[PHOTO - Presidential whisper: President Benigno Aquino III talks to his aide while newly installed Army chief Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista watches the change-of-command ceremony Wednesday at the Army headquarters in Taguig. AP]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 13, 2011 (STANDARD) Army chief told to ‘continue winning the peace’

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday ordered newly appointed Army chief Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista to continue winning the peace as he again defended his decision to launch “all-out justice” and not all-out war in response to the killing of 19 soldiers by Muslim rebels in Basilan last month.

Mr. Aquino said Bautista’s appointment came at a time when the military’s fortitude and courage was being tested by the Basilan carnage.

“What happened was hurtful for us, and we were urged by many to exact vengeance,” he said.

“But we remained firm in our decision to set aside the dictates of war, because our deeper obligation is not to fight but to protect our people.

“The success of our soldiers is not measured by the number of wars won, but by keeping the peace. A war-freak frame of mind will not work in situations like this.”

Mr. Aquino made the statement even as Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said a court of inquiry would soon investigate the death of the 19 soldiers in Basilan on Oct. 18.

“I have already approved the creation of a court of inquiry that will form part of the military justice system,” Oban said.

“This is to determine probable causes particularly on the culpability of officers. The objective is also to determine the heroic deeds by the soldiers involved, so it involves a lot of investigation.”

Meanwhile, government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen said the government and the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front would meet again “soon” for a formal round of talks to discuss substantive issues, including their respective proposals for a final peace agreement.

But he declined to confirm the date of the talks in Kuala Lumpur.

The MILF wants a sub-state to end its rebellion, but the government refuses and has offered the group only an enhanced Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mr. Aquino said the government would continue supporting the military with modern equipment, more arms, housing programs, and higher combat pay.

Bautista has warned that an “appropriate, calibrated response without compromise to the peace process” would be applied against those insisting on the use of force.

“We are fully supportive of the peace process,” he said.

“We will continue to reach out to our [Muslim] brothers, but on those who insist on the use of arms, we will use legitimate force.”

Joyce Pangco Pañares, Florante S. Solmerin

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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