At the rate the violence in Mindanao is currently going, not a few would be surprised if the peace talks between the government and the MILF would eventually all together collapse, especially after the MILF raided five towns, and leaving 41 dead. The Armed Forces of the Philippines says that yesterday’s escalated violence was a “virtual declaration of war”. Meanwhile, Malacañang says it is mulling a “close review” of whether or not the GRP would resume peace talks with the separatist group.
There is every reason at this point to reconsider government policy on the peace talks, which includes as the intended end consequence, the stalled Bangsamoro Juridical Entity that is the root of this ongoing violence.
It is very, very difficult to believe that the MILF leadership has no control over the actions of its subordinates. Come on, we weren’t born yesterday! The MILF leadership will need to do more than issuing blanket denials and general statements if it wishes to prove that such violence is not sanctioned. How can the Republic entrust the BJE with its own police force, if the MILF, whose members may eventually occupy BJE seats, could not police its own ranks? The MILF should actively go after its supposed renegade forces and surrender them to the government for due process. As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words.
If the MILF is truly sincere about attaining peace, it is also essential on their part to wait for the Supreme Court to decide on the legality of the BJE. It should fight to defend the creation of a Bangsamoro state in court and not in the provinces. It should actively fight for the creation of an entity that is created with full transparency and consistency to the constitution. Of course, given the state of things, this is now easier said than done.
What is certain is that the MILF did not gain any more credibility by using civilians — fellow brothers and sisters in the faith — as human shields. By this alone, the MILF has rapidly lost its credibility.
The government, by its own use of force, is showing that it is in a position of strength on the battlefield — although the MILF seems to be always one step ahead. But this is not enough. The government must continue to be in a position of strength in the negotiation table. It should demand more than just statements from the MILF, to find out if the MILF is still sincere about reaching peace. Otherwise, the government itself has every reason to think that the MILF is making a fool out of them.