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Statement on the call for suspension of peace talks with MILF

By Abdulbasit R. Benito
Executive Director
Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace in the Phil’s. Inc.

The large scale displacement of people due to the resumption of the armed conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in August 2008, has been reported by the Geneva based Internal Displaced Monitoring Center as the highest number of newly displaced people in the world and the most neglected (internal displacement situation) in 2008. Of the 700,000 IDPs more than 250,000 still remain displaced after a year of renewed hostilities.

Situations of burned houses, meager belongings and farmlands destroyed, and many of their children no longer in school has created deep wounds and made the lives of the civilians miserable. Also, cases of human rights violations occurring everywhere have added to the worsening scenario. In effect, IDPs still spending their second Ramadan in evacuation centers in deplorable conditions with limited access to food and livelihoods make their observance of fasting most difficult.

The recent SOMO of the government and the MILF’s SOMA, have raised hopes for the IDP’s to safely retun to their villages and starts a new life.

However, with the Senate Resolution No. 1281 introduced by Senate Defense Committee chair Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon (if approved by the senate) these renewed hopes and the excitement of IDPs to return home will be in vain. And all the efforts of the civil society who worked long and hard for the resumption of the peace talks will all be trashed. The proposed Suspension of the Resumption of the Peace Talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is counter productive to the on going peace efforts of both the government and the MILF including the efforts of the peace advocates that gained tremendous support from several peace groups in the country and abroad.

The alleged treachery shown by the MILF, which led to the death of 23 soldiers in an encounter in Basilan province on August 12, 2009 as bases of the Hon. Senator to suspend the peace talks, is an allegation that needs to be proven through an impartial investigation by an independent fact finding body. This problem will be addressed if the ceasefire mechanism that has been already emplaced in the ground will be activated.

History tells us that this conflict in Mindanao cannot be resolved through the use of force; in less than a year, the government spent almost 2 billion pesos in its recent military operations against the so called 3 rogue members of the MILF but the subjects of the manhunt are still at large.

With this, we challenge the good senator to demonstrate his alternative to peace talks should his proposal be adopted in the senate. Does he mean to go to war? And cause more destruction of lives and property? More hungry mouths to feed and more children deprived of education and a normal life? If that is so, then the good senator will be isolated as the world denounces violence as a solution to any conflict particularly the political and sovereignty based problem, such as the Bangsamoro problem in Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan .

Abdulbasit R. Benito
Executive Director
Bangsamoro Center for Justpeace in the Phil's. Inc.
Int. 003-c, Don S. Sero Street
Rosary Heights 4
Cotabato City
Tel. N o. (064) 390 2726

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