Fr. Bert Layson: A plea for peace in Mindanao
Speech delivered by Fr. Bert Layson, OMI, 25 October 2006 in Malacanang. Father Layson was among 17 members of the Mindanao Grassroots Lobby Mission in Manila. There, they met with Malacanang officials, legislators, embassies and the press).
The reason why this delegation is here on a mission is because we are again worried. We are worried because of the “impasse” or “breakdown,” as the MILF says, of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks. The problem is real and we believe that if the impasse or breakdown is not addressed the shortest time possible, the situation on the ground could get out of control.
The all-out-war policy of the Erap administration in 2000 brought havoc and untold suffering to 800,000 civilians in Central Mindanao. When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over the presidency, she shifted from the all-out-war policy of her predecessor to all-out peace policy. We welcomed her administration’s choice of diplomacy in resolving the conflict in Mindanao through the negotiating table over the military solution.
This did not, however, last. In February 2003, another war broke out particularly in the Buliok complex in Pikit, Cotabato. We were not prepared then nor did we expect that war to happen. For many months we agonized to see the suffering of 350,000 civilians in various evacuation centers even as we felt betrayed by both the government and the MILF for not being able to prevent that war. Read full text here.