Noting the invisibility of fallen Muslims in the President’s speech last Friday, labor and women’s groups, progressive parties, other anti-war advocates, and ordinary Filipinos held a candle-lighting action at 6 this evening, at the Boy Scout Circle, Timog cor. Tomas Morato. They demanded for truth and justice for all. “This also means accountability of those in command,” according to Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the World March of Women.
Enriquez added that “It is critical that investigations of integrity (especially by the International Monitoring Team) are made public, because whoever were at the helm of this reckless operation should account for the lost lives, not only of the elite police force but for the Moro people, including a 5-year-old child.” She added that to date, media reports of more than 500 who evacuated for fear, with the female and the young among them rendered vulnerable to trafficking.
Labor groups were at the forefront also of the call for peace in Mindanao, as politicians fan the flamesMuslim hatred and wholesale MILF condemnation. “With the President focusing on the 44 PNP-SAF as victims, the Moros are immediately relegated to perpetrators, preemptive of an independent investigation,” according to Josua Mata, Secretary-General of SENTRO.“In the same manner, politicians such as former Pres. Joseph Estrada, former Interior Sec. Rafael Alunan, Sen. Alan Cayetano, Sen. Bongbong Marcos, former Cong. Teddy Locsin, are fanning the flames of Muslim-hatred, wholesale anti-MILF sentiment, driving netizens to call for all-out war. It is critical to turn the country’s rage and grieving to greater understanding, and not back down in the peace process.”
Herbert Docena, one of the organizers and member of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) reminded the public of the context of this fragile peace,carelessly broken by the operation: “It was the Philippine state that immorally, if not illegally, effectively annexed Morolandia without the Moros’ consent in the early 20th century, backed foreign and local corporations in taking over thousands of hectares of Mindanao lands for their plantations or mining projects, drove hundreds of thousands of landless families from Luzon and the Visayan to settle in the ‘uninhabited’ lands of Mindanao to quell agrarian unrest in the North, and unleashed terror when the displaced people began fighting back.”
The group reminded the public that the ruling oligarchs who dominate the Philippine state – “they who have benefited the most from plundering Mindanao’s resources and subjugating both Moros and Christian landless peoples” – have succeeded in depicting the history of Mindanao as anything else but a history of settler-colonialism, in portraying themselves as other than colonizers, and in casting the Moros and other indigenous peoples as other than anti-colonial movements fighting for self-determination.
Holding a tarpaulin of 69+ faces, with names of the slain Moros after the faces of the 44 PNP-SAF members, the group demanded that the long road to peace be continued.
Organizers: Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), Bukluran Ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), World March of Women (WMW) – Pilipinas, Stop the War Coalition, PLM – PartidoLakasngMasa, Friends of the Bangsamoro, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Focus on the Global South, Philwomen on the ASEAN, and other orgs and individuals