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Miriam: AFP should be allowed to enter MILF territory


Amid the successive attacks on soldiers by armed groups, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Monday said government forces should be allowed to enter the territory granted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by the existing ceasefire agreement. "Military necessity trumps any ceasefire agreement. The murder of 19 soldiers could have been avoided, if the Philippine military and police were allowed to apply the doctrine of fresh pursuit. This rule allows government soldiers to cross jurisdictional lines in fresh pursuit of rebel guerrillas who have committed war crimes," Santiago said. The MILF had earlier asserted that the military violated the truce by launching an attack within their area of temporary stay (ATS), which the military denied. The ATS is a place designated by the government and the MILF Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) where forces of the secessionist group can stay to prevent encounters with troops pursuing members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf group. But Santiago noted that if the rule against invasion of ATS continues to be observed, the military would be "so severely hampered in its law enforcement functions that the Philippines would be flirting with the status of a failed state." "If the MILF argues that the attacks were carried out by rogue or renegade guerrillas, then that would be a confession that the MILF leaders have no effective command and control. In that case, there would be no point continuing peace talks with them," she said. 'Military necessity' Santiago likewise said that government troops can enter the territory based on "military necessity." She explained that Republic Act No. 9871 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law defines "military necessity" as "employing measures which are otherwise indispensable to achieve a legitimate aim of the conflict and are not otherwise prohibited by international humanitarian law." "We don’t have to wait for the next round of peace talks in Kuala Lumpur. Great necessity requires great action to defend the state. We do not need the approval of the International Monitoring Team or the MILF," she said. In a statement issued on Monday, Senate social justice committee chair Sen. Francis Pangilinan likewise said the government should "exercise the full force of the law" on the "lost commands" that have been attacking civilians and soldiers in Basilan. "We cannot simply turn a blind eye to the murderous and lawless armed elements in the area, who with treachery take advantage of the restraint exercised by our men in uniform out of respect for the peace process," he said. "We should continue to talk peace with the MILF but we should show no mercy for the murderous lost commands. We trust that the MILF will agree that these lost commands should be dealt with the full force of the law," he added. Last week, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile urged President Benigno Aquino III to stop the peace negotiations since the MILF was supposedly not sincere in its efforts for peace. On Sunday, former police chief and Senate defense committee chairman Sen. Panfilo Lacson reiterated his call for Aquino to imitate former President Joseph Estrada and declare an all-out war against the MILF. “Our peace negotiators should now wake up to that reality. Review history and you will easily see the pattern and timing of escalation of the MILF ‘rogues’ atrocities," he said. Campaign for peace Aquino, however, already rejected the idea, saying that an all-out war will not help improve the situation. Administration ally Sen. Franklin Drilon, for his part, supported Aquino. “Let us support the President in this undertaking. We believe that in time, we will succeed in our efforts to attain peace," he said in a statement released over the weekend. Also in a statement, Fr. Eliseo "Jun" Mercado of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance admitted that the tragedy poses a "strong temptation for retaliation" but that they still believe in the peace process. "It is this light that we applaud President Aquino’s commitment to the peace process notwithstanding this tragic loss of the AFP in Basilan. It may not be popular to call for peace in these times but peace is not an option, it is a duty," he said. In an interview on Monday, Sen. Koko Pimentel also said that the government should exercise patience in the peace process. "Do you think all-out war will solve it? What is the opponent is a sentiment, it is an ideology? How can you kill a sentiment, how can you kill an ideology? Wala papasa lang yun sa next generation, andun pa rin yan. That's why hindi yan ang solusyon," he said. "Actually mga Filipinos din yan kaya kapag sinabi mong 19 Filipinos lost their lives at mag-all-out war tayo then thousands of Filipinos will lose their lives. Hindi lang ito combatants, even civilians, ang tinatawag na collateral damage. Yan po ang iniiwasan natin," he added. The Kristiyano-Islam (Kris) Peace Library likewise warned that an all-out war will affect civilians more and turn peace-loving Muslims victimized by war into "warriors out to avenge the dead or wounded who are caught in the crossfire." “Christians too will be affected by the war as many places in Mindanao now have mixed Muslim and Christian populace. Thus, there really is no victor in this kind of war, only casualties among the military and civilians," said Kris founder Armand Dean Nocum, a Christian married to a Muslim. Pimentel, however, said he was open to conducting selective ceasefire in Mindanao in order to conduct "surgical special operations" to bring the perpetrators to justice. — RSJ, GMA News
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