Allow the people to breathe and live with peace.
Since August 2008, more than 700,000 persons, mostly children and women have been displaced from their homes and robbed of the equal opportunity to live humanely and with dignity, able to productively take part in their own communities.
They are not members of any armed groups. They are plain civilians who have been at the receiving end of attacks from both rebel groups and the military troops. They are also branded as reserve enemy force of government troops.
Everyday, they face the risk of being made as the targets of war.
Daily, they face the threat of losing the chance to rebuild their lives.
Until the move of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels to reconvene and reach consensus points on the protection of non combatants in armed conflict.
The public remains hopeful that the government’s Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and the Suspension of Military Action (SOMA) of the MILF will pave the way for both sides to resume dialogue and reach an agreement for the peaceful resolution of the conflict of Mindanao.
We believe that Senate Resolution 1281 which seeks to suspend peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front may again lead to the recurrence of armed conflict and further place the civilians in danger. It may worsen the magnitude of the situation.
We believe that instead of justifying continued hostilities, the Basilan incident should prod everyone to recommit to peaceful resolution of the conflict in Mindanao.
We urge government and appeal to Senator Rodolfo Biazon, the proponent of the bill to:
1. Open the space of dialogue and consensus building that will lead to the peaceful resolution of the age old conflict in Mindanao.
2. Encourage the GRP and MILF to sit down and complete the preparation for the resumption of the talks.
3. Provide the mechanism to uphold the primacy of dialogue as well as the protection of civilians amidst the threat of recurring conflict
4. Deal with the issue on the Abu Sayaff’s alleged acts of terrorism separately. Lumping ASG and the MILF on the grounds of kinship and tribe will not do well for peace in Mindanao.
5. Pull out the embedded US troops and the AFP forces from the immediate area to provide safe space for the civilians.
6. Re-activate the ceasefire mechanism to ensure the safe return of civilians to their homes and start normalcy in their lives.
We also challenge the military troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to respect the human rights of civilians and be mindful of their protection.
It is in their name that you profess to serve and defend. It is in the framework of public interest and human rights that should compel you to recognize their rights.
We call on the Senate not to adopt the proposed Senate Resolution 1281. We demand for the immediate resumption of the peace talks.