Reality Check

Nobody likes what happened in Mamasapano. 44 police officers dead. 18 MILF fighters dead. Five civilians dead. After all that, everyone wants something. War. Peace. Justice. Answers.

The Nation demands justice for the 44, now called the “Fallen 44”. The MILF wants the swift passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law “without substantial changes.” Sadly, the families of the five civilians who died that day wonder if anyone will even come to their aid.

Parenthetically, I suppose the MILF feels that it is the aggrieved party since it was the police who was supposed to have breached the peace agreement between the Government and the MILF for failing to coordinate the operation with the Army and the MILF whom, unfortunately, the police mistrusts after a series of failed and aborted missions that were coordinated with the Army and the MILF. I can only suppose that the MILF would be the aggrieved party because the MILF has a lot to answer for as well: what were two known, hunted, terrorists doing in its territory, living among its members? Did its 18 fighters die in a firefight with the police officers or the BIFF? Why was there a delay in the implementation of an immediate ceasefire?

One thing is certain, the January 25 incident in Mamasapano was a can of worms the present Aquino Administration could have very well done without. And while the Government has much to answer for, one question that seems foremost in a lot of Filipinos’ minds is should the incident lead to PNoy’s resignation?

I say no. There’s a very good reason for it and the possibility of Binay as President has nothing to do with it.

To my mind, whether or not PNoy explicitly or impliedly gave the green light for the operation that eventually led to all those deaths, or failed to provide the proper or adequate reinforcements to his men, is, sadly, of no moment. All those decisions or omissions is something he will have to bear as Commander-in-Chief. The fact remains that one international terrorist was killed and 44 police officers, 18 members of the Government’s partner in peace and five civilians are dead. The operation was a mixed bag of good and bad and that’s all on the President, but unlike his generals and other subordinates, he really doesn’t have to leave office because of it.

Think about it people, if every President had to resign for every failed military mission, then the Presidential system would be a joke. The American president Jimmy Carter did not resign when the mission to save the American hostages held at the US embassy in Iran failed spectacularly. President Clinton did not resign when US Army Rangers and SEAL operators were killed in Somalia in a half successful operation popularized in the book, and later, the movie, Black Hawk Down. It’s just one of those things they had to deal with during their presidency.

PNoy too shouldn’t have to resign. We will simply have to see this as a black mark on his presidency much the same way as we remember the Mendiola Massacre that happened during the past Aquino Administration. One glaring difference though between PNoy and his American counterparts: the American presidents took full responsibility for those botched missions. PNoy seems to be content that others have fallen on their swords for him…


“Can’t we all just get along?”

Words of a man whose beating sparked riots; and, really, we have to ask: why can’t we just get along?

It seems strange to me that we would need a peace agreement to obligate ourselves to be nice to one another. I would have thought it should have been natural for us to treat each other decently, humanely, with all the laws we already have in place. So, what are we doing in Mindanao?

Well, one side says they’re fighting oppression — and choosing to revolt as its solution — while the other side is supposed to be preserving peace and order naturally resulting in conflict and violence. The thing is however, that’s not the case in all of Mindanao. There are areas in Mindanao where Muslims and Christians live harmoniously despite, I suppose, the “oppression” by the Government. There are also Muslims living in and around Manila who have lived peacefully for years, generations even. The question, therefore, is what makes this group special? Is it because they have taken up the gun against the State? Is that enough?

It’s not that the Philippines hasn’t been here before. Once upon a time, the Government was fighting a war with the MNLF, who wanted to create an independent Muslim State in Mindanao. Years later, when the MNLF started talking peace with the Government, the MILF broke off from the MNLF and started their own war for independence. The Government gave the MNLF ARMM but with the MILF already out there, peace remained elusive. Now, the Government is talking peace with the MILF, guess what? Yes, there’s a new group out there fighting for independence: the BIFF! Where will all this end?

Even if the Government and the rest of the Philippines gave the MILF their Bangsamoro, which by the way will also do away with the old ARMM of the MNLF and kinda sidelines the MNLF, there’s still the problem of the BIFF out there; and judging by what happened in Mamasapano, the problem is a big one.

So, the real question in all this is are we even talking to the right people? Make no mistake: WE NEED PEACE IN MINDANAO, but are we on the right path to that peace. What do we gain by making peace with the MILF when the BIFF is still out there? If Mamasapano is any indication of how the MILF will run the Bangsamoro, then one wonders what might go on in the Bangsamoro.

Are we on the right path to peace, or are we just buying time? What are we doing? Indeed, can’t we all just get along?