The Armed Forces of the Philippines said they would not get involved, except to evacuate civilians likely to be affected. But in Manila, a lawyer who said that he is a spokesperson of the MNLF Emmanuel Fontanilla has charged that the ASG is likely getting arms and ammunitions from the AFP.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — The Kabataan Youth Partylist expresses concern over the ongoing bloodbath between the Moro National Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao’s Sulu Island.
Reports said more than 30 had been killed from both groups, and the tension is not yet showing signs of abating. Both sides have fighters armed with high-powered rifles and so far, conflicting claims of what started and sustained the bloodbath only point to its escalation.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said they would not get involved, except to evacuate civilians likely to be affected. But in Manila, a lawyer who said that he is a spokesperson of the MNLF Emmanuel Fontanilla has charged that the ASG is likely getting arms and ammunitions from the AFP. Reports also showed that some ASG members, such as those who have died recently in the exchange of gunfire, have relatives in the government and the military.
The Kabataan Partylist feared the death toll would only rise if the war continues and escalates. They reported that so far, affected civilians have been forced to evacuate for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.
“I am saddened over the continuous war between our fellow Muslim brothers,” said Bai Ali Indayla, second nominee and Mindanao Spokesperson of Kabataan Partylist. She is also concurrent secretary general of the Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance.
Indayla said the continuing armed strife in the country’s Muslim region poses a challenge to the Philippine government to show its sincerity at implementing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“We should understand that the extent of this war is the manifestation of the long-running problem which the government has failed to address,” Indayla said.
Indayla said it is the lack of government’s sincerity in recognizing the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination and the worsening poverty that sustains the fundamental roots of the conflict in Sulu and in Mindanao.
“Instead of resolving these problems, the government has time and again responded by militarizing the area and by declaring all-out-war campaigns under various presidencies,” she said.
She recalled that Sulu was swept by the US-led ‘war on terror’ campaign in 2001 and was declared under a State of Emergency in 2008 when the National ID System and the Reward for Justice System was implemented. These wars were carried out by the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command and by US military forces under the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement.
“Government has boasted of finally silencing the guns in the South, but aren’t the Sulu clashes an indication that no paper agreement, without genuinely addressing the roots of the Moro question – regardless of what revolutionary movement is engaged by government – could bring about real peace?” Indayla asked.
Indayla said some MNLF factions are disgruntled with the government’s betrayal of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and now, other factions of the group are rejecting the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement. Indayla added that there remains also “that nagging issue that the Abu Sayyaf is a government-linked force.”
“American kidnap victim Gracia Burnham’s revelations that AFP generals got a share in the ransom money was never investigated,” Indayla said. Given their experience in Mindanao where every action of the Abu Sayyaf becomes a pretext for more Philippine military deployment and operations, Indayla of Kabataan Partylist fears that the recent Sulu clashes might be “indicative that another Oplan to further militarize the island is in the offing.