We, the AKBAYAN (Citizens’ Action Party), condemn in no uncertain terms the bombings yesterday in Davao City and Tagum City. We are aghast at the boldness of the act and the cold-bloodedness of the perpetrators. We are saddened by the loss of innocent lives.

Mindanao again! This time in Davao — supposedly the safest city in Mindanao! We are angry and saddened but we are not altogether surprised. It is not surprising that after the recent heavy-handed moves of the government and the military, something like this would happen. They have made Mindanao–any place in Mindanao–fertile ground for unruly dissent.

It is this unruliness that deeply bothers us. The bombings were clearly terrorist acts because they served primarily to sow terror. Given the current Mindanao political context, however, we cannot help but think that they carry as well a message of dissent, and that of ungovernability.

The problem of government’s response to the Mindanao peace issue is its over-simplification of the problem. This is not only about peace and order. It is mainly about governance. It has everything to do with how “those governing” relate with “the governed”. Government has consistently refused to recognize the legitimate dissent of Mindanaoans and, by doing so, has made Mindanao vulnerable to extreme opposition and reactions. The land question remains unresolved until today. Government merely pays lip service to Moro autonomy through political constriction and manipulation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Much worse, it has made Mindanao a “free zone” for any group with armed capacity to advance whatever vested or particularistic interests they may hold. Who committed the bombings? The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or the so-called Third Force? The Abu Sayyaf? The New People’s Army (NPA)? The hard and sad truth is–we, the citizens, may never know the real perpetrators. Any armed group can take advantage of the turbulence in Mindanao. With coup rumors repeatedly surfacing, we cannot even count factions of the military out of the equation. We definitely would not even discount the US’s Pentagon or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as suspects.

We are not saying that government wants such unfortunate event as yesterday’s bombing to happen. What we are saying is that government has to be held into account for the recent military initiatives in Mindanao that provoked yet another war in Mindanao. More precisely, the government and the military—under the stewardship of Sec. Reyes– should be taken to task for reinforcing a “culture of war” in Mindanao. It is not difficult to see that our government has become part of the problem rather than the solution to the Mindanao peace situation. Government, for instance, tried to mislead the public in the upcoming Balikatan 03-1 “military exercises” by denying that the participating US troops are to be deployed for direct combat duties.

To President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: your governance in Mindanao has rendered Mindanao ungovernable. You should not do “public relations” or PR work for the Philippine military; you should behave as its Commander-In-Chief, including sanctioning it for violations of civilian processes like peace talks and cease-fires. We reiterate our call for the President to sack Sec. Reyes as the country’s defense chief. As to Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes: your military tactics have achieved no tangible and positive contribution to the peace situation in Mindanao. Both of you have failed. All your instrumentalities and strategies have failed. You have not solved the problem in Mindanao because you simply refuse to appreciate the complex realities that surround it.

The situation has changed from bad to worse. We are one with the citizenry’s quest for peace and justice in Mindanao. We challenge government to seek political solutions to end the war in Mindanao.

Joel Rocamora
President, Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party
05 March 2003