Govt did not explore all options before armed operations in Zamboanga: Missionary
MNLF has been demanding independence of Mindanao, the southern tip of Philippines but the latest fighting followed the rebels taking a 100 people hostages, including Christian priests.
The government did not explore all possible diplomatic channels before choosing the military option to end the conflict with Muslim rebels in Mindanao, alleged Father Angel Calvo, who has worked as a Claretian missionary in the area for 40 years.
He called for an immediate cease-fire and beginning of negotiations in the conflict between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
More than 100 people have been killed and a 100,000 displaced so far in the 10-day conflict in Zamboanga between government troops and rebels of the MNLF.
It has been demanding independence of Mindanao, the southern tip of Philippines but the latest fighting followed the rebels taking a 100 people hostages, including Christian priests.
"We are facing a very dangerous escalation; an immediate cease-fire is necessary and it is equally important to resume the path of dialogue with conscience", said Father Calvo.
"All the path of peace and demolition of mutual prejudices, built over many years, have been compromised. I fear that relations between Christians and Muslims will be affected by this protracted conflict", he said.
"Violence is never the right solution. The decision of a military attack was taken in a hasty manner. The government did not explore all possible avenues for a negotiable solution. Many NGOs offered their skills and knowledge to negotiate with rebels, but we were not in any way considered", said Father Calvo.
“MNLF felt marginalized after an agreement was signed by the government with another armed group, the 'Moro Islamic Liberation Front'. So it resumed guerrilla warfare, proclaiming an 'independent Islamic state' in southern Philippines, which is unacceptable. But the return to legitimate demands can be reached with dialogue, not with force,” he said.
The appeals for a cease-fire continued in Zamboanga. Mindanao Peace Weavers, aforum which includes more than 50 civil society organizations called for the release of hostages held by MNLF and opening of a humanitarian corridor to allow the rescue of civilians, reaffirming a plea for the end of violence and a peaceful solution.
Earlier, all 18 bishops of Mindanao Island had appealed to the government and MNLF rebels to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Source: Agenzia Fides