MALAYA  EDITORIAL:  WHILE  MINDANAO  BURNS...

MANILA,
AUGUST 26, 2008
(MALAYA)  ‘The people – and we presume also the MILF – do not need rhetoric. They want answers to specific questions.’

It’s been two weeks since the outbreak of new hos-tilities in the South and Gloria Arroyo, the chief executive, has yet to tell the people how the government intends to deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front given the new circumstances.

Is the government dropping peace negotiations with the MILF? If so, is it government policy now to crush the armed units of the MILF, destroy its political infrastructure and tell those foreign governments with official links and unofficial contacts with the secessionist movement to stop meddling in the country’s internal affairs?

Yesterday, at the inauguration of a Filipino-Kuwait joint venture in the Clark Economic Zone, Arroyo asked the Kuwait government to relay to the Organization of Islamic Conference that the ongoing military offensive does not mean the government is waging all-out war against the MILF. She said the government campaign, on the contrary, constitutes an "all-out drive to peace."

Gloria’s declaration is as empty and as vacuous as the DDR (for disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation) program which she said last week would be the government’s new tack in ending the war in the Mindanao.

How she expects to do the Spanish and American colonial governments better in disarming the Muslims in the Mindanao she did not explain. Likewise the disbanding of the MILF combat units and the return of the guerrillas to their farms. Without these two preliminary steps, rehabilitation is a non-starter.

The people – and we presume also the MILF – do not need rhetoric. They want answers to specific questions. For example, what does the government intend to do with the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, the signing of which was stopped by the Supreme Court on the eve of the scheduled August 5 ceremonies in Kuala Lumpur?

Some officials say it would be renegotiated. Other say it would stay as is. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita says the decision would be made after the Supreme Court had ruled on the petitions asking that the Executive be permanently enjoined from signing it.

At the Supreme Court oral arguments last week, Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera told the justices the Executive is not signing the agreement, therefore, the petitions are moot and should be dismissed. This is as official a legal position as one can get from the government.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno was not impressed or convinced by Devanadera’s assurance. He directed Devanadera to secure a declaration that the Executive department will not be signing the MOA before the court can take up her motion for the dismissal of the petitions against the signing of the agreement.

Here we are now at this sorry pass. The Supreme Court cannot even take at face value the official representation of the solicitor general.

The MILF feels it has been strung along in negotiations for an agreement where the central government cannot deliver on its commitments. The majority of the people feel they have been betrayed by the government for agreeing to pact that seeks to dismember the Republic.

In the meantime, Gloria, the source of the confusion, is all over the place, save the war zones, inaugurating inconsequential projects and mouthing platitudes while Mindanao burns.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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