GOVERNMENT chief peace negotiator Teresita Quintos-Deles chided warmongers in Philippine media for fuelling sentiments to declare an all-out war against Moslem armed separatist groups in Mindanao.
“Many have fueled the clamor that we launch an all-out war against the MILF. It did not help that many members of media made this into a simple ‘them-versus-us’ case,” said Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
|Peace doves fly on the grounds of the historic Hazrat-i-Ali mosque,|
in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.
(UN Photo/Helena Mulkerns)
Secretary Quintos-Deles spoke to some of the 28 students graduating from a Dual Campus Masters in Peace Studies on October 24, the day that President Benigno S. Aquino III rejected calls to launch an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The rattling of sabres came after 19 soldiers were killed in an encounter in Al-Barka, Basilan while hunting alleged armed members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.
Quintos-Deles quoted five paragraphs from President Aquino’s statement that disavowed “knee-jerk reactions that will jeopardize our efforts to address the roots of conflict in the region.”
“Consider the context and the history in your reporting,” Quintos-Deles told this reporter after the graduation ceremony at the Ateneo de Manila University.
She said that sobriety and introspection are more important at this stage, “so that we could be guided on what to do next.”
Quintos-Deles said that media can consider first the costs of an all-out war.
“During Erap’s time, what happened? Two million civilians were displaced. And it’s a generational thing; the pain and suffering doesn’t only include that generation.”
Nearly 11 years ago, the military under the government of President Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada captured the MILF headquarters at Camp Abubakar in the southern island of Mindanao after declaring an all-out war.
“Look at Maguindanao, it remains an area with the lowest human development index,” Quintos-Deles said.
She added that media should consider that “it will take 15 years before you bring a region up on its feet again after an armed conflict.”
Nonetheless, Quintos-Deles said the Aquino government remains focused on peace negotiations with five armed groups.
“We intend to end all armed conflicts within this administration,” she said in her speech adding that the Aquino government is reviewing the implementation of signed peace agreements with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1986 and two splinter groups of the Communist Party of the Philippines’s armed wing New People’s Army.
Quintos-Deles told this journalist that these are “some of the factors at play that should be considered” in the public debate on the conflict in Mindanao.
“And media has a big role to play in this.”