Visayan solons support Aquino’s action on Al-Barka incident

Two Visayan congressmen today said President Aquino’s decision to
withhold any military action against the Moro Islamic Liberation and
allow the instruments of the peace negotiation to take over first have
prevented a potentially dangerous confrontation triggered not by
reason but by extreme rage and plain desire for vengeance.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said that while it is very
understandable that the bloody Al-Barka clash between government
troopers and the MILF   has enrage families, friends and love ones of
those killed in  the gunfight which was initially determined as a case
of a mis-encounter, President Aquino is absolutely  correct in his
decision to allow cooler heads to prevail and let the sense of reason
to set it before making any decision on the appropriate government
response.

Sarmiento, who is Vice-Chair of the House Committee on National
Defense and Security, said that war should always be the last option
and negotiations should remain as the paramount government strategy in
its effort to bring peace in Mindanao.

“ I understand the outrage but there are bigger things at stake than
personal vengeance. We should use the Al-Barka incident as grim
reminder that violence begets violence and the cycle is endless if we
don’t struggle to pursue peace through peaceful means,” Sarmiento.

“Our action should not be based on emotion but we need to analyze as
soon as possible our course of action, learning from the Marcos years
to the present in order to determine the best possible solution to
achieve lasting peace in Mindanao,” Sarmiento said.

At the same time, Sarmiento raised the need to further professionalize
the  Philippine Army, whose special forces unit was involved in the
Al-Barka incident, by using tried and tested formula and best
practices  provided under the Performance Government System advocated
by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

Sarmiento, who is also a member of the multi-sectoral advisory board
of the Philippine Army,  said that through the PGS, the Army
Transformation Program is underway and it is expected that the
Philippine Army would become one of the most professional armies in
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region by 2016, in Asia
by 2022 and globally by 2028.

Iloilo Congressman Jerry Trenas on the other hand said that  President
Aquino should even reap praises and not criticisms for his refusal to
rush judgment on the Al-Barka incident as this only reflects his style
of leadership: reasonable,perceptive and one that doesn’t easily fall
other people’s opinions.

Trenas insisted that “bullets will not solve the problem in Mindanao”
and the only way to solve the root cause of insurgency in Mindanao and
elsewhere is by defeating poverty and corruption which is precisely
the mantra of the Aquino government.

Trenas said that President Aquino’s decision to look at the issue in
the Al-Barka incident with  full  discernment of what really happened
instead of unleashing a highly emotional army to launch an all out war
would only set-off a more widespread conflict which would only mean
more deaths and more grieving families.

“ I share the sentiment that the perpetrators of the murder of our
soldiers should be relentlessly pursued by our government and brought
to justice in our courts of law but we should be able to really
distinguish the chaff from the grain. This quest for justice should be
balanced with our quest for peace,” Trenas said.

Trenas said the government peace panel should use every available
resource of the government, even the military if needed to ensure that
those who violated the ceasefire agreement would be properly
identified and if it came from the government, court martial
proceedings should be carried out and if it came from the MILF side,
they should surrender the perpetrators to the government.

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