First, it was 6, 500, then 80, 000, next 100,000 and now 130,000 civilians. That’s the staggering number of innocent people reportedly displaced by the ongoing conflict between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and Philippine government forces in Mindanao.
“Military planes pounded for the second day yesterday areas forcibly occupied by Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in North Cotabato, raising the number of displaced persons to 130,000.
At least 2,000 Army, Navy and Air Force soldiers are being used against some 500 “marauding” rebels from the 105th Base Command under Umbra Kato, said AFP vice chief Cardozo Luna, head of a task force undertaking the clearing operations.” Malaya (08/12/08, Reyes,V)
“The separatist MILF has been fighting for its own homeland in Mindanao for decades. A deal it was to have signed with the government last week on the size of its future territory fell through after the Supreme Court ordered it stopped pending a decision on its constitutionality.
Tensions have arisen as a result, with some MILF men deciding to occupy some villages in North Cotabato, including those that are predominantly Christian.“ Manila Standard Today (08/11/08, Panares, JP; Solmerin, FS.)
Mixing abuse of discretion, ulterior motives, incompetence, and questionable sense of nationhood, MILF leaders and government negotiators have made the Moslem problem worse, in spite of well-publicized maneuvers to bring peace to Mindanao. At the expense of innocent people including non-Moslem ethnic Filipinos and Christians, Islamic rebels demand concessions that are difficult to reconcile with the constitution. To grant them, some say, is tantamount to treason.
Amidst protests from lawmakers and concerned Filipinos and contrary to the law, they nurture separatist ambition whose goal is to establish their territory and break away from the country in total disregard of other Filipinos living in the region. As a result, the signing of the controversial memorandom of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain (AD) between MILF and the government in Kuala Lumpur has been put on hold by the Supreme Court.
For the erratic handling of conciliation—ineffectual diplomatic moves, on-and-off armed engagements, and unusual appeasements given to the rebels, the government shares the blame of the unresolved conflict. Photo Credit:Reuters