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Peace talks need not be complicated

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The longer the peace talks linger the serious are the threats to our internal security and our ailing economy. The government cannot just sit idly hoping and crossing its fingers that tomorrow a truce with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will be signed. The peace treaty promises among others would settle who among the armed groups identified with the MILF are genuinely members of the Front. It is our understanding that once an agreement is signed we shall now be able to distinguish who are the true rebels and who are the brigands and the terrorists. They all bear guns but the criminals and the terrorists among them would sing the same refrain as the Fronts do.

It is our concern that for as long as the peace is not reached, the kidnapping syndicates and the terror band will remain and even spawn as quickly as they are decimated. Recently, an Australian national was kidnapped in the same fashion as the rest of the victims of kidnap for ransom had been abducted. KFR happens in Zamboanga and Basilan but news about this reverberates in all nooks and corners of Mindanao scaring away domestic and foreign investors in places like Davao which are hundreds of miles away.

What is disturbing here is that the culprits are scot free and the victims are still languishing in the lairs of their captors if, at all, they are still alive. The government forces appear helpless and hopeless and the reason behind this is that there is an ongoing effort at achieving a peace pact with the MILF. Well and good. The problem however is the unconscionable delay in the talks. Whenever there is hiatus the suspects regroup, rearm, refit and recruit. This negotiation therefore should not go on forever. The government must take the initiative to push the agenda. At this stage of the game, we are certain what are doable and what are not within the ambit of the constitution. Outside this parameters, all other agenda are unacceptable. At this stage of the talks, the only viable option is to look at how the autonomous region be expanded but not on the basis of what were recited in the draft memo of agreement on ancestral domain but on the basis of the referendum that brought about the creation of the ARMM. We are in accord with the suggestions that towns and barangays which had voted to be included in the proposed ARMM but which were excluded, be made part of the expanded area. We too are in accord that the ARMM have ample  shares in the proceeds of the natural resources found in the region. But the control of some specific resource and airspace to include such crucial government functions that relates to foreign affairs, security and education must be retained by the national government.

Because armament is a sensitive issue in a stable peace, this too had to be seriously addressed. Too serious, that this should include the withdrawal of massive military and the dismantling of its auxiliary forces like CAFGUS and CVOs. In this manner, any group that bears arms outside of the Philippine National Police be considered the enemy of the state.

Peace negotiation need not be complicated. Going to war is. 

By Menardo Wenceslao

 




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