Press Release
October 10, 2008

Kiko reiterates call on MILF to surrender Bravo, Kato and Pangalian; demands gov't to end war, resume peace talks

Two months after hostilities erupted in Mindanao, Senate Majority Leader and peace advocate Kiko Pangilinan today reiterated his plea to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to surrender commanders Ameril Ombra Kato, Abdullah Macapaar alias Bravo, and Aleem Sulaiman Pangalian and for the Arroyo Administration to declare a ceasefire allowing for the resumption of peace negotiations.

"The only way to solve this problem is for both camps to show their good faith in such huge measures. The Filipino nation is paying such a high price for this war to continue. It must end soon. Obviously, neither group can afford what this conflict is costing them," said Kiko.

During the Ramadan in September, Pangilinan's office received feelers from civic organization leaders expressing their support of his efforts. The Senator has since silently consulted with local leaders, socio-civic groups, -civic groups, Bishop Fernando Capalla of Davao and members of the MILF.

"We have learned that Mindanao residents are united in wanting an end to the war," Kiko revealed. "Many of them are convinced that Bravo, Kato and Pangalian crossed the line from being freedom fighters to becoming alleged criminals. They should answer to the law of the land. Their surrender will surely ease tension and conflict. It is good that all parties seem willing to talk peace again. However, the challenge is for the MILF and the government to promptly translate their words into action. It is now up to them to prove their sincerity."

The MILF has waged a battle for Muslim independence against the Philippine government since the late 1970s. Intermittent ceasefires have been declared over the years with various Presidents from Marcos to Arroyo. Intense warfare again resumed in the area when the Supreme Court hindered the government from signing a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain on August 4. The document would have officially declared a separate Muslim state under the leadership of the armed group.

Renegotiation became impossible when rebels, led by Kato, Bravo and Pangalian, attacked towns in Central Mindanao driving thousands of civilians from their homes. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile has received flak for its dogged pursuit of warfare over peace negotiations. Malacanang implemented the limited use of force during Ramadan despite calls for a ceasefire from various sectors. October 1 was declared a national holiday to allow both Christians and Muslims to celebrate Eid'l Fitir or the three day' feast capping the holy months of prayer and fasting. Ironically, both camps were bracing for more intense encounter.

As of last count, over 128 incidents between government troops and militants (66 initiated by the military and 62 by the MILF) have been recorded since January. This was a dramatic spike from only eight incidents in 2007. According to the government, those affected by hostilities now include as many as 611,753 individuals and 127,164 families from Lanao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, Tangkal, Lanao del Norte, Datu Piang, Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Mamasapano, and Sultan Sabarungis in Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Datu Odin Sinsuat in Shariff Kabunsuan.

Even the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has made public appeals for children to be spared. The MILF has not denied claims from the international group that they give military training to minors who, upon the death of their parents during the war, have become their legal wards. Meanwhile, financial costs are also mounting. More than P147 million in aid from local and foreign donors has poured into the war-torn region. But the government may be forced to dip into calamity funds for its relief efforts. This could mean budget cuts amounting to the billions. Even the International Red Cross has depleted its annual resource allocation for its humanitarian efforts in helping 70,000 refugees—only a fraction of civilian victims.

"It is high time we resume peace talks," insisted the Senator who has continuously pushed for an end to hostilities in Mindanao since conflict erupted.

News Latest News Feed