MANILA - Government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer on Wednesday expressed before the House of Representatives her disappointment over the negative impact of the January 25 Mamasapano incident on the peace process.
Addressing the lawmakers present in the third House hearing on the Mamasapano tragedy, Ferrer noted that many of them had actually expressed support for the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before the bloodbath in Mamasapano occurred.
Most of them also attended the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malacañang in October 2012 and March 2014, respectively, she said.
"Now suddenly with the Mamasapano incident, it is as if it was the peace process that caused all of these casualties or even the breakdown of this kind of unity between the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) as far as law enforcement operations are concerned," Ferrer said.
"What we are seeing here is that the peace process has been the victim of this unfortunate incident," she added.
"The peace process has been unjustly blamed for whatever happened in Mamasapano on January 25," she said, lamenting that they were not even made aware of and had no role in the anti-terror operation of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF).
"In the last two and a half months, we have suffered a lot. The whole country has suffered a lot. The peace process, especially, has suffered a lot."
Forty-four troopers of the SAF who were out on a mission to neutralize terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman were killed following an encounter with members of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and other private armed groups.
The encounter, which happened despite the ceasefire agreement between the MILF and the government, has raised doubts over the sincerity of the Muslim rebel group in the peace process.
It has also put in peril the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress. The BBL seeks to create a new Bangsamoro region to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Lack of coordination among the PNP, AFP, MILF, and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), as called for by the mechanisms under the ceasefire agreement, has been blamed as one of the factors that led to the bloodbath.
According to Ferrer, the unfortunate incident, which also saw 17 MILF fighters dead, could have not happened "if certain protocols were observed, and that kind of trust and cooperation were respected among the different actors responsible particularly for the law enforcement operation."
She cited the AFP's recent all-out offensive against the BIFF in Maguindanao, which, she said, had "very good results" due to "very good cooperation."
She said over 100 members of the BIFF were killed and 10 high-ranking officials of the Justice Islamic Movement (JIM), a splinter group of the BIFF, were arrested. On the other hand, the AFP suffered only 12 casualties.
"That is a very big difference from the kind of operation that we saw taking place in Mamasapano last January 25," she said.
Ferrer said it is not their mandate to identify who are the people responsible for the operation which ended in the bloodbath, but said she hopes they will be "man enough" to stand for their actions' consequences.
"If we are woman enough to stand up for this peace process, we hope the men who were responsible for this law enforcement operation will also be man enough to stand for the consequences of their decisions and the risks that they decided to take in order to conduct this operation," Ferrer said.