We cannot go by MILF’s timeline

‘This is the Republic of the Philippines, not the Republic of MILF’
Manifestation of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident
10 February 2015

We all note that all the top military and PNP officials are here and I recognize and I honor you for coming here voluntarily. So are the members of the Cabinet and we thank you for candidly answering questions for more than five hours yesterday and I suppose going on five hours also today. And yet sadly, we do not have Chairman Iqbal. I am familiar with the letter that he has sent and yet I must express my dismay that it required the chairperson of this committee to point out that this is an official proceeding of the Republic, that invitations have been sent, and we did not even not get a courtesy of a response as to what was the answer of the central committee until the chair had asked, ‘How come we don’t have a response?’ So we did get a response today and that basically tells us that Chair Iqbal will come at a later time, and again, we also thank him for that, but again I also express my concern that this is also an official proceeding, we have timelines, we cannot go by MILF’s timeline. This is the Republic of the Philippines, not the Republic of MILF. So the timelines are set by this committee and that is why I feel that for MILF Chair to come when they deem it convenient for them is already a disrespect for this committee.

Having said that, I also would like to express my concern on the request for an executive session: These members of the armed forces, and of the PNP, and of the Cabinet who have come here voluntarily, have basically shown the whole world our faults, our shortcomings, have been criticized in public. Personal yan sa kanila dahil these are titles, these are rankings that they have worked for, and they allow themselves to be criticized, to be questioned by non-military personnel such as me, for which I thank you for. And yet, their counterpart, the MILF, will be questioned in private? Parang hindi ho tama yon. Hindi ho tama na lahat ng tanong, lahat ng pagsisisi nababaling po sa mga opisyal natin, dahil sila po ay nagbigay-galang sa ating committee. Hindi ho tama yun. So yun ho ang aking nais iparating sa committee na ito, na iparating din ng ating peace panel, ng ating negotiator, that it is not fair. This is not fair playing ground, even now. It was not fair on the field, and it is not fair now. This is not how we proceed.

So I feel very strongly about that Madam Chair and I hope the committee will take that into consideration when they review the request of Chair Iqbal for an executive session. On that note, I would also like to put on record that I have followed with dismay and frustration the response of MILF on the return of the firearms and the personal belongings [of the SAF 44]. It has taken 15 days. More than two weeks, nalibing na po ang ating SAF 44, siguro po nalibing na rin ang mga MILF, at ang mga civilian, para lang sagutin na ibabalik ang government property? 15 days! This is who we are negotiating with.

I was part of the group that went to Spain para pag-aralan ang autonomous region nila doon para bigyan suporta ang BBL. Pero a delay, sabi nga nila, ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ How can we proceed this way? Fifteen days to confirm that they will return official property? Fifteen days to honor the dead by returning the cellphone, which is the only thing that a mother or a wife can look at? Wallets, pictures..

I have so much respect for those who have spent their time on this peace process – the process – yes. But also respect what has happened today. What has happened in the last 15 days. We’re basically saying that, ‘None of these things matter except the signing of the BBL.’ That is the message that many of us hear, that many of those in the public hear. And that is not the right message. Yes, peace should be pursued at all cost. But what will the process be?

Photo credit: GMA News

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