Words are probably not enough to comfort the grief-stricken families and friends who lost their loved ones in the recent encounter between the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. While we commiserate with them for having lost a son, a brother, a fiancé, a father, or a friend in that bloody encounter, we cannot, however, join the call to scrap the peace process in general and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in particular.
The skeptics among us are now wary of the entire peace process because of what happened in Mamasapano. They’re saying it's pointless to negotiate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) anymore. They don't honor their commitments anyway, so why continue with the peace talk? Some are even so extreme as to suggest that the government should wage an all-out war against the MILF. If we continue to hold peace talks with the MILF and then pass the BBL, the popular sentiment goes, there’s no guarantee that incidents like the Mamasapano clash will not happen again.
But can an all-out war prevent another bloody encounter from ever happening again?
Neither can there be a guarantee that an all-out war will achieve the end we all aspire for the longest time. Nonetheless, the passage of the BBL must not be stopped altogether. We believe that doing so will only worsen the situation. The BBL is no ordinary piece of legislation. It may not be a panacea to the problems in Mindanao, but the BBL is a seed that must be sown so peace starts to blossom.
We concede, though, that the investigation over the killings in Mamasapano must be concluded first before we begin talking about BBL’s passage, so that the people will know what went wrong, who the real culprits are, and in the end, justice will prevail.
In the meantime, while we await the results of that investigation, let us be prudent in our reaction, though hard as it may be in these sorrowful moments. We cannot put out fire with fire. An all-out war is the last thing we need.
We have already been through so much and have lost so many lives in pursuit of peace. The recent Mamasapano encounter demonstrates yet again that our peace-building efforts are sometimes fraught with difficulty and uncertainty.
Even so, let’s give peace a chance.