Cartoon by Roni Santiago
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

The massacre of 44 policemen last Jan. 18 in a remote town in Maguindanao caused widespread condemnation as it came at a time when hope was high for a lasting peace to descend in Mindanao.

That the massacre took place in a supposed territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has forged a peace agreement with the Philippine government, is something people of sound mind cannot understand.

As a result of the carnage, the sincerity of the MILF in its commitment to the peace process is now in doubt. Also as a consequence of the mass killings, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would set the legal framework for the peace agreement is now at risk of being scuttled.

Senator Allan Peter Cayetano, one of the proponents of BBL, withdrew his co-authorship of the proposed law as he condemned the attack on the policemen, who were serving warrants of arrest on two suspected international terrorists.

Cayetano said, “The basis of the agreement is to create a legal framework for peace and development by granting greater autonomy to areas under MILF. And yet, even now when they are not yet fully in authority, MILF has proven itself capable of justifying a massacre by simply saying that the government did not coordinate with proper authorities. This is unacceptable.”

Cayetano also said, “The MILF, by signing the Framework Agreement, committed itself to encourage a just and peaceful settlement of disputes and adhere to all international treaties and agreements binding on the central government. Assuming that splinter groups were responsible for the massacre, instead of an unqualified condemnation of these groups, the MILF central command berated the Philippine government for its failure to coordinate. If MILF had called the attention of the government to the presence of suspected terrorists in its areas, and even apprehended them on its own, there would have been no need for SAF to enter the territory of MILF.”

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From our standpoint, we cannot help but agree with Senator Cayetano when he raised the issue over the sincerity of MILF.

There were similar past attacks that indicated the lack of sincere commitment by our Moro brothers to the pursuit of lasting peace. These attacks, which were tagged as “misencounters,” also resulted in the killings of many soldiers and law enforcers.

What deeply disheartens us is the fact that justice had eluded the victims of the attacks because the perpetrators had never been arrested and charged in court.

The attacks, mostly done in ambush, seem to give credence to Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada’s claim that we cannot trust the Moro separatist rebels and that forging a peace pact with them is an exercise in futility.