MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said a deadly clash between government forces and Muslim rebels shouldn’t stop the peace process that aims to end a 4-decade-old secessionist movement.
In a statement, the CBCP also mourned the death of at least 49 members of an elite police force after what has been called “misencounter” in Maguindanao on Sunday, January 25, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), less than a year after the group signed a landmark peace deal with the Philippine government.
“While the CBCP condemns this act of violence against human life no matter what the avowed purpose of such violence may be, we cannot side with those who call for the discontinuance of peace talks,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said Monday evening, January 26.
“If anything, this sad incident underscores the necessity and the urgency of arriving at a solution that is not rushed but that is inclusive, principled, and just to all,” Villegas added.
Villegas’ statement came as two senators withdrew as authors of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which seeks to create an autonomous region initially headed by the MILF.
Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito cited Sunday’s clash as the reason for their withdrawal. Cayetano said he “seriously” doubts “if the peace agreement will survive.” Ejercito described the attack not as a “misencounter,” as Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II puts it, but as a “massacre.”
Sunday’s encounter also prompted other officials to doubt the peace process.
Still, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez pointed out that the BBL “is the product of 17 years of negotiations, and this cannot be stopped by this occurrence.”
In an interview on dzBB, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman also urged lawmakers to continue supporting the BBL.
Hataman said that while the incident in Mamasapano was unfortunate and should never be forgotten, it should not be a reason to abandon the peace process, which had fostered peace and development in Central Mindanao over the past few years.
The governor also said it should be remembered that prior to the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF, there were constant clashes that not only claimed many lives on both sides but also displaced thousands of families and disrupted development in the area. – Rappler.com