Press Release
September 10, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today backed continued military operations against bandits in Basilan and Sulu who were responsible for the barbaric massacre and beheading of government troops amid the appeal of some quarters, including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, for a suspension of hostilities during the month-long Ramadan which starts Sept. 12.

Pimentel said he does not believe that the government's peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be disrupted if the Armed Forces of the Philippines will pursue the punitive operations against the lawless extremists in Mindanao which have been perpetrating terrorist acts against the civilian populace there.

"There is no incompatibility between the special forces operation to go after the criminals, who beheaded some of our soldiers to strike terror in the hearts of government officials, and the continuation of the peace talks," the senator from Mindanao said.

"Peace talks are one thing. Government action to bring to the bar of justice those who commit atrocious crimes is quite another thing."

Pimentel, however, reminded the AFP to carry out "surgical operations, instead of all-out war, against the criminal perpetrators to avoid harming innocent civilians and even Muslim rebels who have not committed atrocities against government troops.

"In short, peace talks should not be used as an excuse to gloss over the barbaric deeds of criminals who use the existence of the Moro rebellion as a shield against their being brought to account for those criminal acts," he said.

"I understand that even the Moro National Liberation Front and MILF look with disfavor on those horrific acts."

He noted that Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi spoke with a sense of urgency when he called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to take steps for the early resumption of the peace talks. Malaysia has been brokering the peace talks since 2001.

Pimentel said Badawi's advice to Mrs. Arroyo means that the Malaysian government views with alarm the developments in Basilan, Sulu and other parts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

He also expressed the hope that the government and the MNLF, headed by Nur Misuari, can fix the date of the tripartite meeting to review the 1996 peace agreement with the participation of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

Saying the MNLF and the MILF have their political agenda to advance, Pimentel said it is incumbent upon the government to meet with them at the bargaining table to conclude a peace agreement that will reasonably address the grievances of the Moro peoples.

Pimentel added that in his mind, there is no way to do that than by adopting the federal system so that a BangsaMoro federal state can be created to cover predominantly Muslim provinces.

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