The President has ordered the Armed Forces (AFP) to cease all operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) paving the way for the resumption of peace talks. The MILF has responded by stopping all operations against the AFP, thank you very much.  It is not clear whether a Malaysian team will again act as facilitator, whatever that term means.

When will we ever learn?  How many times have the AFP held peace talks with the MILF?  If I recall rightly, there were talks during the Estrada presidency. After six months, Defense Secretary Orly Mercado called the whole thing off.  He said, “There was a lot of talk, but no peace.”

Also, peace talks will give the MILF time to recruit and rearm.  When the talks break down, as it surely will, the AFP will be faced with a stronger enemy, and our gallant troops will suffer more casualties.

Others have offered another solution to the MILF rebellion: pour in development projects into the area. But how can you develop an area when there is a war going on.  Besides, the congressmen in the districts where MILF operates have their pork barrel funds.  How have they been spent?  Obviously, not as efficiently as those of the congressmen in the rest of the county.

A century ago, Winston Churchill laid down the strategy on how to deal with an armed enemy.  Newly elected to the Parliament at the tender age of 26, he delivered his first speech.  His subject: the Boer War in South Africa.  He wanted “to make it easy and honorable for the Boers to surrender, and painful and perilous for them to continue in the field.”

These themes would recur in succeeding decades: no appeasement of the armed enemy; no revenge on the beaten enemy, no military encroachments on civilian authority; look ahead to what you want and remember that every action has consequences which affect the goal.

A century later, Tony Blair, newly elected Prime Minister, told the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which had been waging a forty-year war in Northern Ireland, “Lay down your arms, and we will talk peace.  Otherwise, you will be left behind, because the bus is leaving.”

The IRA did lay down their arms.  Two years of intensive negotiations ended in the First Friday Agreement.  At long last, peace and prosperity came to Northern Ireland.

And so, the first step to peace in Cotabato is for the MILF to lay down their arms.  If they refuse, the AFP should continue chasing them wherever they can be found.

By the way, is it not a worldwide policy among democratic nations never to negotiate with terrorist groups?

A more ludicrous round of peace talks has been slated in Oslo.  A government team will sit down with communist Luis Jalandoni, an ordained priest who has broken his vow of chastity and taken a wife.

I can see it now.  Jalandoni will start by making his demands for retribution.  The government team should call his bluff.  In return for the granting of his demands, what does Jalandoni have to offer?  He cannot order the New People’s Army (or what is left of it) to come down from the hills and lay down their arms.  They won’t listen to him.  Why should anybody else?

The best way to handle Jalandoni is to completely ignore him.  If he wants to, let him come to Manila without government escort.  He won’t last a week.  And he knows it.

Once and for all, Malacanang should lay down the policy: no peace talks with armed groups.  The first step to peace is for the MILF and the other rebel groups to lay down their arms.

The rebels should realize that no guerrilla force has ever won until it could have the arms to beat government forces in conventional warfare.  Only when Russia supplied Mao Tse Tung’s guerrillas with armor and artillery did it finally drive Chiang Kai Shek out of China and into Taiwan.  Only when China later supplied the Viet Cong guerrillas with armor and artillery did Ho Chi Minh ride victoriously into the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Will the rebels here ever have the capability to rout the AFP in conventional warfare and drive their tanks into the Malacanang grounds?  Even such pigheaded communists like Jose Mari Sison and Luis Jalandoni must realize that theirs is pipe dream.

But there will be no revenge on the beaten enemy.  Then peace will finally prevail in our beloved archipelago.


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