Oledan: Step forward

IF SABOTAGING the peace process was part of the plan in the SAF operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao then those behind it have almost succeeded.

On January 25, 2015, government officials sent its commandos on an uncoordinated and special mission in the town of Mamasapano to serve an arrest warrant to an international terrorist, resulting to the death of 44 members of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police and seven civilians, including a five year old girl. Hundreds were displaced.

Up until now, government officials refuse to be held accountable with the death of the SAF commandos and the displacement of the civilians. Nobody among the honorable officials were able to explain why they failed to observe the operational guideline of the 1997 GRP-MILF Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities and it would probably take several lifetime to have somebody take the step forward to say, I am accountable for the death of my soldiers as well as the death and displacement of civilians. The buck stops with me.

Immediately after the botched operation, the Senate Committee on Local Government immediately ordered the temporary suspension of all discussions and hearings related to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Legislators withdrew their support and refused to deliberate based on a confused narrative of government officials who are looking of ways to clean their hands of the violence that rocked Mindanao.

They choose to look away.

There is a high price to pay for peace, the vultures in high places would keep reminding the public without realizing that for decades, the road of war only planted deep seated hurts, biases and prejudices in conflict affected communities. But as the recurring crisis in Mindanao shows, legislators need to do its part to fulfill the commitment of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) to a politically negotiated settlement. The Senate subcommittee on the BBL intuited that the proposed BBL will likely be passed before Congress goes on break by the end of March.

The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could signal more seriousness for the government and all sectors to work together in addressing issues on equity in Mindanao.

More than a legislative measure, the draft BBL represents the aspirations of the people. It is a product of over 17 years of exhaustive dialogue, fine tuning and negotiation between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Anchored on the framework on the right to self-determination, it seeks to establish a political entity, replacing the Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao, that would accord genuine autonomy and meaningful self-governance of the Bangsamoro people.

One can argue that the compromises reached at the negotiating table are not enough to end violence and guarantee a lasting peace but it can signal a new lease of life for the nameless thousands who have no other dream but to simply live without fear. Their call echoes in our hearts.

Government can start off by honoring the Bangsamoro sentiment and aspirations and implement the past peace agreements like the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). It should continue its commitment to the peace process as nothing will resolve the Bangsamoro conflict without taking measure to resolve the decade old injustice. The passage of the BBL is a step forward.

Email comments to roledan@gmail.com.
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