Calang
Mobile 09189294244




News Release
August 21, 2008

Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA,
email: secgen@bayanusa.org

Fil-Ams Call for Genuine Peace in Mindanao, Say No To US-Arroyo Intervention

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 12 Filipino organizations in the United States, condemned the US-backed Arroyo regime's initiatives to engage and derail a so-called "peace process" with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an armed group representing the self-determination interests of the Bangsamoro people, concentrated in the southern region of Mindanao.

The alliance called on the US government to back off from intervening in the domestic political and economic affairs of the Philippines, once a direct US colony and still heavily dependent on US government influence and dictates. A US institution called US Institute of Peace (USIP), has been facilitating so-called "peace talks" via "ancestral domain conflicts" in Mindanao while US military presence continues to increase in the region.

"At the heart of the matter is oil and land," states BAYAN USA Chair Chito Quijano. "Mindanao land houses some of the largest oil and natural gas deposits in the Asia-Pacific region. Multi-national corporate interest to acquire and control these reserves has been real reason for armed conflict in the Mindanao area with increased US and Philippine militarization, foreign mining, and landgrabbing for decades, not religious conflict or 'terrorism' as projected by Malacanang or the US government."

"The US government is also notorious in its history of annihilation and genocide of the indigenous people's of North America and repression against racial minorities. It cannot be sincere in building peace with or conceding to the aspirations of Bangsamoro people, just look at it's track record," Quijano stated.

Quijano also stated that the historical fight of the oppressed Bangsamoro people for autonomy from the Philippine republic is being exploited by the Arroyo and US governments to push for charter change and federalism in the Philippines.

"By issuing a bogus 'memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain', the Arroyo clique is shamelessly and covertly pushing to change the Philippine constitution. There is no intention to cultivate peace with the people of Mindanao on Arroyo's part. As an abuse of her executive powers, Arroyo's provisions, with the blessing of the US government, will include an extension of her unpopular, dictatorial term," Quijano added.

Despite peace rhetoric espoused by the US government and Arroyo regime, recent Philippine military offensives in Mindanao have displaced over 150,000 people, both Moro and non-Moro in the region. Armed conflict is also on the rise in the region.

BAYAN USA has been active since its 2005 founding in demanding an end to US intervention in the Philippines, and was even part of a broader campaign to restrict US military aid to the Arroyo government last year. The alliance also vowed to take the issue of US intervention in the Philippines to the new US presidency once elected.###



Now it is very clear. The Solicitor General’s motion informing the Supreme Court of the Arroyo government’s decision not to sign the MOA with the MILF “due to changed circumstances” is one more proof that Pres. Gloria Arroyo only used the MOA as a means to launch her campaign for charter change. Now that Pres. Arroyo has skillfully shifted to federalism in justifying the opening up of the Constitution for amendments, she can officially withdraw from signing the MOA. From “MOA to achieve peace” Pres. Arroyo has now called for “federalism to achieve peace”. Achieving peace, however, was never the aim of Pres. Arroyo. Her intention has been mainly to prolong her stay in power after 2010 by deleting in the Constitution that provision in Article VII, Section 4 that limits her to only one term.

But the cost of Pres. Arroyo’s current adventurism is the breakout of war in Mindanao causing death and destruction in the region. Without condoning the abuses of MILF Commanders Umbra Kato and Abdulah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, Pres. Arroyo is primarily accountable for the deaths of civilians in Mindanao for having triggered the ongoing conflict. The indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombings of villages by government forces pose as threats, at the very least, on the lives of civilians and constitutes a violation of Article 13 (2) of Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions that “civilian population shall not be the object of attack”. Military objectives are limited by the Geneva Convention to “those which are by their nature, location or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction x x x offers a definite military advantage”. Indiscriminate bombings of villages where MILF forces are possibly located cannot be clear military objectives. Since the AFP aerial and artillery bombings are indiscriminate it could cause death or injury on civilians who are forced to flee in fear.

Furthermore, the recent government action of arming civilians in barangays is not only an abdication of the government’s duty to protect civilians, but will also open the civilians to attacks from well armed MILF forces. Arming civilians will take them out of the status of protected persons under international humanitarian law as specified in Article 13 of Protocol II of Geneva Conventions which states that: “Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by the (Conventions), unless and for such time as they take part in the hostilities.”

The violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Arroyo government, however, does not justify the acts of atrocities committed of Commander Kato and Commander Bravo of the MILF. The killing of civilians and burning of villages are attacks on persons protected by the Geneva Conventions. Article 4 of Protocol II states that “ persons who do not take a direct part in the hostilities x x x are entitled to respect for their person”. Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Civilians prohibit “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” of civilians. Commanders Kato and Bravo and others responsible for the violation of international humanitarian law must, therefore, be held accountable for their acts.

Now that Pres. Arroyo’s objective, of using federalism as a means to take out constitutional restrictions to her term extension, is exposed, the battle against charter change must be fully engaged. Members of the legal profession must resist moves to amend the Constitution for the purpose of prolonging Pres. Arroyo in power. There will never be peace under Pres. Arroyo whose reign in office is marked by massive graft and corruption, human rights violations and electoral fraud. In fact, there will never be a federal government under Pres. Arroyo whose lust for power will in the end preempt any serious move to take away the powers of a powerful president in a unitary state. In the same way that she has withdrawn support for the MOA, Pres. Arroyo could withdraw support for federalism once she has achieved her aims. NUPL urges Sen. Aquilino Pimentel and other opposition senators to withdraw support for the Senate Resolution to amend the constitution to attain a federal state. The move of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to withdraw his resolution calling for charter change is a good start and should be followed by all those who do not want to be used by Pres. Arroyo to perpetuate herself in power. We also call for an end to the ongoing hostilities between MILF forces and the AFP in Mindanao and the resumption of peace negotiations and the holding of all those who violated human rights and international humanitarian law to be held to account for their crimes.

Date : August 21, 2008
Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares - 09178350459
Secretary General