PHILIPPINES: Army must withdraw from Mindanao
The following statement was issued in Manila on May 4 by the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (SPP — Socialist Party of Labour).
The SPP, a mass-based socialist party, demands that the Estrada administration immediately pull out all AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] forces currently stationed in Mindanao and immediately resume negotiations with the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] in an attempt to seek a political solution to the crisis.
The only solution to the Mindanao crisis is for a process of genuine negotiations with the MILF. If the administration wants to stop the war and find a political solution, it has to pull out the AFP forces.
According to sources, some 80% of the AFP forces, i.e., around 200,000 troops, are currently stationed in Mindanao. We have also been informed that the AFP is using all of its war arsenal including arms left by the US during last January's joint exercises with the Philippine military.
The current escalation in the war with the MILF is a direct result of the government unilaterally violating the cease-fire after government troops staged a "clearing operation" in the Narciso Ramos highway — there are MILF checkpoints here and this is considered to be a part of [the MILF] Camp Abubakar's defence perimeter.
The government's war offensive, which more recently began in February, has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless — mainly women and children — refugees in their own country.
It is clear that the Estrada administration is also using the terror tactics of the Abu Sayyaf as a cover to go after the MILF. While we do not in any way support the terror tactics used by the Abu Sayyaf or the [religious] fundamentalist nature of its politics, nevertheless, it is the government actions that are giving the Abu Sayyaf national and international publicity and even fanning support for it within Mindanao. The only way to isolate groups such as the Abu Sayyaf is for the government to:
- Stop its war against the MILF and the people of Mindanao.
- To pull out its troops and to embark on a genuine process of negotiations leading to granting genuine self-determination for the Bangsa Moro peoples.
- Let the people of Mindanao and their own representative organisations such as the MILF decide on how to deal with organisations such as Abu Sayyaf.
We in the progressive movement are also aware that the heavy-handed tactics used by the government can extend to the rest of the country and will be used against the progressive movement. Under the guise of "quelling insurgency" the democratic rights of the progressive and people's movements will be, and are being, systematically violated. There is already talk of declaring a state of emergency in Mindanao. This can easily be extended to other parts of the country to quell the people's legitimate struggle.
The Estrada administration and the ruling elite of this country are aware that the current economic, social and political crisis in the country can lead to massive unrest amongst the people. A war in the south will be used to increase the "emergency" powers of the government and the state apparatus in preparation against the rising mass struggles of the people.
We call on the progressive movement in the rest of the country to take a clear stance and to mobilise their forces demanding: Stop the war — Stop all military operations! Pull out AFP troops from Mindanao!