Press Release
January 8, 2022

Dispatch from Crame No. 1202:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima on the Pikit Massacre incident


In March 2014, the Philippine government under the Aquino administration and the MILF came together in the spirit of peace and not a small measure of trust and hope, to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, thus concluding 17 years of peace negotiations between the two parties and heralding the beginning of the end of the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao. To extend the olive branch further, the Duterte administration sought to grant amnesty to MILF members through Presidential Proclamation No. 1090 back in February 2021.

It seemed, for a moment, that just and lasting peace in the Bangsamoro region was within reach.

Yet, barely over a week ago, a gunfight erupted in an MILF-controlled area in Kidapawan City, Cotabato during a joint raid by the police and military, which left six individuals dead. Residents assert that this was no more than a "rubout", while government forces insist on the legitimacy of the operation, claiming that they were engaged while serving an arrest warrant to motorcycle thieves. In other words, "nanlaban".

Imagine, in the wee hours, while the targets and eventual casualties of a bloody show of force were in peaceful slumber, government forces attacked like thieves in the night. The circumstances surrounding the raid should, at the very least, raise suspicion. No color of authority - even warrants supposedly legally issue - should be conveniently used as a license to perpetrate what is being characterized by residents/witnesses as a massacre.

Ang mga pahayag na ito ay dapat linawin kasunod ng isang masinsinan at walang kinikilingan na pagsisiyasat ng isang independiyenteng komite o task force sa paghahanap ng katotohanan. Kung isasaalang-alang kung ano ang maaaring nakataya dito, dapat na muling isaalang-alang ng gobyerno ang posisyon nito at makinig sa mga testimonya ng mga saksi ng masalimuot na pangyayaring ito.

At the minimum, the raid might have been a breach of the ceasefire protocols under the Agreement which requires government forces to inform and coordinate with the MILF before any military operation is conducted so that their troops can be pulled away from the target areas and minimize casualties. They seem to have completely disregarded the AHJAG's mandate which is to ensure that law enforcement operations are effectively conducted without jeopardizing the ceasefire between the government and the MILF. Government forces simply cannot barge in and do whatever they want when an Agreement is in place specifically to prevent them from doing that in the first place. Due process has to account for something.

This fragile peace can ill-afford any incident that could threaten to undermine the decades of work it took to achieve it. Attaining peace is only half the struggle; keeping it is another battle altogether. I can only hope that the Duterte administration knows the stakes that they are playing with before they shut the door on yet another self-proclaimed case of 'nanlaban'. Remember, it won't be long before this alibi will soon lose currency and go down with Duterte.

The Government cannot keep calling for peace through its mouthpieces and, at the same time, just shooting thoughtlessly away in blatant disregard of protocols in place and committing atrocities using its armed instrumentalities. True and lasting peace can never be achieved this way - treacherously and violently breaching pacts entered into for the very purpose of harmony and amity.

At the very least, this Government owes it to everyone involved - the targets, the government forces, the residents and bystanders, the MILF and, in fact, the entire nation - to let the truth of the encounter come out. That is the only way that our hopes for true and durable peace can still be saved. ###

Access the handwritten copy of Sen. Leila M. de Lima's Dispatch from Crame No. 1202, here:

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