Senator calls for new approach to peace process following death of 19 soldiers

October 20, 2011 9:56 pm 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Oct. 20 – – Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan called on Thursday for fresh approach to the peace process following the death of 19 soldiers in an encounter with suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members in Basilan last Tuesday.

"We urge the GRP peace panel to review its current track to the path of peace and rethink its handling of the MILF given this latest unfortunate incident. It appears that the approach needs a serious review," Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan also said that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines should not allow the MILF to dictate the peace negotiation which the senator, however, believed should still continue.

"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, chair of the Senate committee on social justice and rural development, said.

Pangilinan clarified that while he is urging the government not to abandon the peace negotiation, the GRP should ask the MILF officials to explain the incident that took place despite the ongoing peace process.

”The government should not stop asking the MILF to explain and if their explanation is not acceptable, then we should be open for the suspension of the peace negotiation,” Pangilinan said.

He said the government should examine the sincerity of the MILF leaders to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

The lawmaker stressed that the government must also 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.”

Pangilinan mourned with the Filipino people, especially with the families of the victims who were outnumbered by the MILF members.

"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.

Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero also believed that the Basilan incident should not get in the way of the ongoing negotiations but the peace panel should not gloss over the killing of the 19 soldiers.

“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,” Escudero said.

Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government peace panel, said in a statement that, “We are certain that this is an isolated incident. This armed confrontation was not intended by both government and MILF.”

Government representatives to the peace negotiations are preparing to meet their MILF counterpart next month.

At the very least, Escudero said, government negotiators should come out strongly against these killings.

“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,” he pointed out.

As this developed, Escudero is calling for a 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.”

He 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.

“I commend our soldiers for their gallantry and bravery and for fighting for our freedom. I want to know if our soldiers were killed in a legitimate encounter or were they again butchered like pigs like what happened with our five marines,” Escudero said. (PNA)

DCT/scs/jfm

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