P-NOY’S “all-out justice” campaign supposedly against “lawless elements” in Mindanao is a misnomer for it has given rise to another injustice when the indiscriminate aerial bombings and howitzer firing and intense military ground assaults have displaced close to 30,000 innocent civilians in Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan provinces.
This was stated by the Alliance of Progressive Labor as it joined the calls to immediately stop the reckless bombardments that are wreaking more havoc on the rural inhabitants rather than the bandits that the military claimed they are chasing.
Latest reports said that over 19,000 residents have been uprooted in the towns of Payao, Alicia, Mabuhay, Talusan and Olutanga in Zamboanga Sibugay, while more than 9,000 evacuees were listed in the municipality of Al-Barka in Basilan.
Civil society organizations, including the APL, decry this appalling cycle of “collateral damage” among the nonaligned and noncombatants due to military operations, and cautioned the government of resorting to an even more destructive, vicious and protracted “all-out war.”
Hawkish section of the military and the government, and understandably many relatives of the fatalities in recent ambushes by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front members and the so-called MILF “Lost Command,” have been clamoring for Malacañang to order an all-out or “total war” against these armed groups.
This war cry was launched after successive attacks on government forces, highlighted by the slaughter of 19 troopers from the Army Special Forces by MILF fighters in Al-Barka last Oct. 18, and two separate ambuscades two days later in Alicia and Kabasalan towns, which killed seven soldiers and policemen.
Authorities described the perpetrators in the Zamboanga Sibugay ambushes as “lawless elements” led by an ex-MILF commander, thus allowing the military to carry out unhampered “punitive actions,” unlike in the Basilan incident that, because of the current ceasefire between the government and the MILF, has prevented the military to pursue the rebels inside their camp in Al-Barka, the government said.
Although the military drive is actually located in the coastal town of Payao, which is about 150 kilometers northeast of Al-Barka, it is still primarily meant to appease the bereaved families of the slain soldiers in Basilan as well as the proponents of all-out war, APL said.
But the heavy military presence, including fresh reinforcements, in Al-Barka and the whole of Basilan following the ambush has caused tremendous fear among the residents thus the continuing exodus from their villages near the encounter site, peace advocates said.
Thus, the APL retorted that while Aquino officially “refuses” to heed the all-out war call and directing instead the military to conduct his self-styled “all-out justice,” the results of the latter still resemble a “total war but in a smaller scale.”
Even the Commission on Human Rights warned that an all-out war “would only result in mass human rights violations, more internally displaced communities and a perpetuation of the generational cycle of violence in Mindanao.”
Moreover, the human cost, the humanitarian crisis, the social implications, the economic losses, and even the price tag inherent in armed hostilities are enormous and utterly gloomy, the APL added.
A study by the World Bank, for instance, revealed that from 1970 to 2001 alone the Philippine government has spent $2 billion to $3 billion in its three decades of wars in Mindanao. Each major military operation also entails 30 years of lost opportunities for a province and it would take at least 15 years for the people to recover from the ravages of wars.
More significantly, the APL clarified that conflicts could never be solved by sheer military means alone, and the total war promoters either ignore or are ignorant of the historic injustices suffered by the Bangsamoro people from both foreign and local “oppressors.”
“While we mourn the deaths of worker-soldiers who were used as cannon fodders by their superiors, we must also feel and sincerely understand the pain and the just aspirations of the Muslims in Mindanao, along with the lumads and the Christian populace, to better contextualize the ‘war’ and arrive at a better and more meaningful peace,” the APL added.