MANILA — The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is willing to help in the pursuit of peace in the country particular in Mindanao.
“The CBCP offers its assistance to the pursuit of lasting peace, a settlement of differences that will allow the people of Mindanao, Muslims and Christians alike including indigenous peoples to live in peace and as equals, citizens of one Republic, nationals of one country,” said CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas in a statement posted in his Facebook account.
He added, “We hold it to be morally obligatory for the government and for the restive segments of Philippine society to search for the paths of peace.”
With this, the Lingayen-Dagupan prelate noted that the priority is to know the truth on the Mamasapano tragedy.
“In fact we should learn from Mamasapano for we paid a heavy price to learn its lessons. We have painfully been shown the pitfalls and the traps, the gaps and the lacunae of deals we have thus far entered into,” he said.
Villegas added, “The goal cannot be the cessation of hostilities at any cost, but a principled settlement of the dispute, and peace born out of truth, a commitment to social justice and adherence to the fundamental law of the land!”
The Catholic prelate said that what the people should learn about Mamasapano incident is to study carefully the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)
“What the January 25 incident should instill in all, especially in our Legislators, a sense of circumspection in respect to examining the first draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. Let the document be assiduously studied, fully debated and exhaustively examined,” he said.
Meanwhile, Villegas also noted there has to be sincerity on both sides — on the side of government forces and agents and on the side of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Hostilities must cease while legal processes must be observed. Officers pursuing fugitives from justice or identified terrorists can never be the legitimate objects of attack. Similarly where a truce has been agreed on, it is incumbent on all parties to hold their fire,” he said.
The Catholic bishop said the government must implement its projects for the further development of Muslim Mindanao and for the speedy and lasting attainment of social justice so that our Muslim brothers and sisters may fully share in the resources of the country and in the strides it makes towards prosperity.
For the MILF, he said they must surrender the culprits: those who cut down the SAF 44 in the prime of their youth and must not interfere with their prosecution and their trial, noting that the video clip that went viral showing the merciless execution of SAF men who were wounded and helpless cannot and must not be shrugged off.
“The CBCP stands with the widows and orphans of the fallen to demand Justice and the indictment of the culpable. It must also explain satisfactorily why international terrorists were within the territory supposedly occupied by them,” he said.
Villegas said that the arms and ammunition captured from the SAF and from other lawful agents of the Republic of the Philippines must be returned.