Mindanao, Philippines: An Appeal for All-out Justice; All-out Peace
Today, we reiterate the collective call to give justice to all who have perished in this tragedy and to ask that we recommit ourselves to a lasting peace in Mindanao.
On Friday, we joined the entire nation in honoring the fallen Philippine National Police- Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers and all the victims of the Mamasapano violence.
Today, we reiterate the collective call to give justice to all who have perished in this tragedy and to ask that we recommit ourselves to a lasting peace in Mindanao.
Thus, we call on both the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to establish the accountability of all those responsible for this unfortunate incident, from the reportedly uncoordinated and flawed police operation on the part of the government to the alleged disproportionate armed response of the MILF to a limited extraction operation and its failure to prevent the refuge of terrorists within its territory. We also call for a truly impartial Board of Inquiry (BoI) that includes members of the civil society and the Muslim community that will ferret out the truth from this incident. All relevant layers of authority and accountability on both sides must be held to account for what appears to be serious lapses of judgment and of command at critical times of the encounter.
Additionally, the Aquino government must answer allegations that the United States military had a role in, if not "directly supervised," the police operation. The allegations are serious, and plausible, since the "high-value targets" were on Washington's most wanted terrorist list and US military personnel were reported to be among the first to help retrieve the fallen SAF troopers.
However, even as we express our indignation at this tragedy and the circumstances surrounding it, we ask our people and our national leaders to summon sobriety and not let anger and prejudice lead us from the path of peace.
Peace in Mindanao, and the entire country, as a whole, is of transcendental importance. Without peace, there will be no reason for people to cast their guns from their hands and the hate from their hearts. Without peace, we stand to witness a repeat of such a tragedy. Without peace, we cannot speak of the development of the peoples of Muslim Mindanao. And for that matter of our country as a whole, since the issue of human development and of social justice touches us all.
Thus, Mamasapano should not be used as a reason to stall the progress of the peace process in Mindanao of which the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is critical. We must not allow the peace-making to be hijacked by those who stand to lose from a peaceful and developed Mindanao or by the misguided who believe that killing off our Muslim brothers and sisters is the path to national solidarity or those who would use the armed conflict in Mindanao for political ends.
We are particularly disappointed by lawmakers who withdrew their support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without critical reflection on its longer-term effects to our country, especially Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos for postponing the Senate hearings on the BBL. His action directs us away from peace and brings us back to a dictatorial past when the modern armed conflict in Mindanao and other insurgencies reached their peak and which the Bangsamoro peace process hopes to finally end.
We ask the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to stay strong in the path to lasting peace and justice that our people want and to give their support for the passage of the proposed BBL.
Peace in Mindanao is the only option. A stop to the deaths of “Filipino vs. Filipino” in the battlefields of Mindanao and the building of a progressive and equitable society are ultimately the best way to honor and to render justice to the SAF-PNP troopers and all those who died in Mamasapano.
Let us all march toward all-out justice and all-out peace.
Akbayan (Citizens Action Party)
We won’t get justice by counting more dead; war is not the answer
By Labor Party - Philippines
Partido Manggagawa (PM) joins the nation in mourning the death of SAF 44. As breadwinners, husbands, and brothers to their families, their death is certainly a big loss, a pain that is hard and long to overcome.
And as soldiers who were trained how to survive under the most difficult situations, their undeserved deaths cry for justice. Who were the officers in charge? Who were the people accountable for the Mamasapano debacle? Was there a foreign hand behind that operation?
We continue to ask the same questions as we join the people in demanding justice and accountability from both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Their separate investigations must be done in good faith and in soonest possible time. An independent fact finding body can also be organized to ensure fairness and objectivity in the conduct of investigations.
But in seeking justice, we express our strong disagreement to those who call for all-out war to exact retribution. War is not the solution. Justice, we believe, should not come as a consequence of another war. We don’t get justice by counting more dead as what we have seen over many decades of war in Mindanao. We don’t get the truth from hatred and established social and religious prejudices.
Lastly, despite this major setback, we remain supportive of the peace process between the government and the MILF. Working for peace, however tough and tricky it is, remains to be the most effective and viable alternative in addressing the historic and new issues that created the conditions of war in Mindanao.
Partido Manggagawa (Labor Party - Philippines)
Call for Sobriety and Reason: Statement on Mamasapano Incident
In this time of sorrow, the officers and members of the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM) would like to extend our sympathy to the grieving families of the fallen members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF) and civilians in the Mamasapano incident last January 25, 2015.
Since our inception in June 2000, we have been committed to the realization of peace in Mindanao by upholding human rights and dignity and the importance of the Bangsamoro, indigenous peoples and migrants’ solidarity. It is on this premise that we appeal to everyone for sobriety and reason and choose the path of peace in demanding justice for those who have fallen.
For the last three years, skirmishes and armed conflicts in Central Mindanao have been considerably reduced if not altogether ceased. We owe this to the ceasefire and functioning mechanisms put in place as a result of the GPH-MILF peace talks. Like many sectors, we are inquiring what happened in Mamasapano because we refuse to make assumptions and point an accusing finger without first hearing what really transpired on that fateful day. Thus, we demand for an independent inquiry to look into the events surrounding the incident and demand accountability from the author/s of the said debacle and impose sanctions thereof. While at this, the GPH and MILF should review and ensure that from their highest to the lowest ranks must fully understand, honor and respect the ceasefire mechanisms to avoid similar incident from happening again.
We respect the grieving comrade-in-arms of both the government forces and MILF/BIAF. It is understandable if they will let warmongers persuade them to exact vengeance in the battlefields. However, war will never be a solution to the current situation. Rather, this will cause more lost lives and irreparable damage especially to the civilian population who will stand to be most affected. Thus, we call upon both sides to hold their ranks and don’t let the warmongering calls get the better of them.
At this time, it is the media that have the capacity to dig into sources from both sides and the affected communities. It does not help to sensationalize the news with the intention of stirring emotions of hatred and thirst for revenge from all sides. We call on the media to be the bastion of impartiality, and let the voice of reason and calm resonate in this trying times.
The peace process has come a long way. It is not only the GPH and the MILF that have invested time, effort and resources to bring it to where it is now. Ordinary people and communities have placed their hopes on this peace process especially now that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is undergoing deliberations in both houses of Congress. While the BBL is not without its flaws, we don’t believe that suspending or aborting the process is the wise thing to do. We should not make the BBL the sacrificial lamb as a consequence to the violence in Mamasapano. We enjoin the legislators to stay the course by continuing the deliberations on the BBL until its final conclusion and make it genuinely inclusive and relevant to the peoples of Mindanao.
Let the Mamasapano incident be the gripping force for the legislators to perfect the BBL to provide an environment where a culture of war and impunity is dismantled for the children of the future to live free from violence and oppression.
We appeal to some politicians, public figures and the warmongers to refrain from issuing provocative statements instigating war. It is very easy to call for an “All Out War” from the comfort of your offices and homes when it is not your love ones, family and community who will be affected and will suffer the brunt of another cycle of senseless violence, death and destruction.
Let the way to peace be peace itself – not war. The Mamasapano incident is a sad reminder and lesson for all of us especially the primary peace actors in peacemaking that there should be no more collateral damage in any peace processes – the likes of women, children, Indigenous Peoples, farmers among other stakeholders’ rights and welfare.
On our part, we commit to continue our adherence to public peace processes to help prevent the recurrence of armed conflict by facilitating the voiceless from the margins to be heard to attain human security and inclusive peace.
Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM)
Women and Labor call for “Justice for ALL Fallen in Mamasapano”
By Sentro Labor Centre
Noting the invisibility of fallen Muslims in the President’s speech last Friday, labor and women’s groups, progressive parties, other anti-war advocates, and ordinary Filipinos held a candle-lighting action at 6 this evening, at the Boy Scout Circle, Timog cor. Tomas Morato. They demanded for truth and justice for all. “This also means accountability of those in command,” according to Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the World March of Women.
Enriquez added that “It is critical that investigations of integrity (especially by the International Monitoring Team) are made public, because whoever were at the helm of this reckless operation should account for the lost lives, not only of the elite police force but for the Moro people, including a 5-year-old child.” She added that to date, media reports of more than 500 who evacuated for fear, with the female and the young among them rendered vulnerable to trafficking.
Labor groups were at the forefront also of the call for peace in Mindanao, as politicians fan the flamesMuslim hatred and wholesale MILF condemnation. “With the President focusing on the 44 PNP-SAF as victims, the Moros are immediately relegated to perpetrators, preemptive of an independent investigation,” according to Josua Mata, Secretary-General of SENTRO.“In the same manner, politicians such as former Pres. Joseph Estrada, former Interior Sec. Rafael Alunan, Sen. Alan Cayetano, Sen. Bongbong Marcos, former Cong. Teddy Locsin, are fanning the flames of Muslim-hatred, wholesale anti-MILF sentiment, driving netizens to call for all-out war. It is critical to turn the country’s rage and grieving to greater understanding, and not back down in the peace process.”
Herbert Docena, one of the organizers and member of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) reminded the public of the context of this fragile peace,carelessly broken by the operation: “It was the Philippine state that immorally, if not illegally, effectively annexed Morolandia without the Moros’ consent in the early 20th century, backed foreign and local corporations in taking over thousands of hectares of Mindanao lands for their plantations or mining projects, drove hundreds of thousands of landless families from Luzon and the Visayan to settle in the ‘uninhabited’ lands of Mindanao to quell agrarian unrest in the North, and unleashed terror when the displaced people began fighting back.”
The group reminded the public that the ruling oligarchs who dominate the Philippine state – “they who have benefited the most from plundering Mindanao’s resources and subjugating both Moros and Christian landless peoples” – have succeeded in depicting the history of Mindanao as anything else but a history of settler-colonialism, in portraying themselves as other than colonizers, and in casting the Moros and other indigenous peoples as other than anti-colonial movements fighting for self-determination.
Holding a tarpaulin of 69+ faces, with names of the slain Moros after the faces of the 44 PNP-SAF members, the group demanded that the long road to peace be continued.
Organizers: Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), Bukluran Ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), World March of Women (WMW) – Pilipinas, Stop the War Coalition (FDC), PLM – Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), Friends of the Bangsamoro, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Focus on the Global South, Philwomen on the ASEAN, and other orgs and individuals
Denying the Bangsamoro of their right to self-determination means denying peace
SANLAKAS fully supports all progressively principled and meaningful solutions to achieve a lasting peace for Mindanao directly related to the Bangsamoro Question. Any such measures aimed at resolving this national question must be based on concretely attaining real social justice for the oppressed Bangsamoro nation. Achieving this will be a strategic answer to a centuries-old dilemma that has haunted the Philippine State.
Tensions once more rose on January 25, 2015 in the aftershock of a bloody battle in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. It reportedly resulted in the deaths of 44 policemen of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (SAF-PNP) and 18 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF); scores of civilians and non-combatants were also killed in the crossfire, with many others wounded. Likewise, the spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement-Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFM-BIFF) claimed that its own fighters also battled with the same composite SAF unit. In this very tragic aftermath, SANLAKAS expresses its sincerest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to all the families and loved ones of the protagonists who lost their lives in Mindanao’s latest, but avoidable carnage.
The Bangsamoro people have long suffered gross and untold historic injustices since the US occupation and at the hands of the Philippine State led by its elite. As a result, not a few Bangsamoro have taken up arms to resist and fight back. And they do so to shape their own national future as a nation. In this regard, therefore, it is now totally imperative that the historically-oppressed peoples of the Bangsamoro homeland be allowed to collectively express, and to rightfully determine their own national aspirations as a free and sovereign people.
SANLAKAS believes that for peace to be achieved in Mindanao, the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination must be respected and recognized. Their struggle is no different from our nation’s struggle under centuries of colonial subjugation, against the tyranny of the Spanish, American and Japanese colonizers. Thus, Filipinos should be in the best position to understand that there can be no genuine peace if there is no social justice, that peace would remain an elusive ideal when entire nations and oppressed ethno-cultural communities are deprived of their right to determine their own destinies. We, therefore, cannot become colonizers of the Bangsamoro people by refusing and denying them what previous generations of Filipinos steadfastly fought and died for, that is – the right to self-determination.
However, the current national political situation is one that is sharply alarming. It starkly reflects the direct outcome of the Battle in Mamasapano. Rabid war proponents and right-wing tendencies are already exploiting the situation for maximum explosive effect upon the Filipino national psyche to trigger yet another terribly devastating ‘All-out War’ against the Bangsamoro nation.
In recent public pronouncements by these reactionary spoilers of the ongoing peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF, they now want the so-called Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the lynchpin instrument for an acceptable peace earlier approved by the MILF’s Central Committee, to be junked. While they earlier criticized the GPH-MILF peace process, specifically the BBL, on constitutional grounds, they now want it totally scrapped in reaction to the unfortunate loss of the 44 SAF troops.
AMERICA’S DAGGER IN MINDANAO
Yet amidst all this confused tension, the interventionist maneuvers and ploys of the US persist. America’s openly expressed role in the Philippines is to directly assist Philippine state security forces in the latter’s fight against international terrorism, as clearly witnessed in the aftermath of the Mamasapano Battle. On this front, Washington’s intrusion is fundamentally linked to its geostrategic agenda to secure and dominate access to Asia’s vast and fast-growing regional economic markets via political-security means. This is chiefly aimed at the current survival of America’s own capitalist-imperialist system after the near-collapse of Wall Street on September 15, 2008, plus the global capitalist system’s ensuing crisis. Thus, it is centrally focused on pre-positioning US military forces across bases within the region to protect American profits and interests, but under the pretext of fighting international terrorism in collaboration with its puppet states.
In this setting, American strategic interests intend to transform Mindanao, including the Bangsamoro homeland, into a forward projection base akin to a globally-extended dagger. This ‘American dagger’ will be aimed (externally) at its top regional rival, China; although its real intentions of doing so will be hidden from public view. Yet at the same time, it will also be targeted (internally) on “international terrorist targets”, as repeatedly stated in public. This latter justification is now used to veil America’s primary covert intentions in order for it to use Mindanao as a major base of operations for its flanking maneuvers against Beijing. Through this approach, the US can readily take full advantage of its relations with both the PNoy Regime and the MILF and thus, be in a position to exploit greater political leverage and economic gains from both. For as long as American imperialism’s regional scheme to counter China is secured, the outcome of the Philippine State’s peace process with the Bangsamoro would not matter much to the US.
For now, America’s presence in our country still reflects its post-9/11 ‘Global War of Terror’ legacy. It is precisely this militarist aspect of US imperialism’s aggressive worldwide thrust which the PNoy Regime has eagerly invited and consciously welcomed onto Philippine soil. And it is Mindanao which has already become a major battleground for US imperialism’s unfolding shadow war throughout the area. Alas, our country is now reaping what Malacañang has so earnestly sowed.
THE SANLAKAS STANDPOINT
Another war is definitely not in the interests of both the Filipino and Bangsamoro working classes and poor masses who will stand to suffer the most. We must shudder at the thought of mothers losing their sons and daughters, of families torn apart, of homes deserted, of communities displaced and razed to the ground as a consequence of yet another reactionary war.
Hence, SANLAKAS appeals upon all democratic and peace-loving peoples to join it in undertaking a collective national stand for genuine peace concerning the Bangsamoro nation. SANLAKAS now calls upon the Filipino masses to urgently demand for, and to advance the following positions:
• The Bangsamoro nation’s right to self-determination must be fully respected and recognized as a democratic principle. Its pursuit and outcome must be plainly upheld and clearly accepted by the Philippine State and its majority Filipino nation.
• As the Head of State, President Noynoy Aquino, as well as ranking officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who masterminded Oplan Wolverine, must take full responsibility and accept total accountability for criminal negligence. The President cannot pass the blame for an operation executed under the auspices of his Office. Command responsibility dictates accountability.
• The current framework objectives of the GPH-MILF Peace Process must be allowed to reach a just conclusion by both signatory parties; and all reactionary spoilers to the peace process must be resisted and stopped.
• The peace process in Mindanao must be broadened to greatly encompass and include other political factions/formations who are not presently involved in the GPH-MILF Peace Process in recognition of their right to self-determination. In this new multi-front peace process context, the general masses of the Bangsamoro nation must also be recognized, encouraged and allowed to actively and directly participate in the negotiations proper in order to help bring about deeper and enhanced solutions to the Bangsamoro Question.
• The dual-faced character and dangerous intentions of US imperialism, both inside the Philippines and in its lingering engagement with the MILF, must be totally unmasked and exposed before the Filipino and Bangsamoro peoples. This is very necessary so that both sides can both learn to build confidence as peace partners together.
• All US military forces in the Philippines, especially those operating in Mindanao, must right away be expelled from the country; and relatedly, all bilateral defense agreements and war instruments between Manila and Washington should promptly be abrogated. Effectively, we must pursue an independent and progressive foreign policy – one which will not compromise the sovereignty of the peoples within the Philippine State.
• The establishment of a multi-stakeholder ‘Independent People’s Commission of Inquiry’ must immediately be undertaken. Its role shall be to ferret out the truth as to what really happened before, during and after the January 25, 2015 Battle in Mamaspano. This is needed in order to establish and assign official accountability on the appropriate government and PNP officials (aside from PNoy himself), and to settle the issue publicly once and for all. The Commission’s mandate, scope and functions shall be parallel to the official investigations being pursued by various government bodies. Government investigations must result in actual prosecution of those responsible.
Justice and Peace to the "Fallen 44" and to the Victims of an Unjust War in Mindanao
By Union of Filipino Workers
The militant Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) joins the Filipino people in their seething cry for justice and peace to the "fallen 44" of the police special action force, as well as to the unnamed Moro civilians and rebels who were also killed in the Mamapasano tragedy.
We likewise convey our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and loved ones of our dearly-departed brave servicemen. May your gallant sons rest in peace, knowing that millions of Filipinos will never forget their self-sacrifice.
Justice to the Fallen 44! Not the kind of vengeful justice that seeks an eye for an eye, pursued by warmongers like Erap Estrada, Raffy Alunan, Allan Cayetano, Bongbong Marcos and Teddy Boy Locsin. These publicity-hungry politicians are now eager to beat the war-drums. Yet, if an all-out offensive is declared, they would never trade their pampered comforts for the unfathomable hardships in the frontlines of war.
We seek a justice that is rooted in solidarity with "wage-workers in police and soldiers uniform". Like us, they are toilers. They are at the bottom of a chain of command like workers and the propertyless masses at the base of an unjust social pyramid.
Like workers, who are first to sacrifice during economic crises but are last to benefit from growth and prosperity, waged soldiers and police are always the first to sacrifice during armed conflicts but would be the last to benefit from a peace that they have paid for in blood.
Thus, we join the Filipino people in their demand for a thorough investigation of the Mamasapano mis-encounter in Maguindanao.
The BMP, however, calls on the public to consider the following points:
The immediate cause of the slaughter of the PNP-SAF servicemen was the apparent lack of coordination between their team and the Western Mindanao Command of the AFP, the Maguindanao PNP, local government units and the reckless disregard of carefully-laid down procedures agreed to by both MILF and the Philippine government;
The lack of coordination, that caused the bungled operation, was induced by the overzealousness to cash in from the $6 million bounty for the capture of terrorists Zulkifli Abdhir alias "Marwan" and Basit Usman, who are the global terror watchlist of the US State Department;
Officials - both civilian and military - were more intent on capturing the bragging rights for the arrest of Marwan and Basit in order to appease imperialist America, rather than ensuring the success of the PNP-SAF mission; and,
Lastly, and more importantly, the root cause of the problem is not with the Bangsamoro people but with the elite-dominated Philippine state. It is an elitist government that perennially tramples upon the right to self-determination of the Moro people. The Philippine government has a history of subservience to external powers - not just to the American government but to an entire legion of transnational monopoly corporations. Hence, not only does not it respect the heroic and historic sacrifice of the Bangsamoro to keep it free from colonizers, it also sought to subjugate the Bangsamoro and other indigenous tribes to the control of foreign powers.
More so, it is callous and insensitive regime, headed by an absentee landlord who would rather grace the opening of a multinational car factory in Laguna than honor his dead soldiers with his commanding presence at the Villamor Airbase. Once more, Noynoy paraded a conduct unbecoming of a president of the republic and of a commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Also, we extend our solidarity to the PNP and AFP, especially to its rank-and-file, who share a common plight with us as members of the working class, as proletarian wage slaves.
You deserve a better commander-in-chief. One that has the guts to own up to his errors, especially if it caused the untimely and avoidable death of his subordinates. One that honors the supreme sacrifice of his men by highlighting their lives rather his own (or his parents in yesterday's necrological services) and by making sure that they are not sent to fight and die for unjust wars for colonization.
We deserve a better government. One that is truly run by the people, of the people and for the people. Unlike this non-performing elitist state that continues to wallow in the showbiz politics of grandstanding, and the economics of wholesale plunder by local and foreign capital.
Finally, for us to truly give justice to the "Fallen 44" and the nameless Moros who were also killed in the Mamasapano mis-encounter, we must address the root and immediate causes of their untimely demise.
Wage workers - both unarmed civilians in the public and private sectors, and armed public servants of the military and police - must unite and fight for social change - not just regime change. The oppressed proletarians in both the Philippines and "Muslim Mindanao" must unite against our real enemies: the ruling landed or capitalist classes -- foreign, Filipino, and Moro -- who profit from our collective toil and seek to sabotage our unity as a class.
We must work tirelessly for peace based on justice to reign in Mindanao. Put an end to exploitation based on creed, color, sexual preference and social status. Forge the unity of Filipinos and the Bangsamoro towards just and peaceful communities; where those who work truly enjoy the fruits of their labor; where human sources of life, both nature and labor, have the primacy over corporate profit; where the interests of the toiling majority rule over the privileged minority; and where everyone is able to develop their full humanity, their full potential as human beings.
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
Union of Filipino Workers