June 19, 2008
"Thanks be to God! Alhamdullilah, God is great and ever merciful. We thank the Lord for hearing our prayers." These are the words of MPC's council of leaders when we heard about the release of our chairman Prof. Octavio Dinampo along with Ces Drilon and Jun Valderrama. Indeed, we give thanks to Allah who has given Prof. Octa "a new lease of life". We also give thanks to the nameless and faceless people in Sulu who worked tirelessly and quietly behind cameras in order to help the victims.
We resonate with the statement of Ces Drilon on how each one of us are called upon to reflect what probably motivates people like their kidnappers to commit those dastardly acts. One of them, she said, is just a 12-year-old boy and already holding a gun. Indeed, why is this happening in our society? Where have we failed as parents of this young generation? These young boys aged 12, 15 and 17, as Drilon aptly said, should be holding notebooks and studying.
And as the military gears up to pursue and pulverize the kidnappers upon orders of their Commander-in-Chief, MPC fears that innocent civilians in Sulu will again pay the cost of punitive action. We call on an end to this cycle of violence and victimization. We appeal on the government and the military to allow the PNP to effect arrest of the suspects through its regular police work in cooperation with the local government units.
The civilians in Sulu are already restive with news that there will be a full-scale military operation. From the Tausogs' experience, this can only mean displacement and armed fighting in their communities. The civilians in Sulu are, in fact, long been held hostage by all the armed groups operating in the area. We appeal that we give the civilians ample space for normal and peaceful existence.
We also recommend that any military operation be properly coordinated with the MNLF in the area so as not to hamper the ongoing tripartite review of the 1996 Peace Agreement. If military moves unilaterally, we fear that they might be able to engage the MNLF fighters – a likely scenario that experience already taught us.
Much as we are happy and grateful on the release of Prof. Octa, our thoughts go back to the civilians in Sulu who will likely be affected by the ongoing military operations. These could only produce more young orphans who will likely take up arms again, and who knows who will be the next victim?
MPC reiterates its year-long campaign call: "Let us resolve the Mindanao conflict: Sign and Implement Peace Agreements." This, we believe, will be the ultimate solution in ending the cycle of violence—a solution that all peace advocates have to work on—a mission that Prof. Octa has to take on as he goes back to his community in Sulu. It is time to go back to work. ###
ABDULBASIT R. BENITO
Bangsamoro Center for JustPeace Inc.
Int. C 2, Don E. Sero Street
Rosary Heights IV
Cotabato City. Philippines