MANILA - A former peace negotiator believes the different armed groups in Mindanao set aside their differences when one becomes engaged in a battle.
In an interview with ABS-CBN’s "The Bottomline," former peace panel chair and retired General Rodolfo Garcia said that while the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) organizationally don’t see eye to eye, "people there know each other."
"You may be BIFF or MILF, but you are somehow related,” he said. “So if one engages in battle, the others, including the private armed groups, come out. They know they have relatives in other groups. In effect, there is pintakasi.”
Pintakasi is a local jargon that means that the enemy of one becomes the enemy of everyone else.
Investigators are looking into whether or not pintakasi contributed to the bloody end of the Mamasapano operations since different parts of the area, as admitted by the police’s board of inquiry, are home to different armed groups, such as the MILF and the BIFF.
For International Alert country director Pancho Lara, of all the protagonists in the story, it is the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force "that is the foreigner."
He said his group has even discovered that there is a Catholic chapel near Tukanalipao, a village in Mamasapano, that is clean and obviously being taken care of. “This means that the MILF, BIFF, and the groups of Marwan are not the only ones living in the area. This is one big community,” he said.
Garcia believes that the one fatal flaw was SAF’s decision not to coordinate with the military. “When two forces have locked horns, it’s hard to extricate the two,” he said.
For her part, UP professor Clarita Carlos said it’s not a surprise that the armed groups have more common factors than differences.
“That’s the reason why we have to push for the Bangsamoro Basic Law because we’d like to give authority to the MILF to run after the dissident groups. We have to give them near to full powers, tell them that it is in their interest to have peace and order,” she said.