Sixty-nine lives were lost during the alleged "misencounter" between government forces and Moro guerrillas in Maguindanao, last Sunday. Among those are the seven civilians, including a five-year old, 18 who perished coming from the MILF, and forty-four from the PNP-Special Action Force. On their way to serve warrants of arrest on known high-profile terrorists in Mamasapano, the PNP-SAF ended as sitting ducks to the combined forces of the MILF and BIFF.
Since the news came out, social media was on fire hinting us on what the tragedy should mean for the rest of the Filipino populace. And as this day of mourning comes to a close, still a lot of questions are left hanging:
Who's to blame for the deaths of our cops?
Who called the shots for the carnage?
And Why was this operation kept secret from the PNP high command and other government forces?
Questions incessantly pop out of our heads; but at the top is the people's cry for justice. During the necrological service a couple of hours earlier, a fallen cop’s wife cried for justice in front of the Commander-In-Chief President Noynoy Aquino. And rightly so because heads have to roll. People should be held accountable for this travesty. Our fallen heroes are elite cops; poor coordination by the higher-ups is, undeniably, one of the reasons for the botched operation.
And amidst this hot-button issue, Filipinos ask: Is it high-time to declare an all-out war against the rebels? And my answer is no.
In trying times like this, we as a nation, feel a sense of unity. But should we first have cooler heads before jumping into conclusions? Especially for those who quickly hop into the cyberspace bandwagon of hate speech and false patriotism?
It is easy to rally other people for an all-out offensive when you are sitting comfortably on a couch somewhere in Luzon or Visayas. The decisions we make each time we give in to the emotions of the moment oftentimes lead to irreversible consequences… and ‘complications’.
|Michael V's sketch in honor of the #Fallen44 in Instagram.|
A barangay of our sleepy town was attacked in the early 2000s at the height of the all-out military offensive. In 2008, I’ve personally seen the burnt houses and destroyed livelihood of the townspeople when we responded to the evacuees displaced in Lanao del Norte brought about by the failed MOA-AD. A fellow Tupinian, Garry "Panoy" Colonia, was one of the soldiers killed by the rebels in Al-Barka, Basilan in 2011. I have also seen the tattered gates of an elementary school after the 'Zamboanga City Siege', two years ago. War can never be the solution.
The "all-out-war policy" never solved the problem of the MILF, fifteen years ago. While the government troops displaced the MILF fighters from their camps it had simply pushed them deeper into the forests and the Liguasan Marsh – now, on the very same marshland not far from where the #Fallen44 met their fate last Sunday.
A lasting peace in the region can never be won by war; it would just increase the body count. If the word, “justice” meant all-out-war to avenge our fallen cops, would the death of several thousands more in aggressive military attacks be worth its cost?
The Cost of War infographic released by the Official Gazette of the Philippines, answered just that. Economically, the wars cost us about 640 billion pesos in terms of “damages to businesses and properties, and potential investments and businesses in the region had there been better security from 1970 to 2001”.
Regarding social welfare disruption, the figures amount to a total of almost 1.6 million internally displaced persons from both the 2000 All-Out-War and the 2008 MOA-AD's failure. Since the 1970s, the conflict in this part of the archipelago has taken the lives of more than 120,000 fellowmen at war. Add to this the unquantifiable negative consequences: to Mindanao’s image, to our country’s image, to our country’s sovereignty, and to our territorial integrity.
I believe that the road to a lasting peace should not be thwarted. Years of hardwork from both parties GRP and MILF will come to naught with an all-out war. The recent suspension of hearings on the BBL and the stoppages in the peace process would not help, either.
The painful death of our heroes only point us toward forging a sound policy for peace. Peace is the only path for solving a problem that involves, among others, a deep-rooted geo-political struggle. No other shortcut method will do.
We can only point fingers until the investigators have finished their probe into the deaths of our elite policemen. That’s why we call on our public officials to have a speedy resolution of the matter: let the Board of Inquiry do its job and let those responsible for the mishap face their appropriate punishments. Only this will stop the public from speculating... and the officials from making their bloody excuses.
UPDATED: 2 February 2015 - 08:48