ROMMEL C. BANLAOI
(Originally published in Philippine Star on 21 October 2011)
AMIDST calls from some politicians and military officers to declare another all-out-war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a result of the gruesome killing of 19 soldiers in a recent military encounter in Al-Barka, Basilan, the incident, in fact, calls for more talks than war.
The Al-Barka incident was a crystal clear proof that waging a war can only unleash ill feelings between Muslims and Christians in the country.
Rather than bridge the centuries old divide between Muslims and Christians, the brutal use of force can further foment sectarian violence that unnecessarily obstructs the attainment of peace and development in the Philippines.
There is no doubt that grief of the families of the 19 victims is a reason for a national mourning. The families need justice that they deserve.
But more than 900 Muslim families (with pregnant women, children, and elderly) in four affected villages in Al-Barka town have been currently displaced in the aftermath of the clash. Displaced families due to armed violence also provide a reason for sorrow. They also cry for justice.
More wars mean more killings, more displacements and more destruction of properties.
When the Philippine government declared an all-out-war against the MILF in 2000, it led to the displacement of up to one million people in Mindanao and widespread destruction of billion pesos worth of properties.
But when the Philippine government started peace talks with the MILF in 2004, Mindanao posted a positive growth rate from 2005 to 2007, until military clashes resumed between the military and the MILF in 2008 due to controversies surrounding the now defunct Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).
The problem of armed violence, insurgency and terrorism in Mindanao is not entirely a military problem that warrants an all-out military war.
The violent conflict in Mindanao is largely a political problem needing a political solution. Finding the right political solution to the Mindanao conflict can only be identified through a protracted process we call peace talks.
A protracted peace process is better than a protracted war.
The Al-Barka incident shall not stop us from giving peace a chance in Mindanao.