Filipinos who strongly opposed the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front lower an anti-homeland deal streamer, which reads "Yes to peace, NO to BJE" and "Let us be united in the fight to retain integrity and sovereignty of Zamboanga City," from the balcony of City Hall. Photo below shows Mayor Celso Lobregat (center), North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol (2nd from left), Senator Mar Roxas (in blue shirt) pose for posterity with the folded anti-streamer that will be kept at the museum.
Political leaders who strongly opposed the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have put down a statement made by a rogue commander of the Moro rebel group responsible for a series of attacks in Lanao province.
At the same time, the anti-Bangsamoro homeland deal leaders downgraded the mass evacuation of thousands of people in the different parts of Mindanao as a result of the fighting between MILF rebels and government troops.
Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo of the MILF's l02nd base command has recently appeared on national television in full battle gear attire, flocked by his troops challenging government: "Ubusan ng lahi (blood feud)."
"It's easy to appear brave or even to sound brave but the question is can you really face off to the government forces and obviously they can't that's the reason why they're hiding," Piñol told reporters in a press conference at City Hall Wednesday.
Up to 500,000 people are displaced following weeks of fighting between government troops and MILF rebels in Central Mindanao. They are reportedly enduring poor health services and unsanitary conditions after fleeing the fighting.
But Piñol does not mind this. He said peace will only reign in this world if people stand up and say no. "If we say let's not put up a fight because people will go to the evacuation centers and people will die then we will be living in a world of cowards."
Piñol dared Commander Bravo's group: "If they're really brave as they claim they are, they would tell government 'okay I'm in this camp and get me. But when you issue brave statements and then hide under the skirt of your mother that's a different story."
For his part, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat said a holistic approach and enforcement of the law not only focusing on social aspect are needed to attain peace in Mindanao.
"We're all for peace. You can't legislate peace. You can't force peace, but as long as there are kidnappers, there are terrorists there can be no peace," he said. "You have to make sure that the law is enforced. No one should be above the law."
Senator Mar Roxas depended the government and blamed MILF rebels for the evacuation of thousands of people in Mindanao, saying that it was not the government who started the problem.
"The fact that there are refugees, let us not use this so-called false argumentation that the reason there are refugees is the government's fault. That's false logic!" he said.
"These rebels, criminals are responsible for these evacuees and for the disruption of lives, deaths and casualties and these are the people responsible for the situation we have in today (in Mindanao)," he added.
MILF rebels, headed by Umbra Kato and Commandero Bravo, led their forces in a deadly rampage across several mostly Christian towns and villages in Lanao and other areas in Mindanao in August.
They claimed the attacks were in retaliation for a Supreme Court order freezing an MILF-government deal that would have given them control over an expanded autonomous region in the southern Philippines.
Meanwhile, Vice Governor Piñol suggested that the only way to bring peace to Mindanao is for the government to take the problem seriously by starting with the idea of enforcing the law.
He agreed with the statement made by Senator Roxas, which proposes the deployment of police and soldiers all over the areas in Mindanao to enforce and implement the law to its full force that nobody should be exempted.
"That's the only way we can earn the respect of the people and that's the only we can bring back peace and tranquility to Mindanao initially, but at the same time moving forward you have to address the problems that result into conflict," Piñol said.