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PNoy calls for 'all-out justice,' not war, in conflict with MILF

(Updated 8:22 p.m.) The Aquino administration will pursue “all-out" justice to address the successive attacks by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members on government troops in Mindanao.

In his first official statement on the attacks, President Aquino chided those who have called for an all-out war against the MILF and an end to the ongoing peace process in the wake of the firefight last week that claimed the lives of 19 soldiers and nine rebels.

"Anong klaseng pag-iisip ang nagsasabing awayin ang lahat, sabay-sabay, miski ang nananahimik, sa lahat ng sulok ng Pilipinas, para lang masabing may ginagawa ka?" he said.

Aquino maintained that war is not the answer to the situation in conflict-ridden parts of Mindanao. "We will not pursue all-out war. We will instead pursue all-out justice," the President said.

“All-out war is indiscriminate and borne out of anger. All-out justice is sober and fair; it is based on the rule of law, and leads to lasting peace," he said in a speech on Monday.

At the same time, he said the government would pursue military operations against what he called "criminal elements" who were responsible for the attacks against the army soldiers.

"I have instructed intensified operations against all these criminal elements. The mailed fist of the state will be brought to bear upon them so that justice may be served," Aquino said.

On Sunday, eight more people, including four civilians, were killed in two separate attacks, bringing to 34 the number of people believed to be killed by MILF rebels.

The President also appealed for cooperation from local government leaders in conflict-stricken areas in southern Philippines.

“This is not a purely military or police effort. Our local government and community leaders must assist in our efforts to achieve a holistic solution to the problems of the region," he said.

He also maintained that the government will continue the talks with the MILF.

“The difficult peace process cannot be enhanced by shedding more blood and generating more ill will. We have to exhaust all possibilities for attaining peace through dialogue," he said.

Negotiators from the government and the MILF panels are scheduled to hold another round of peace talks in November.

PNoy: MILF wants peace, too

Aquino called on the MILF to help government forces track down the groups led by Long Malat and Dan Laksa Asnawi — supposedly responsible for the recent attacks.

“We are asking for their cooperation in the furtherance of the peace process to demonstrate their good will at this point in time by helping us arrest all of these lawless elements," he said during the press conference in Malacañang.

Aquino is convinced the MILF leadership also wants a peaceful resolution to the on-going conflict.

“Ako’y naniniwala na marami doon sa MILF — lalo na sa kanilang central committee — ang gusto talagang maghanap ng paraan para magkaroon tayo ng kapayapaan," he said.

Still, the President noted that the police and the military will not hesitate to arrest MILF members who will help the renegade groups.

“Those who will be assisting these people in the order of the battle will also be treated as criminals… Manigurado tayong ihiwalay natin ‘yung talagang ayaw makipagkasundo ng kapayapaan sa atin doon sa gusto namang makipagkasundo at naghahanap ng paraan para magkaroon tayo ng kapayapaan," he said.

Last August, Aquino met with the MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ibrahim at a hotel in Tokyo within the framework of a mutually agreed goal of ending the conflict between government and the secessionist group.

'Distraction to war vs corruption'

The Akbayan party-list group branded on Monday the call for an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a “distraction [to] the government’s war against corruption," even as the group called for sobriety in public discussions over the deaths of 19 soldiers in last week’s Basilan clash.

“An all-out war strategy in Mindanao will only distract the public from its current war on corruption," said Akbayan spokesperson Risa Hontiveros. “Such a strategy is the perfect excuse for corrupt officials and plunderers, particularly those of the previous administration to drape themselves in the mantle of fake patriotism and whitewash their crimes."

“We must not lose focus," she added. “We have to be mindful of the fact that during the Estrada presidency a similar all-out war strategy was implemented. However, peace was not realized. Millions of pesos were wasted, huge casualties on both sides, and thousands of civilians suffered. We're still dealing with the same MILF the government unsuccessfully fought with an all-out war strategy more than ten years ago."

Akbayan also urged the military to shy away from rumors of a coup plot against the Aquino administration and “not fall for this devious ploy" meant to “to derail the peace process."

Hontiveros, however, said that justice must still be exacted from those responsible for the deaths of the 19 soldiers. “Hustisya para sa mga nasawi sa Basilan at kapayapaan sa buong Mindanao." —MRT, GMA News


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