Stop playing to the gallery
In last Thursday’s Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident, Sen. Loren Legarda warned colleagues not to reduce the Bangsamoro conflict into a religious conflict.
Earlier in the hearing nerves were frayed when Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano repeatedly called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)a terrorist organization. When he took the floor, Cayetano clarified that he was not anti-Muslim. Perhaps he forgot that the Bangsamoro question is first and foremost ethnic in nature, based on a struggle of a people for self-determination.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao tried to cut off Cayetano’s derrogatory rhetoric and his insistence that the MILF is negotiating peace through the barrel of the gun. Cayetano’s argument was obvious: the government does not and should not negotiate with terrorists.
Insisting on the label would be grossly inaccurate as both the Manila government and the MILF, an armed revolutionary organization, are both engaged in armed violence. Because of the ceasefire, armed skirmishes between state security forces and the MILF were zero from 2011 up to Jan. 25, 2015.
Palace peace adviser Secretary Ging Deles reminded the Senate that even the United States of America, had refrained from labelling MILF as a terrorist organization and in fact, admitted that the peace process was the best way to prevent the
MILF from furthering connections with terrorist organizations like the Jemaah Islamiyah.
Worthy of praise are the generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Despite saber rattling by some members of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the ongoing Mamasapano hearings, they are not taking the bait. Instead, they are affirming their commitment to the peace process.
MILF representatives in the hearings led by its peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal refused to be bullied and sidetracked. He insisted on ceasefire mechanisms and their commitment to the peace process.
Obviously, some politicians are playing to the gallery , riding on public rage over the brutal killing of the 44 commandos of the PNP Special Action Force.
Abrasive tactics in congress by the likes of Senator Cayetano may have been effective during the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and in the Binay corruption hearings. But using this approach in the Mamasapano hearings is ill-advised.
Bully talk has no effect on people who have taken up arms to advance their cause for autonomy.
If this is unchecked, the conduct could further escalate the chances of violence. If that happens, those in the gallery who appear thirsting for blood would fall silent and risk getting hit in the crossfire.
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