28 Jan Before making comments on the Mamasapano ‘Misencounter’ READ THIS FIRST
JUAN SAYS: The ‘mis-encounter’ in Maguindanao leaves us with countless questions to say the least. As this incident has proven, the saying “no talk, no mistake,” is not always true. We have withheld our comments on this issue since like most of you (and most of the high ranking officials who claim that they have no knowledge that such an operation existed) we have pressing questions that we wish we could get answers for. We have opted to let you read an analysis posted by Bam Baraguir in his facebook.
After reading this, we realized that there are many things that we have to just “zip it.” Nobody really wins in a war. Lives are lost. The chance for peace is thrown out the window. Nobody wins. Everybody loses.
Note: Before making comments and throwing opinions about the Mamasapano ‘misencounter’ please read this.
I used to ignore comments from raging keyboard warriors about the peace process; thinking that it won’t matter discussing with people who have so little time researching about facts but have so much time throwing opinions around. But seeing how some people I actually thought were smart and educated enough to understand the situation also fail to understand the context, then perhaps it is time to speak.
This is going to be lengthy. You are not required to read it.
WHAT HAPPENED? The PNP SAF is in pursuit of two wanted terrorists, each with million dollar bounty on their heads. Intelligence reports say that the terrorists are hiding in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. To which, the PNP sent its special action force to the area without prior coordination either with the AFP, local PNP, LGU, and MILF.
QUESTIONS: What is the context? What went wrong? Why does the PNP SAF need to coordinate with these people? Why can’t they go into the area when it is a given in our law that the PNP is the institution to go to when dealing with crimes? We are talking about criminals here, isn’t it the mandate of the PNP to go after them? What does this situation imply? Who should we blame?
As part of the ceasefire agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF, coordination is important to prevent situations like this. SAF should have coordinated either with AFP, local PNP, LGU, and MILF so it wouldn’t have ended like this. Why do they need to coordinate? Because these are areas that are MILF-territories.
First off, be reminded that there are different armed groups in the Philippines. When you say MILF-territory, it does not mean that the MILF holds supreme control over the area. Davao Province is considered NPA-territory and ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-tawi) is MNLF-territory. Surely, you understand that this does not imply that every citizen of Davao Province is an NPA nor every person from ZamBaSulTa is an MNLF, right? When we speak of blahblah-territory, it means that the certain group which it was accredited to holds influence in that area. Hence, when you read newspaper outlets saying that terrorist A is in area B which is a C- territory, IT DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN THAT C HOLDS THE SAID TERRORIST. Okay? Okay.
That being said, SO WHAT? So what if Mamasapano is MILF-territory? What does the Ceasefire Agreement has to do with this?
The ceasefire agreement was signed after the all-out war of 2001. The atrocities of said war must not have affected our very opinionated friends hence it was too easy for them to throw their opinions about the entire peace process.
So anyway, after the war, both sides came into an agreement that they have to stop fighting and cease exchange of fire. The entire agreement is more than a hundred pages but the gist of it is basically these:
1. Creation of CCCH (Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities) and AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group). These are two committees comprised of people both from GPH and the MILF to ensure abidance on the Agreement provisions 2. No MILF or GPH combatant/s is to trespass an MILF or AFP area WITHOUT prior coordination with AHJAG or the GPH or MILF command post in the said area 3. No GPH or MILF combatant/s is to blatantly carry firearms on a GPH or MILF-determined camp/territory 4. No MILF or GPH combatant/s is to usurp, threaten, or attack any GPH or MILF base
Basically, the gist can be summed up in one word: COORDINATION. Like the peace agreement itself to which it is pegged, COORDINATION between the two parties is of utmost importance. Violation of such is a breach to the entire agreement and if the agreement is broken, well, we know what will come next. (To those who do not get it, WAR comes next.)
When we speak of coordination, it doesn’t mean you coordinate with MILF. You coordinate BOTH with the AFP and MILF through AHJAG. For YEARS, combat operations in the areas of Maguindanao and North Cotabato are done in coordination with AHJAG. Do you remember the MOA-AD war of 2008? Do you know what caused it? Breach of the ceasefire agreement. A group of MILF combatants trespassed GPH territory when they found out that the MOA-AD was rejected by the Supreme Court. This is why after 2008, both the GPH and the MILF are very careful when it comes to this matter.
It might seem like a lot of hassle to some. Because, seriously, we just need to get that criminal, why do we need to coordinate? Everyone, even NGO workers who do not even carry firearms, need to coordinate to ensure their safety when they go to these areas. You need to coordinate because if you do not, you will risk your security and you will die. These areas are technically considered conflict-zones. It does not mean that it rains bullets every day there but chances are, it will do so, at any given time if threat happens.
Be reminded that these areas are not easily accessible so you cannot reason out that you just happened to pass by that area. If you did not coordinate and you entered the area, the GPH or the MILF will automatically see you as a threat and you will die.
Imagine yourself (whether a GPH soldier or an MILF combatant, it’s up to you) sitting on your post, drinking coffee at 3am in the morning because it is your turn on guard and you have to be awake. Imagine seeing more than fifty figures from the distance, slowly treading their way to your camp. You immediately pick up your walkie-talkie (IDK what’s the military term for this) and ring up CCCH and AHJAG to ask if these guys were allowed to be at your area at this time of the night. CCCH and AHJAG answers that they do not know and that they were not informed of any operation happening around that time. As a person trained in combat, whether by a national institution like the AFP or an armed group like the MILF, what will come to your mind?
Surely these are not a bunch of prankster teenagers who thought sneaking up a military base is a good way to pass time, right? And then you also realize that in that area, there are other armed groups residing too (such as your not-so-friendly-neighborhood BIFF guys and other criminal groups).
THIS IS WHY COORDINATION IS VERY IMPORTANT.
Oh, okay, Bam. So, does this mean that the PNP cannot go to an area and arrest criminals just because it is an MILF-territory? We are talking about criminals here, isn’t it the mandate of the PNP to go after them?
YES, it is the mandate of the PNP to go after them and NO, I did not say that the PNP cannot go to an area and arrest criminals. They can surely go there ANYTIME as long as they coordinate. In fact, the commander of the MILF command SAF clashed with got arrested by the CIDG themselves a few years back right at his camp. It’s because CIDG properly coordinated with everyone. What if PNP SAF did not want to risk coordinating with MILF because this is a top rank terrorist they’re after? Well, that’s okay. But why is it that even the provincial PNP in the area does not even know about the operation? They are both from the same institution, are they not?
So, what does this situation imply?
For one, it implies that there are people sabotaging the peace agreement. How curious is it that for years even before the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed, no clashes like these transpired between the GPH and MILF but it is only now that people are waiting for the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that all these violence suddenly ensue? What benefit does this incident give to the MILF when now, hearings about the BBL are postponed and people, with the help of the media, will take a hostile stand against them?
I used to be very cynical of the entire peace agreement, and to be honest, I still am. But after being able to work on the ground and understanding the layers and complexities and all that has been compromised to keep the peace, I have learned when to shut my mouth.
I am very sad and disturbed about what had happened. Personally, I believe the SAF police officers were brought there for slaughter. Whoever commanded them to go there, given the context and situation of the said area, without prior notice to the AFP and even the municipal PNP itself knows that he is risking the lives of his men. How come the intelligence report they received is so sure that the terrorist is in that area but have missed the fact that said area has two MILF-base camps? How convenient is it that most of the SAF officers were from Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga which is why they are not aware of the terrain, and thus, easily killed? Were they even aware that the risk they were facing was much heavier than that $5,000,000? Or probably some of them are aware but, of course, how can they disobey a command? What would be of their families, of the waiting wives and excited kids, when they find out that daddy will not go home anymore?
Dozens of lives are lost in just one night. For what reason?
Whoever it may be who planned all these to happen, they won. It may seem that the MILF was the victor in this battle but, in actuality, they lost. Because now, this incident has smeared that peace both the GPH and their side had been protecting.
Years of struggle and hard work of the different stakeholders (the civilians, CSOs, even the academe) to keep that peace… all lost.
And now, we wait for the media to blow things out of proportion and the raging opinionated canons to wage their online wars.