Starweek Magazine

The path to peace

SINGKIT - Notes from the editor - The Philippine Star

Can a road paved with blood and bullets, mistrust and treachery lead to peace? That is the question confronting all of us following the horrific massacre of 44 members of the police Special Action Force in Mamasapano town in Ma-guindanao last Sunday.

It is hard to accept that what happened was a mere “misencounter;” it may have started out as that, but a day-long gunbattle goes way beyond a misencounter. If, as some survivors have recounted, the police were indeed on their way out of the area when they were ambushed, then all the more was it not a misencounter; it was a trap, an ambush.

And definitely it cannot be called a misencounter when the wounded lying on the ground were approached by their attackers who then shot them in the head at close range and even, according to some reports, stomped on their heads. It is barbaric, it is inhuman, it is a violation of all norms of decency.

Where then does this leave the quest for peace?

After this atrocity, the drums of war are being sounded: there can be no peace with those who obviously do not want peace, and the only way there can ever be peace in the south is all-out war to end the conflict once and for all. But as more and more voices join in the call for war, a question has to be asked: Who exactly do we wage war against?

Unfortunately, these bandits are not registered in a roster or identifiable by distinct uniforms or badges. If they have a camp, it will probably be a movable one in the dense forests or marshes. While they claim to be an organization, it is near impossible to determine who their members really are. I’m sure those barbarians who committed the atrocities in Mamasapano have already gone back to their barangays and disappeared among the civilians, their families and friends. So who do we eliminate as enemies?

There are those who say we must not give up on peace, and on the ongoing peace process. Difficult as it is at this time, this is the only way to go. But we must seek a peace that is based on justice, honesty, sincerity, respect and trust – on both sides. While one side may claim to have been aggrieved over the years, they must not be coddled and cannot be allowed to have their way in everything but must live up to their end of the bargain. For example, part of their commitment (in the July 1997 agreement signed with the government) is to help turn over criminals and terrorists to the government, and yet the two terrorists – among the world’s most wanted – the policemen were after had found refuge in their midst.

They cannot – and must not be allowed to – hide behind euphemisms like “misencounter” and “no coordination” as we seek justice for the massacred policemen. They have promised to assist in the search for the truth; they are in the best position to identify those involved in the massacre. The truth must be found and the barbaric butchers brought to justice. Otherwise, what kind of peace will we have?





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