Posted 5:30 p.m., Aug. 27, 2008
Student groups led by the League of Filipino Students (LFS) today kicked-off campus campaigns against the escalation of the conflict in Mindanao, for which they blamed the Arroyo administration.
According to the LFS, the campaign will take the form of an information drive which they will launch in major campuses all over the country. It aims to “expose the US-Arroyo regime’s blood-stained hands” in relation to the current conflict and to educate the youth and students regarding the “prospects of genuine peace in Mindanao,” the group said.
Conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has re-escalted following the aborted signing of a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the two parties. The MOA-AD was to pave the way for a Comprehensive Compact between the GRP and the MILF that would establish an automomous Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) covering Mindano, Sulu and Palwan.
The MILF has been engaged in on-and-off peace negotiations with the GRP since 1996. The ancestral domain issue has so far proven to be the most contentious issue in the GRP-MILF peace talks.
“As the government and the military forces barrage the people with anti-MILF war propaganda, we must remember how all these came about and must look into the main issues at hand. The conflict was instigated and masterminded by Arroyo and her gang of warmongerers by dangling a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement), which, while containing some provisions granting the Bangsamoro right to self-determination, was set-up and was calculated to fail,” said Vencer Crisostomo, LFS national chairperson.
Crisostomo said that it is the Arroyo government which should primarily be made liable for the deaths of more than 50 civilians and the displacement of around 400,000 people.
“Arroyo toyed with an extremely sensitive and volatile peace process for her own selfish ends. She opportunistically used the talks as pretext for term extension and charter change, as well as to deflect the issues of economic hardships and rising prices being blamed at her refusal to lift the VAT (value-added tax). Now, her government, with right-wing generals at the helm, is stoking the conflict further with its recent pronouncements,” said Crisostomo.
He explained that while the rogue MILF soldiers and commanders should be held responsible for their acts, this should be done through mechanisms agreed upon by both sides in the peace talks, and not by conducting military offensives.
“The government, surely, is aware of these mechanisms. And they know very well that the MILF leadership will not surrender their commanders. However, it is using the so-called pursuit operations as false pretext to push for more military offensives,” he said.
The LFS called on the government and the military to halt its offensives in Mindanao, and show sincerity in efforts to resume the peace process.
“The problem is that the government, to begin with, has never been sincere in talking peace. It is only interested in using the talks for deception and for the surrender of the other side, which is not a very good framework if it genuinely wants to address the roots of the armed conflict,” said Crisostomo.
The LFS and other student groups are planning to hold big mass actions and gatherings against the war in Mindanao and Charter change. They are calling for a nationwide march this coming Sept. 12. (Bulatlat.com)