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The eerie silence in Basilan

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It is quiet in the western front. Suddenly all the saber rattling and the grim prospects of bloody conflict between the government and the dubious alliance of forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Basilan appeared to have dissipated and sidelined by other political issues among them the controversy over the hold departure order on ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The eerie silence in Basilan however is not assuring any comfort instead, it is even more disturbing. Both the government and the MILF have clamped up as we no longer hear any development on the much ballyhooed “all-out-justice” response supposed to be carried out by the government forces against the murderous band of MILF Commander Asnawi and his terrorist allies.

We all yearn for peace but this uncanny silence is not what the public expects. Justice, in the case of the treacherous ambush that killed 19 of our soldiers in Al Barka, meant that the government ought to pursue a surgical operation against the criminals.

The strange silence in Al-Barka simply begs the question: Has the Commander in Chief ordered our soldiers to back off? In the absence of any development in the government Solomonic  formula of all-out-justice the air is again rife with speculation that Malacanang had rein-in our soldiers to allow the peace talks in Kuala Lumpur to continue. While the renewed clash maybe effectively aborted this does not augur well for the image of the military on one hand and the resoluteness of the government to run after criminals on the other. In fact this would only elicit conjectures that the government is willing to buy peace not only in terms of cash but absolution of the perpetrators of the Al Barka massacre. We hope that this unsettling development will not invite more aggression in the future.

Meantime, out in Kuala Lumpur, the peace negotiating panels are engaged in an “informal” talks. We are aware that they are there but we are not privy to what trade off are they crafting for the moment. If they are not tired of decades of talking people in other parts of Mindanao especially those in Sulu and Basilan are weary and have run out of patience.

By Menardo Wenceslao




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