A prompt response to the encounter in Al-Barka, Basilan by means of the established mechanisms of the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – such as the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH) – is a critical measure of the strength of mind of the leadership of the GPH and the MILF to hasten the realization of a political settlement of the armed conflict in Mindanao.
The GPH and MILF must ensure that the JCCH will act swiftly to prevent further loss of lives. Furthermore, relevant mechanisms of the peace talks such as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) must act immediately and help defuse the situation. The recent violent clashes illustrate the fragile nature of the ceasefire agreement and the difficulty in maintaining the truce. It would be supremely tragic if the continuing loss of lives will hold back the voices of peace and allow those seeking total war to triumph.
Beyond determining culpability for the recent spate of alleged violations to the ceasefire agreement, the GPH and MILF must comprehend that sustained and intensive negotiations at a faster pace is the right path towards giving justice to the hundreds of thousands who have been maimed, displaced, traumatized and worst killed, in the course of the armed conflict.
All must mourn the senseless deaths in Basilan and elsewhere in Mindanao, thus it is even-handed to call for justice. However, the supreme injustice that could happen is to cry out for more soldiers, mujaheedin and innocent civilians to die under total war.
The Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) commits itself to mobilize its peace constituency to continue to create parallel efforts at creating spaces for dialogues among all stakeholders to the peace process and help accelerate the goal of having a peace agreement. It is never too late to press for peace, but the time to give justice and meaning to all victims of the war in Mindanao by means of a negotiated political settlement is NOW.
c/o INITIATIVES FOR INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE, Lead Secretariat