PHILIPPINES: Rejecting 'peace of the graveyard'

Issue 

The following is abridged from an account of the situation in Mindanao distributed on May 29 by the Revolutionary Workers Party of the Philippines.

The situation in Mindanao, and the Philippines as a whole, is becoming worse, politically and economically. There is a crisis of political leadership and there are signs that there is a growing rift among the ruling class.

The conflict in Mindanao between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is pushing the crisis to a peak. It is a make or break struggle for the presidency of Joseph Estrada.

Estrada's "all-out war" in Mindanao is designed to distract attention from Manila's failure to translate its pro-poor slogans into reality. Estrada's popularity has been diving.

The AFP is implementing "Black Rain", the last stage of "Phoenix", the army's military plan to defeat the MILF. Black Rain's objective is to capture the two main camps of the MILF, Camp Abubakr and Camp Bushra. To achieve this, the AFP is spending between US$500,000 and $700,000 daily. It cannot sustain this for long.

The Manila government has been bombing indiscriminately, victimising innocent people and creating hatred between Muslims and Christians. The government's hand has been seen in the formation of vigilante groups and paramilitaries in rural areas.

It should be remembered that the AFP and the government also had a hand in the creation of the Abu Sayyaf group. Estrada is using the kidnappings of foreign tourists carried out by this group to crush the MILF and the Mindanao people's struggle for national self-determination.

The AFP and the government have been very successful in projecting the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf terrorists as one and the same. This has resulted in isolating the MILF from the rest of the world and the Islamic countries.

There is growing demoralisation among government troops. There are reports of soldiers selling their weapons and deserting.

There is a widespread crackdown by the AFP and the Philippines National Police targetting MILF personalities and the revolutionary left. The MILF's supplies of military hardware have been dwindling. However, it has shifted from conventional warfare to guerilla tactics. This has been effective.

On May 30, the government and the MILF will continue peace talks. From what we gathered from our last talks with the MILF leadership, the MILF will not back down at the negotiating table.

We cannot agree to a "peace of the graveyard" arrangement. We do not have any other option but to rally and lead the masses for the struggle towards a democratic peace and socialism.