Come to think of it, there are quite a number of figurative expressions to describe the government’s position in relation to the ongoing — dragging — violence in Mindanao. Now that we are in the middle of Ramadan, I would say that the government is in a tight rope to end the violence in Mindanao, without provoking more violence.
The great challenge at this particular time is ensuring that affected citizens would not eventually sympathize with the renegade MILF groups, which could happen because of any blunders on the part of the AFP’s ongoing operations. Any mistake done during the holy month of Ramadan can be easily misinterpreted as a provocation.
One possible mistake that has already happened was the alleged military air strikes in Datu Piang, Maguindao, which killed six civilians on September 8. The government has denied dropping a single bomb. However, the AFP eventually said that indeed, air strikes were done, but were limited to strafing enemy positions, after being provoked by the MILF.
AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna says the air force was not aware of the presence of civilians, who were possibly used as human shields. On the other hand, the AFP says that the civilians killed could be relatives of MILF members.
I anticipate the results of the investigation by the AFP, and more particularly by the Commission on Human Rights. What would at least shed light to what had happened would be autopsy results of the victims. We’ll see if indeed, a bomb had dropped. What is definitely very obvious and established about the situation is that only the AFP has the capability to launch air strikes. Also, can the AFP be excused for not being aware of the presence of civilians. Again, it is situations like this that we realize too painfully the cliche that no one wins a war. It is always innocent civilians who pay the cost of violence.
What is sad is that they are only referred to as collateral damage. I would like still to believe that the Armed Forces could do better.
All things considered, whether it is Ramadan or not, the government has the obligation of ending the violence as soon as it could. AFP Chief of Staff Alexander Yano has denied that President Arroyo has
ordered a halt to the air strikes. If that is the case, the AFP will need to be extra careful in using air strikes, and really should minimize its use, if it could not rely on accurate intelligence.