The Price of Lasting Peace
Statement of the Gathering for Peace
Last Saturday President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the AFP to conduct “aerial and artillery bombing operations” in “embedded terrorist lairs” in Mindanao. This was, according to the President, in pursuit of punitive actions against those responsible for the spate of bombings in Mindanao.
Since the start of the conflict last February, hundreds have already been killed and more than 350,000 individuals have been displaced. The military operation alone last Saturday resulted in the death of more than 200 people and more than 20,000 people have left their homes in fear for their lives.
Aside from the combatants killed from both sides of the conflict, more than a hundred innocent civilians have lost their lives or were injured as a direct result of the attacks and counter attacks by both the military and the rebels. These according to both sides are the “collateral damage” of the conflict.
Amidst pleas from peace advocates, the church and the people, the call to end the war in Mindanao remains unheeded and it seems that there is no foreseeable end to it.
The president’s argument that lasting peace can only be achieved by “extracting retribution for the slaughter of innocent civilians and annihilating terrorists in the region and the world” seems more of a “government guarantee” addressed to the US president in order to secure more military and economic pledges.
On the part of the MILF, its “active defense” posture characterized by recent attacks on non- military objectives has resulted in civilian casualties. While it is easy enough for the MILF to treat civilian casualties as “collateral damage,” to the people of Mindanao, they are friends, mothers, brothers, sons and daughters.
Gathering for Peace believes that the MILF problem and the “threat of terror” will never be solved through military action. This solution has killed and displaced too many, caused untold miseries and stripped our people of their dignity by forcing them to live under inhuman conditions in evacuation centers. Utilizing armed might to realize lasting peace in Mindanao has already been too costly and it only exacerbates the situation by further alienating the people it seeks to protect.
This is not a price Filipinos are willing to pay for lasting peace.
We urge the government to immediately cease military operations in Mindanao and adopt a peaceful solution to the conflict by bringing it to the negotiating table. We also urge government to immediately provide adequate assistance to the people in the evacuation centers.
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 2003