The Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) assault in Maguindanao province in Mindanao last January 25 without coordination with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was wrong. It should have not been initiated in the first place. A total of 44 elite police officers were killed in that armed encounter with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the MILF. A friend, Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, said that many of those fighters were also members of the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM).
Another friend, Jojo Garcia, noted that "It is Umbra Kato's former command, before he split from the MILF to form the BIFF and continue his jihad. If there is any unit of the MILF still confused as to whether it is a peace partner or radical extremist, it would be this unit."
The peace agreement between the PH government and MILF (brokered and facilitated by the Malaysia government, most of the peace talks were held in Kuala Lumpur) is only a few months old. Trust and confidence on both sides is not very high at this time, there are still hang over of small distrust. Confidence building will take years, not just months.
I do NOT and will NOT support a new war in Mindanao. To have peace with MILF, no armed intrusion should be done by the PH government without proper coordination the MILF.
Now, some people are suggesting that the PNP should have prepared a reinforcement plan from the AFP when it entered that village in Maguindanao province to arrest Marwan, a wanted international terrorist by the US and PH governments These people are suggesting an expanded war that day. PNP + AFP vs BIFF + MILF. People use "peace" hesitantly because what they really want is war.
They are concerned with the backlash of the Fallen44. But what about the backlash if the PNP + AFP vs BIFF + MILF, CIM erupted into hundreds of dead combatants and civilians that day? Or expanding for several days? War is war, bullets and bombs do not evade civilians. Once you initiate armed intrusion, expect armed counter-intrusion.
If the PH govt does not trust MILF, then there should have been no peace talks initiated in the first place. Gyera lang ng gyera, barilan at patayan lang forever. Sana ang may gusto nyan, isabaka nila sarili nila.
We support the peace talks and peace agreement because ultimately we want zero armed intrusion by both sides, today and in the future. Now the PH government authorized huge armed intrusion without regard and coordination with the MILF.
We have been too deep in this war in Mindanao. Five, six decades of war, still not enough? Some people want 1 or 2 more decades of war?
If we have to uphold the rule of law, the PH government can still attempt to get Marwan, Usman, etc militarily -- but in coordination with the MILF. Then it should be a PNP + MILF operation. If it fails to get Marwan, then another attempt in succeeding months. The PH government should learn to respect international agreements and not be a violator of its own rules.
It is true that Marwan and other wanted terrorists can possibly escape if there was prior coordination with MILF. But that is the law, the agreement with MILF is that the AFP or PNP must coordinate with them. The same way that there are thieves and plunderers in govt now, stealing hundreds of milliions, yet we cannot just throw them in jail or burn them alive, there are laws to follow.
Rule of law, let’s abide by it, not emotionalism or political populism.
Another friend suggested,
"The same Rule of Law also dictated that these terrorists be arrested or neutralised by the government. It can be argued that, coordinating with the MILF would have resulted in the failure of the government to uphold the Rule of Law. The objective here was not to attack the MILF, but to arrest fugitives from justice."
Here is an analogy:
"These thieves and plunderers be arrested or neutralised by the government. It can be argued that, coordinating with these thieves' minions would have resulted in the failure of the government to uphold the Rule of Law and not arrest them. The objective here was not to pin down the minions but to arrest thieves and plunderers."
There are rules to follow always. So another option in order to avoid existing restrictions is to scrap, officially dishonor, the peace agreement with MILF, and PNP-AFP can attack and arrest fugitives in MILF areas anytime anywhere. Is that a good scenario?
Here is another analogy. Suppose a leader has committed serious crimes (murders, rape, cultural destruction, etc.) in an MILF controlled area, then he fled to Davao or Cagayan de Oro, with 1 or 2 dozen armed men to protect him. The MILF wants to get him and his men, send several hundred armed fighters. The peace agreement says that the latter must coordinate with the PH government first and ask to get the said wanted criminal and his men.
Assuming that the MILF distrust the PNP or AFP because they think this wanted criminal has many friends at those government armed units. So the MILF would launch a military attack on the wanted criminal and his men without coordination with the AFP or PNP.
I am sure this is unacceptable to many Filipinos. And rightly so. But the PH government sending 350 armed officers to get a wanted criminal/terrorist withour coordination with the MILF is fine and acceptable?
The MILF has the political jursdiction in ARMM areas and hence, PH government political and military coordination with them is required. Palpak si President Noynoy (PNoy) Aquino dito. He should apologize to the Filipino people, even apologize for breaking the peace agreement.
Rule of law is useful. The law applies equally to unequal people, the law applies to governors and the governed, the administrators and administered. No one is exempted and no one can grant an exemption. The PH govt should never have exempted itself in getting prior coordination with the MILF as stipulated in the peace agreement.
Now, supposed there was no death among SAF officers, government casualty was zero. Did it make the operation without coordination with MILF, AFP, LGUs, justified?
I would still say NO. Disrespect for the peace agreement, dsrespect of political jurisdiction, is wrong. The law applies to the governors and the governed. No one is exempted and no one can give an exemption, even unto itself.
Criminals 5: One Year of Maguindanao Massacre, November 23, 2010
Criminals 12: R. Ecleo, A. Ampatuan, J. Reyes, June 02, 2012