In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Statement Condemning the Latest AFP Aggression Against the Bangsamoro People in Mindanao
On February 11, 2003, as the Bangsamoro Muslims of Pikit, Pagalungan and other municipalities around Liguasan Marsh were preparing to go to their mosques for congregational prayers marking the world-wide celebration of the Islamic holy day of ‘Id ul-Adha, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) suddenly launched a massive attack involving ground infantry assaults backed by heavy artillery and aerial bombardment of alleged MILF positions in the Rajamudah Complex.
About 20,000 troops were and are presently engaged in this new wave of unjustified and unprovoked aggression unleashed upon the Bangasamoro people and the MILF. That the massing up of government troops began on February 6, 2003 clearly indicates that contrary to the AFP’s claims that the offensive was a reaction by the military to the provocations by the MILF, this latest round of AFP aggression is pre-meditated. Despite the entreaties of the local officials as well as Christian religious leaders in Pikit for the AFP to desist from pursuing this destructive course of action that would jeopardize the peace process, the military ignored such entreaties.
What is patently revolting is that this aggression was launched on the very day of ‘Id ul- Adha as the Bangsamoro people were about to celebrate this holy day with the rest of the Muslim world, which is the culminating event of the Haj, one of the sacred pillars of Islam. In addition to that, this act of perfidy also comes at a time when peace talks are about to resume between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF.
To date, this AFP campaign has resulted in the dislocation of more than 32,000 Bangsamoro civilians in the municipalities of Pikit, Pagalungan, Sultan sa Barongis, SK Pendatun and other areas around the Liguasan Mrash. Damage to civilian properties and the extent of loss of lives are still undetermined because of the on-going fighting. But it is expected that such damage would be colossal as more people flee their homes and lands because of indiscriminate and massive ground and aerial bombardment. The number of refugees is growing as the fighting threatens to spread to other areas.
In the light of these new alarming developments that have places at stake the future of peace and the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Mindanao, we, the Bangasamoro civil society groups, are constrained to issue the following statements:
1. We condemn this latest act of naked aggression launched by the AFP as it blatantly violates the letter and spirit of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of June 22, 2001, specifically its Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect signed between the GRP and the MILF on August 7, 2001 in Malaysia (which calls for the cessation of hostilities) and the Joint Communique Between the GRP and the MIFL issued on May 6, 2002, also in Malaysia.
2. We denounce in strongest terms possible this military aggression that was maliciously calculated to disrupt the celebration of ‘Id ul-Adha by the Muslims in the war-affected areas, thus, preventing many devotees of Islam from performing ‘Id prayers and other religious obligations. As similar incidents in the past would illustrate, it has already become a vicious pattern for the AFP to launch massive military operations in the Bangsamoro areas when Muslims are observing their religious holidays whether on ‘Id ul- Fitr or ‘Id ul-Adha, or in the Holy Month of Ramadhan. This only goes to show that the AFP is not only insensitive to, but also contemptible of, the Islamic sensibilities and culture of the Bangsamoro people. By and large, this puts a big question mark on the religious freedom of the Muslims in this country, and its reinforces the contention that religious oppression of the Muslims is not a mere figment of imagination but a reality in the Philippine nation state that claims to be a democracy.
3. We deplore the excuses of the AFP for launching this aggression. These are all prevarications to start a war against the Bangsamoro people and the MILF in order to ram down the throat of the latter the ‘political package’ that the GRP is offering as a solution to end the conflict in Mindanao. This is tantamount to ‘gunboat diplomacy’ and, therefore, patently against the grain of the spirit and letter of the peace negotiations. In the same vein, the AFP’s allegation that the MILF is coddling criminals in violation of the agreements is utterly baseless. On several occasions, the MILF even offered to help solve the Abu Sayyaf problem as a manifestation of good will and pursuant to the spirit of cooperation against criminal elements as enunciated in the GRP-MILF Joint Communique of 2002, but this was invariably rejected by the AFP on the ground that considers the MILF as an “enemy of the state.” Meanwhile, the accusation that the MILF started the latest fighting in likewise a concoction of the military. Common sense would fell that it would be extremely inconceivable for the mujahideen of the MILF, who strictly follow the tenets of Islam, to start a war at a time when ‘Id ul-Adha was about to be celebrated by the Bangsamoro people and the entire Muslim world. Indeed, the AFP could not hide its real aggressive intentions behind these days layers of ridiculous deception.
4. In line, we urgently call on the GRP and the AFP to forthwith cease all military operations, strictly abide by the letter and spirit of the MILF-GRP agreements, settle all disputes in the negotiating table, and withdraw from all the occupied areas of the Bangsamoro homeland.
Finally, we, the civil society groups in the Bangsamoro homeland stand firmly on the position that peace and justice in Mindanao can only be attained of the right of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination and freedom is appropriately addressed. Still, we fervently believe that the negotiated political resolution of the war in Mindanao through the MILF-GRP peace negotiations is the best option to war in this context, the GRP should see to it that its military forces would not be the cause of radical change in this sentiment. Otherwise, the alternative scenario would be too horrible to contemplate, as every Bangsamoro would lose all hope in the peace process.
Peace and the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala be upon all of us.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002