By Menardo Wenceslao
The peace talks between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resumes today in Malaysia heavy with recent events that had threatened the negotiations. In particular, the deaths of 19 soldiers in Basilan last month had almost scuttled the talks as various sectors and personalities called on the Aquino government to do what his two predecessors had done: mount an all-out war against the MILF and settle the conflict once and for all with the use of guns. Those calling for war, of course, obviously did not know just what such an assault would entail in terms of loss of lives not just of soldiers and rebels but, more importantly, of civilians who inevitably get caught in the crossfire. And that is not to mention the destruction on properties and natural resources that would set back Mindanao still further behind the rest of the country.
But it was good that President Aquino stood firm on his decision not to engage the MILF in war but, in his own words, in “all-out justice”, ordering the authorities to run after specific members of the rebel group and not targeting the entire organization. Also, it had come to light that the troops themselves had committed lapses in their operations, leading to the skirmish that also resulted in the loss of lives of a number of rebels. What was needed was not the knee-jerk response of launching a massive offensive but studying what had gone wrong and addressing these issues.
It may be said that the resumption of the talks today is an affirmation of the government’s commitment to peace in spite of the opinion of some quarters – which include influential people in government and the private sector. This gives the people of Mindanao hope because we see that even our voices, which have been largely ignored by previous administrations, are now being heard and taken into serious consideration.
The call of the silent majority is peace, and we rejoice that it is still being pursued. (MW)