Need For Swift Negotiations With MILF
Senators urged the government to act strongly on the peace negotiations in light of the death of 19 soldiers in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Basilan.
"The government must firm up its resolve to end the root causes of social unrest and armed conflict in Mindanao so as to put meaning in the deaths of our men in uniform," said Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chair of the committee on social justice and rural development, in a statement issued on Thursday, October 20.
The Philippine troops found the bodies of the soldiers after a fierce fighting on Tuesday, October 18 considered one of the deadliest since 2008 when peace talks bogged down.
Sen. Koko Pimentel in an interview said Thursday, October 20 the culprits should be identified, ran after, jailed and prosecuted according to law.
"Under ordinary common sense, if these criminals fight back, they have to be pulverized," Pimentel said.
The senators also called for the reassessment of the government’s peace policies and its handling of the MILF.
"We cannot allow the MILF to dictate the terms and conditions of the peace process. This latest incident is a major setback in the efforts to secure a just and honorable peace," Pangilinan said.
Pimentel added that the government should always be on top of the situation saying, "It should not allow itself to be bulldozed by other forces. Otherwise, it ceases to be effective in our own country."
The chair of the government peace panel, Marvic Leonen, called the incident as "isolated" and that the armed confrontation was not intended by both the government and MILF.
However, Senator Francis Escudero, opposed Leonen’s statement. "I don’t agree with the nonchalant manner our own negotiators dismissed the incident as simply ‘isolated.’ Nineteen of our soldiers were killed. That’s 19 widows and countless children who will grow up without their fathers who were out there to serve the country and our people," he said.
Escudero, chair of the committee on justice and human rights, added that if government troops are protecting the citizens and the community, there must be systems, institutions and people who should protect them in return.
The senator, thus, called for the review of the Armed Forces of the Philippines protocols, tactics and standard operating procedures because "as of late, they are suffering from too many casualties."
"It is imperative for our negotiators to pursue efforts to finally find peace in Mindanao. But they should also give equal importance to the lost lives of our soldiers who were vital instruments in protecting our people from rogue elements," Escudero pointed out.
The senators expressed their grief and respect for the soldiers who died in the clash.
"Every single life lost in this conflict is a pin pricked in the heart of our nation. We grieve for our soldiers, their families and loved ones. They paid the ultimate price for our nation," Pangilinan said.
"I commend our soldiers for their gallantry and bravery and for fighting for our freedom," Escudero added.
Beef Up PNP Visibility
Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Wednesday, Oct 19 directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to step up security and peacekeeping efforts to effectively deter crimes with the onset of the Christmas season.
Ochoa said the administration is concerned with the reported frequency of crime incidence and urged police officials to exert effort that is over-and-above their routine operations to curb criminality nationwide.
"We should not just accept the usual notion that every Christmas season, crime incidence is expected to go up. That should not be the case. If we already know that crime will rise during this time of the year then let us do something new, something out of the box, to prevent this," Ochoa stressed.
The PNP must increase police presence and conduct high-visibility patrols around the country to fight crimes. Crimes could be prevented if more law enforcers are visible on the street and even encouraged police generals to "go out and be in the field" to have a better assessment of the situation on the ground.
The actual physical presence of police officers in the community, submission of periodical reports on the peace and order situation, as well as thorough and intelligent assessment of reports from the field in putting together a well-crafted and coordinated security plan are necessary.
"A real, actual and significant movement of the police force is an effective tool to make sure that crime is prevented."
Ochoa reminded the PNP leadership of its primary role in ensuring the full implementation of government programs and operations in addressing criminality and maintaining peace and order in the country. /MP