Jul 29, 2009

Interesting news in Mindanews

Abp. Quevedo to Gov’t, MILF: meet “in two or three days ...” PDF Print E-mail
by Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews
Sunday, 26 July 2009

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 Juy) – Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo hopes key officials from both government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “come together in two or three days and agree on an immediate action of collaboration” to bring the internally displaced persons (IDPs) safely to their homes before Ramadan and in “rebuilding/rehabilitating their homes and properties.” Quevedo was reacting to the declarations of suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) by the government on July 23 and the suspension of military actions (SOMA) by the MILF on July 25.

Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, begins on August 21 or 22.

There is no announcement as yet as to when the two panels will resume negotiations. But sources from both panels told MindaNews, “very soon.”

“I pray from my heart that the declarations of SOMO and SOMA would also influence those who plant bombs in public places so that they would stop their murderous operations,” he told MindaNews in an e-mail.

“I pray that the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and MILF would now collaborate in bringing the IDPs safely to their homes before Ramadan and in rebuilding/rehabilitating their homes and properties,” he said, adding, “for this immediate purpose, I pray that key officials from both sides come together in two or three days and agree on an immediate action of collaboration. Communications between the two groups could set up such a meeting.”

In another e-mail, Quevedo said he is also praying that “defensive postures would remain so despite provocation.”

On July 23, Quevedo wrote “all warring parties” an “open appeal for peace and for the evacuees” which was read at the State of the Bakwit Address (SOBA) at the Notre Dame University gymnasium in Cotabato City morning of the same date.

Quevedo urged them to “end your war” because “enough is enough.”

“For the sake of our evacuees and in the name of our one God of Peace, end your war! Go back to the negotiating table. Let the thousands of evacuees return safely to their home. Collaborate with one another towards this objective. Together, rehabilitate their destroyed properties. Give them another chance for a truly human life.”

“From the depths of my soul I can only cry out to all warring parties, ‘Enough is enough!’ End your so called search and punish operations. End your terrorist bombings. End your bombardments, end your raids, all you warring parties! Enough is enough!” Quevedo said in the message read by Sister Rose Susan Montejo, superior of the Oblates of Notre Dame.

“I condemn in the strongest terms as serious moral evil such crimes as terrorist bombings that by their very nature target the innocent, punitive raids on villages, bombardments that fall on civilian populations, landmines that can kill any passerby. For me ‘collateral damage’ simply means murder and deliberate unjustifiable destruction of property,” he said.

“War,” the archbishop wrote, “inflicts more destruction on civilians than on combatants. For every combatant killed, scores of civilians suffer or die. In the past twelve months I have seen thousands of civilians languishing in evacuation camps, first in the Pikit and PALMA (Pigcawayan, Aleosan, Libungan, Midsayap, Alamada in North Cotabato) areas and now in Datu Piang and various other places of Maguindanao. They give birth to babies under dismal conditions, they beg for food and water, they struggle for life in the most miserable situation. They die as statistics. Such human tragedy, it is said, has spawned brutal retaliatory terrorism elsewhere in our region.”

“Due punishment for raids has long been meted out in an attrition of casualties and damaged properties. And now what most sadly remains is the senseless logic of war, of action and reaction. And the suffering of thousands of civilian evacuees. Enough is enough!”

“There is no human conflict that cannot be solved through a genuine honest dialogue of the heart,” he said.

Quevedo was president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines from 1999 to 2003, during which he also appealed to the warring parties to end the war in 2000 and 2003 for the sake of the IDPs.

In 2000, nearly a million persons were displaced by then President Joseph Estrada’s “all-out war” while a little over 400,000 were displaced by the Arroyo administration’s war against the MILF in 2003.

The renewed hostilities in August 2008, following the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), displaced a total of 157,584 families or a total of 756,544 IDPs from August 10, 2000 to July 7, 2009, according to the latest situation report of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) dated July 14.

The same report states that as of July 7, 2009, 51,326 families or 254,119 persons were still in the evacuation centers or “home-based” – those staying with relatives.