All-out war? Try living in Mindanao, say Moro groups

MANILA, Philippines – As war drums continue to beat in the aftermath of the Mamasapano clash, Moro groups on Friday, February 20, appealed anew to those calling for war to put themselves in the shoes of Filipinos living in Mindanao. 

"If an all-out war happened here in Manila, that would be unacceptable," Yusoph Mando, a human rights advocate from Basilan, said in Filipino.

"Do not listen to those calling for war but who are not from Mindanao," he added. 

Around 200 supporters of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) – led by the 1Bangsa group and Arap-OFW Foundation Inc – gathered at the Mendiola Peace Arch on Friday to denounce calls for the declaration of an all-out war against Muslim rebels in the south. 

The rally is the latest in a series of gatherings in parts of Mindanao and Manila calling for the passage of the BBL following the Mamasapano firefight between elite cops and Moro rebels that left 44 commandos, 18 rebels and 3 civilians dead.

"It is our belief that to avoid aggravating the situation in Mindanao, and to avoid the waste of resources in the current peace process, the Bicameral legislature should properly address the urgent need to proceed with the hearings on the BBL," the groups said in a joint statement.  

"Certainly, there are challenges and difficulties involved, but with goodwill and strong political will motivated by a genuine love for peace, constitutional barriers and political misunderstandings would be insurmountable. So, let us be one for peace. Therefore, we strongly renounce war as an instrument of national policy," the statement added. 

After the clash between Moro rebels and elite cops, the House of Representatives and the Senate both suspended hearings on the BBL amid calls for the government to abandon the peace process. 

The passage of the bill remains in limbo in both chambers of Congress as President Benigno Aquino III, who was instrumental in jumpstarting negotiations and sealing the peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, faces criticism of his handling of the clash aftermath.

While resignation calls for Aquino resounded following the firefight, peace supporters reaffirmed their support for the President.  

"As long as you remain sincere in your commitment, the entire Bangsamoro people will support you at all cost and by all legal means," the groups said. 

Alan Balangi, convenor of the 1Bangsa group, said the people of Mindanao have had enough of war. 

"This war has cost billions. It would cost more if we a war is once again declared - so many children will be out of school again," he said. 

The 4-decades-long war in Mindanao has killed over 120,000 individuals, according to government records. –