Philippines: What Bush wants

This is an editorial from the Tribune.
I find this a bit puzzling. The Tribune is always suspicious of U.S. aims in the Philippines often with good reason. In spite of the fact that MILF has sometimes used tactics that are in effect terrorist in nature, it is not on the U.S. list of terrorist groups. The U.S. obviously supported the peace agreement as well. Some think that the U.S. wants to use the new territory for military bases among other things.
In any event the peace process seems to be breaking down. I doubt that the U.S. would be happy that the MILF taking advantage of the ceasefire builds up and regroups its forces as this article seems to imply. The defeat of the peace process is likely to turn the MILF even more radical and likely to resume armed struggle. I doubt too that the U.S. would really want that. In fact I doubt that Bush is even paying all that much attention to what is happening let alone wanting it to happen. If the MILF starts to employ terror tactics even more the U.S. could very well decide to place it on a terror list but it will not do this as long as negotiations are still ongoing.

What Bush wants
By Alejandro Lichauco

Now the secessionist Moro group’s chieftain says he wants an end to the government offensives against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and again return to the negotiation table. At the same time, the MILF while asking its commanders to stand down, also stressed that Commanders Bravo and Kato will be investigated and penalized according to the MILF’s rules and “due process.”
The MILF also refuses to accept responsibility for the burning of homes, the looting and the murder of scores of civilians in the villages its forces pillaged.
This is unacceptable to Filipinos since the MILF commanders — no doubt with the green light given by the MILF leaders to attack the Mindanao villages and go into a killing rampage — have committed criminal acts and must therefore be charged and tried in our courts under the laws of the Philippines. For government to allow that which the MILF chief says, is for it to admit that the MILF is a sovereign government with laws of its own, and its criminals are beyond the pale of the Philippine criminal system.
But for all the MILF’s bravura of declaring war against the government and its vow to kill or be killed for their Islamic state, it is clear that at this time, the MILF forces are no match for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the special units of the Philippine National Police if the country’s forces go all out against the rebel Muslim force.
This has been realized by the MILF chieftain, who now calls for an end to the military offensives and a return to the negotiating table.
Why is the MILF now interested in returning to the negotiating table, knowing for certain that the government panel, given the public opposition, can no longer grant the MILF the conditions on the establishment of the ancestral domain, which includes territory, natural resources to be exploited by foreigners, an armed force and, for all intents and purposes, an independent Islamic state under the protection of the United States, among others?
Elementary. With the Armed Forces of the Philippines taking a hardline stand against the MILF, the armed rebel group has again been destabilized, and there is that need for the MILF leaders and their fighters to regroup, recruit and train more fighters, along with getting for themselves from their Islamic allies abroad, the sophisticated firearms for their forces to use against government forces when the time is ripe.
Peace negotiations can take forever, and both panels know it. While the government can keep on dribbling the ball on this issue of a peace accord and ancestral domain for the MILF, and with the MILF playing along as long as it suits the secessionist group, government is also pretty much at a disadvantage, even as a ceasefire agreement is in place since the MILF will be using that time for peace negotiations to strengthen its forces against the government. A few tanks and aircraft the MILF can have in the meantime peace talks are ongoing, can make the MILF a force to reckon with, given time and the right equipment.
Then too, as it always is with the MILF whenever firefights and encounters erupt, it can always claim that these are not of its making but of some “lost command” while the military and the police special forces are again restrained by Malacañang on grounds of the peace talks having primacy.
But why should the government even bother to continue having peace talks with a group of rebels who can’t be trusted and whom government and the Filipino people know will not abide by the pact anyway?
To this day, even as the MILF chieftain talks of returning to the negotiating table, he refuses to take responsibility for the attacks mounted by his fighters. And as they can no longer be trusted, one can be certain that even with a negotiated peace accord, once the MILF establishes even a watered down version of a juridical entity plus gain its ancestral homeland, this Islamic group will still go all out to secure for itself an independent state, and when it has the aircraft, tanks and other war materiel, it will definitely invade the Republic and take the entire Mindanao and Palawan and declare these Philippine territories as its own.
By that time, the armed forces would easily be sitting ducks for the MILF.


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