Chief Justice warns vs 'war and retribution'

CALL FOR SOBRIETY. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno issues a rare statement on the Maguindanao clash.

File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno called for sobriety in the wake of the killing of at least 44 policemen in Maguindanao, saying “a call for war and retribution should never be made lightly and should remain always a final option.”

In a statement on Tuesday, January 27, Sereno said: “We call for sobriety as we all await the full report on the investigation. During this time, we must ascertain facts to avoid confusion and acknowledge the complexities of the situation to allow for the rule of law to truly prevail." 

Police commandos on January 25 attacked a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in search of a top terrorist that the police suspect has been hiding in the area.

MILF forces fought back, triggering a protracted gun battle that turned out to be the Philippines' bloodiest police operation in recent history. The Philippine National Police sacked the commander who ordered the operation, saying he did not clear it with his superiors.

"I and my colleagues on the Supreme Court express our deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of our injured and fallen policemen," Sereno said in a rare media statement. "We deeply mourn for those killed, and weep with their families as we would weep for our own kin. No words are enough to console the families for their loss, perhaps even the promise of earthly justice will sound hollow at this time. But I ask them now to cling to the hope that there is always the eternal realm."

The MILF signed a peace agreement with the Aquino government last year, and the attacks now threaten to derail its implementation. At least two senators withdrew as co-authors of a draft bill for the proposed Bangsamoro region, which is the second phase of the peace process with the MILF.

"A call for war and retribution should never be made lightly and should remain always a final option," Sereno said. "It should certainly not be made in the heat of the moment and in the face of, as yet, unclear facts and confusing narratives. Let us instead all contribute to our nation's search for just and lasting peace by encouraging all parties to bring any conflict to the table of peace instead of the battlefields of war."

She added: "Let us not add to the darkness but to the light. It is the only way that we ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen policemen would not be in vain." –