Akbayan Executive Committee Feb03

Fire Secretary Of National Defense Angelo Reyes!
Move Balikatan Out of Sulu and Mindanao!
End Attacks on the MILF, Resume Peace Talks!

Akbayan Executive Committee, 26 Feb03

When officials of a foreign country announce that they are going to come and kill people in your country, you’ve got a problem.When that country is a superpower led by a rightwing fanatic president looking for a fight, you’ve got a massive problem. When your military is led by an ex-general trained by that superpower and he is doing everything to make it possible for the superpower to get its way, Madam President, you should fire that person, your Secretary of National Defense Angelo Reyes.

We do not believe the Americans got it into their heads to take on combat roles in Sulu on their own; they were primed by someone in the Philippines. We do not believe that Army commanders in Pikit disobeyed Pres. Arroyo’s order to desist from attacking the MILF on their own; they were assured of backing at the Department of National Defense. Madam President, your Secretary of National Defense is setting you up. He has tried to put you into a trap where you have no choice but to agree to Americans running around Mindanao and blasting everything in sight. The only way to break out of that trap is to fire Angie Reyes.

It was not accidental that the American announcement that they would take on combat roles against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu came on the heels of the military attack on the MILF in Pikit in the second week of February. News reports of Jemaah Islamiyah training in MILF ‘camps’ also came out at the same time. News of American combat roles against the Abu Sayyaf is a ‘floater’ to test the waters for the American’s real target, the MILF.

For the Americans, ‘combat’ does not include getting their soldiers killed. They will move an aircraft carrier and its planes and helicopters nearby, take a lot of pictures of their soldiers in safe areas in Jolo, then bomb the hell out of civilians in so-called Abu Sayyaf areas. But a ragtag band of bandits is not a ‘fitting’ enemy for the only remaining superpower in the world. The MILF is not only a larger military force, it has strong political backing among Moros and those who support the Moro struggle. It offers more opportunities as an ‘enemy’ to a Bush administration anxious to flex its muscles.

After firing Reyes, the President should order the military to move the Balikatan 2003 exercises out of Sulu and Mindanao. Whether or not Americans play combat roles, their very presence in Sulu will be a provocation. In fact, these so-called training exercises should be stopped altogether. Then she should order the military to stop all military operations against the MILF. The GRP-MILF peace talks and the ceasefire which was unilaterally broken by the military should resume. This time, a broad multi-sectoral, multi-faith, all Mindanawan groups should be actively involved as a watchdog and guarantor of the peace process