Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao
August 21, 2008
Arroyo's policy shift in peace negotiations will intensify conflict in
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
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
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
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
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 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
August 21, 2008
OUT NOW! questions US troops involvement in Philippine Army operations in
The US Troops Out Now Coalition-Mindanao questions the presence of US
troops involved in actual combat operations in pursuit of Moro rebels in
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
August 21, 2008
Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA,
Fil-Ams Call for Genuine Peace in Mindanao, Say No To US-Arroyo
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
"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
"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.###
LAWYERS CONDEMN USE OF MOA
AND FEDERALISM TO JUSTIFY CHARTER CHANGE: CALL ON OPPOSITION SENATORS TO
WITHDRAW SUPPORT FOR FEDERALISM VIA CHARTER CHANGE
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