CBCP President on ongoing Mamasapano investigation

SEEKING TRUTH AND JUSTICE
PURSUING PEACE

CBCP Statement on the Ongoing Mamasapano Investigation

CBCP 2015 Archbishop Villegas NJ Viehland

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan at the end of the bishops’ plenary assembly Jan. 2015 at Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Congress has commenced its inquiry into that sad episode of our recent history — the slaughter of 44 gallant men of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police.  We note that the two chambers of the Legislature have opted to conduct separate investigations when a joint inquiry would have allowed for a more expeditious investigation and would have obviated the possibility of findings at loggerheads with each other.

Truth and Accountability

The President and his advisers must give a full and satisfactory accounting of their actions in respect to this tragic loss.  The targets of the SAF operations were characterized as “high value targets”.  If the police went after them, it can only be because they were ordered to do so.  Policemen do not order themselves, not even members of the Special Action Force.  Indeed, that is what corroborated statements now clearly establish: The decision was made on the highest levels to go after these “high value targets”.  The only thing that was awaited was “the window of opportunity”, a judgment that is made by people on the ground.

Questions call for unequivocal and truthful answers.  Lives were needlessly lost because in many ways the operation was covert.  Why, for one, were the highest-ranking official of the Philippine National Police and his civilian superior, the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, left out of the loop of information, consultation and command?  It seems that a suspended police officer played more than a merely advisory role.  Why should he have been giving orders?  And if he was in fact issuing orders and commands, should it not be clear that his authority to do so, precisely because he was laboring under a legitimate order of suspension, emanated from higher levels?

The concealment of truth or the foisting of deliberate falsehood even to shield one’s superiors from embarrassment or to spare them indictment is always a moral wrong, especially in the context of legal processes and under oath.  When one swears to tell the truth and invokes the help of God, one is morally obligated to speak the truth.  We therefore urge all witnesses and all those in possession of information material to the resolution of facts in issue to speak the truth at all times.

 Heroes Among Us

As we did almost immediately after being informed of the gallant deaths of our SAF men, the CBCP extols their courage, their heroism and their fidelity to the call to duty.  We understand the heartaches of the SAF men and women who rightly have reason to feel that our leaders failed them.  While it is true that every person who dons the uniform either as a police officer or as a soldier puts his life on the line in the performance of his sworn duties, it remains the solemn moral duty of the national leadership to protect them from needless harm and to uphold their interests as well.  The human person is never merely a means, no matter how glorious, noble or desirable the ends may be!

quevedo bday bishops mejia NJ Viehland

[from right] Bishops Leopoldo Tumulak of the Military Ordinariate, Mylo Vergara of Pasig and Father Marlon Mejia, CBCP Secretary General in Cotabato City, Philippines.- NJ Viehland Photos

The Peace Process

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines offers its assistance to the pursuit of lasting peace, a settlement of differences that will allow the people of Mindanao, Muslims and Christians alike including indigenous peoples to live in peace and as equals, citizens of one Republic, nationals of one country.  We hold it to be morally obligatory for the government and for the restive segments of Philippine society to search for the paths of peace.

It is of course true that peace cannot rest on deceit, the suppression of truth and subterfuge.  This is the reason that getting to the truth of the Mamasapano tragedy is of paramount importance.  In fact we should learn from Mamasapano for we paid a heavy price to learn its lessons.  We have painfully been shown the pitfalls and the traps, the gaps and the lacunae of deals we have thus far entered into.

The goal cannot be the cessation of hostilities at any cost, but a principled settlement of the dispute, and peace born out of truth, a commitment to social justice and adherence to the fundamental law of the land!

If anything at all, Mamasapano should instill in all, especially in our legislators, a sense of circumspection in respect to examining the first draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.  Let the document be assiduously studied, fully debated and exhaustively examined.

The Moral Requisites of a Just Settlement

There has to be SINCERITY on both sides — on the side of government forces and agents and on the side of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  Hostilities must cease while legal processes must be observed.  Officers pursuing fugitives from justice or identified terrorists can never be the legitimate objects of attack.  Similarly where a truce has been agreed on, it is incumbent on all parties to hold their fire.  The government must resolutely pursue its projects for the further development of Muslim Mindanao and for the speedy and lasting attainment of social justice so that our Muslim brothers and sisters may fully share in the resources of the country and in the strides it makes towards prosperity.

The MILF must surrender the culprits: those who cut down the SAF 44 in the prime of their youth and must not interfere with their prosecution and their trial. The video clip that went viral showing the merciless execution of SAF men who were wounded and helpless cannot and must not be shrugged off.

The CBCP stands with the widows and orphans of the fallen to demand Justice and the indictment of the culpable.  It must also explain satisfactorily why international terrorists were within the territory supposedly occupied by them.

Finally, the arms and ammunition captured from the SAF and from other lawful agents of the Republic of the Philippines must be returned.  Justice and peace demand restitution of what one has wrongfully taken.

Solidarity in Prayer

The CBCP remains one with the grieving families of our fallen SAF men, as well as with the families of all who lost loved ones in this armed encounter.  Whether Christian or Muslim, we believe in a God who does not allow those who remain faithful to him to be lost.  We turn now in this moment of grief to the One Father of us all for consolation, strength and hope.

Appeal for True Patriotism

This is not the time for political opportunism.  This is not the time for adventurism or grandstanding.

While resolute action is necessary on the part of all, precipitous action and recourse to extra-constitutional measures will only visit more harm and misery on our people.

 The CBCP cannot lend its support to any movement that may bring greater suffering for our people.  We would do well to join in the debate spiritedly, to be zealous in ferreting out the facts and to be unyielding in demanding accountability.  But it is also our moral duty to be law-abiding citizens, animated at all times by the Gospel that insists that we love even those who we may find difficult to love!

No Peace Without Humility

 The Kingdom of God is as much a gift as it is a project, for while only God can make his kingdom come among us, he calls us all not only to preach it but, by our deeds, to make its presence tangible and real for the world.  Peace is the mark of this kingdom, and so it is that for a Christian there is no other way but to work for peace.  But time and again we have been taught that clever calculation, crafty speech and pompously worded documents never bring lasting peace.  It is when we humble ourselves and pray, and allow the Spirit to lead us that shall find that path of peace.

 The CBCP therefore invokes God’s Spirit even as it pledges that bishops individually and collectively will make themselves and their resources available for the demands of arriving at a lasting solution to the problem of turning swords into ploughshares.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, February 16, 2015

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

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Will Pope Francis come to the Philippines for the Eucharistic Congress?

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. - NJ Viehland Photos

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. – NJ Viehland Photos

This is question #14 in Frequently Asked Questions {FAQ) on the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) scheduled to be held in Cebu on Jan. 24-30, 2016.

Traditionally, the Pope doesn’t attend International Eucharistic Congresses, and sends instead a Papal Legate to represent him in this gathering, the printed FAQ handed out at the June 10 press conference in Manila says.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI's video message announcing last year the 51st International Eucharistic Congress venue would be in Cebu was screened at the June 10 press con in Arzobispado de Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s video message announcing last year the 51st International Eucharistic Congress venue would be in Cebu was screened at the June 10 press con in Arzobispado de Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

IEC is a Church event where people from different parts of the world gather together to celebrate the Eucharist; to reflect the richness of the Eucharist and to pray before the Eucharist, organizers explained.

Eucharist is the Sacrament in which Jesus Christ gives himself – his body and blood – for us, so that we too might give ourselves to Him in love and be united with him in Holy Communion (YOUCAT, 208)

The first time delegates came to Asia for an IEC was for the 1937 congress held in Manila.

Philippines' most senior cardinal amused guests at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros, with stories of his first communion at 6 years old during the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress in Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Philippines’ most senior cardinal amused guests at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros, with stories of his first communion at 6 years old during the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress in Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 57, said he had no personal experience to share about the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress when his parents were only 7 years old. He shared instead his reflections on the theme of the 51st IEC, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 57, said he had no personal experience to share about the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress when his parents were only 7 years old. He shared instead his reflections on the theme of the 51st IEC, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – NJ Viehland Photos

"Eucharist is the unique prayer of Jesus, he is just taking us along. It is the 'ruruk' (summit) of our Christianity," retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales explained, teaching some a new Tagalog word. - NJ Viehland photos

“Eucharist is the unique prayer of Jesus, he is just taking us along. It is the ‘ruruk’ (summit) of our Christianity,” retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales explained, teaching some a new Tagalog word. – NJ Viehland photos

At the press con to formally present the IEC to media, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Congress chairman replied to a request for confirmation of Pope Francis’ attendance at the congress:

 “We have heard of reports he’s coming next year, we pray he will come to the Eucharistic Congress, but until we have definite word he is coming we are not sure.

  “Meantime we can pray because we believe the holy father loves us. The fact is he has sent many cardinals to come over to manifest his love for the people especially those affected by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)…

Meanwhile, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato said:

“If the holy father is coming to visit disaster areas, there are two kinds of disaster – natural and man-made. I hope…I wish that he will also visit the disaster area called Central Mindanao. But that will depend on the nuncio, the pope, Archbishop (Socrates) Villegas (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president), perhaps the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

After the press conference Cardinal Quevedo explained:

“I was simply wishing that perhaps for the Holy Father when he comes to the Philippines to visit Yolanda victims he can have a side trip if his time allows to go to Cotabato City and perhaps push the peace process there.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato summarizes CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas' letter as Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao and retired Cardinal Vidal listen to him answer a reporter's question on the pork barrel controversy. - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato summarizes CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ letter as Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao and retired Cardinal Vidal listen to him answer a reporter’s question on the pork barrel controversy. – NJ Viehland Photos

Dulce and her son sang the International Eucharistic Congress theme song at the June 10 press conference at Arzobispado - NJ Viehland Photos

Dulce and her son sang the International Eucharistic Congress theme song at the June 10 press conference at Arzobispado – NJ Viehland Photos

 

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Message on Peace Agreement from Archbishop Socrates Villegas

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

March 27, 2014

 Like all peace loving Filipinos, we rejoice with our countrymen as we mark a milestone in the peace process with the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine Government and the MILF. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We pray that this first courageous breakthrough will be followed by more steps leading to true and lasting peace in Mindanao.

I appeal to the Philippine government panel to continue the process of widespread consultation and an honest, open and trusting dialogue with other communities in Mindanao especially those who feel marginalized and ignored like the MNLF. It is so important for peace to be sustainable that it be inclusive and all embracing. The strength of the (signed) agreement lies in its willingness to reach out to everyone including those who are antagonistic to it. A continuing dialogue will strengthen our peace even more.

It is very urgent that economic activity in Mindanao be enhanced immediately. There can be no peace without human development. Development and the promotion of human progress is another name for peace. The promotion of total human development is long delayed. It cannot wait further. The people of Mindanao have been suffering for decades.

May we all be ready to become channels of peace! Peacemakers are children of God.

Socrates B Villegas
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

President Benigno Aquino, Vice President Mar Roxas, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadato and Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao were among government officials who attended the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City for Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato's 75th birthday and induction into the College of Cardinals. NJ Viehland Photo

President Benigno Aquino, Vice President Mar Roxas, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadato and Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao were among government officials who attended the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City for Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato’s 75th birthday and induction into the College of Cardinals. NJ Viehland Photo

Celebrating with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on his 75th birthday were foreign guests and former officials of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Bainon Karon (right) former chair of the Women’s Committee of the MNLF Kutawato State Revolutionary Movement, and later Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Taken under red program lighting at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City, March 11, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Celebrating with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on his 75th birthday were foreign guests and former officials of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Bainon Karon (right) former chair of the Women’s Committee of the MNLF Kutawato State Revolutionary Movement, and later Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Taken under red program lighting at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City, March 11, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Religious of the Virgin Mary nuns from around Mindanao, southern Philippines, celebrate with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato his 75th birthday on March 11,2 014 at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City . NJ Viehland Photo

Religious of the Virgin Mary nuns from around Mindanao, southern Philippines, celebrate with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato his 75th birthday on March 11,2 014 at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City . NJ Viehland Photo

Statement of Miriam Ferrer on Bangsamoro Agreement signing

Professor Miriam Ferrer, Chair, Government of the Philippines panel negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, briefed media at today's Forum organized by the Catholic Media Network in Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Professor Miriam Ferrer, Chair, Government of the Philippines panel negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, briefed media at today’s Forum organized by the Catholic Media Network in Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Press Briefing, Malacañang
Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, CHAIR, GPH Panel
25 March 2014

On March 27 we will, we shall, sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

There is no turning back. Only moving decisively forward. The peace train is on track. Its design is complete. Most of its elements are in place.

Although it had a slow start, it eventually picked up speed.

In the last 18 months from the historic signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on October 15, 2012, we have produced:
–       The four Annexes – on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, Revenue Generation and Wealthsharing, Powersharing, and Normalization
–       one Addendum – the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters and the Zones of Joint Cooperation
–       five Terms of Reference for our five mechanisms – the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP), the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB),  the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), and the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC)

and renewed our TORs for the IMT and AHJAG.

And now the CAB, a  short 5-page, 12 point text that will formalize the completion of the negotiations.

The CAB puts together all signed agreements: the  FAB, the four Annexes and Addendum, also the very first, very important document, the Ceasefire Agreement of 1997; the  Agreement on Peace signed in 2001 in Tripoli which laid down the agenda for the talks; the Declaration of Continuity of Negotiations in June 2010 which picked up the pieces from the failed MOA-AD of 2008, etc…

The CAB text to be signed:

(1) Reiterates the principles of the negotiation, namely:
–       recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people, their aspiration for meaningful autonomy through a democratic process
–       the aim of finding a solution to the Bangsamoro Question with honor, justice and dignity
–       the aim to end the fighting between the government and the MILF and promote peace and stability
–       the recognition of the responsibilities of the Parties to protect and enhance the rights of the Bangsamoro people and all other inhabitants, correct historical injustice, and equitably diffuse wealth and political power.

(2) Reiterates the commitment to all signed documents

(3) Thanks all those who played important roles in the process

(4) Provides the principles of implementation: Mutual respect for the right to one’s identity; continuing dialogues and consultations, leading to the establishment of a Bangsamoro government that will protect individual and collective rights, and be truly democratic, accountable and representative of the diversity of its populace; and for the parties to abide by the modalities and mechanisms provide d. Most important, to ensure the integrity of the whole process.

The whole negotiating panels of the GPH and the MILF will sign the document. On the GPH end, the signatories would be: myself; panel members Senen Bacani, Yasmin Busran-Lao, Mehol Sadain; panel consultants Zenonida Brosas and Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon.

 

Undersecretary Yasmin Lao, Presidential Assistant for Muslim Concerns, will be among signatories of the Comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro on Thursday as member of the Government of the Philippines panel of negotiators with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. She briefed the media at today's Forum in Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila organized by the Catholic Media Network. NJ Viehland Photo

Undersecretary Yasmin Lao, Presidential Assistant for Muslim Concerns, will be among signatories of the Comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro on Thursday as member of the Government of the Philippines panel of negotiators with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. She briefed the media at today’s Forum in Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila organized by the Catholic Media Network. NJ Viehland Photo

On the MILF end, the signatories would be: Mohager Iqbal, Datu Michael Mastura, Maulana “Bobby” Alonto, Abhoud Syed Lingga, Abdulla Camlian and Datu Antonio Kinoc.

The Malaysian Facilitator, Tengku Dato’ Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed will also sign as witness.

The signing will be done in the presence of Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the Dato Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Hj Abdul Razak.

It will be done in the presence of more than 1,000 people before the Palace grounds.

The sealing of the comprehensive agreement is important not only for the Bangsamoro, the people of Mindanao and all other Filipino citizens who have all to gain as one country pursuing its unfinished task of nation-building.

It is also our global contribution to the pursuit of peace in our immediate neighborhood, the Southeast Asian region, and the rest of the world.  The last momentous agreement of this kind was that sealed in Aceh, Indonesia between the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement in 2005.

Many other countries continue to face similar troubles. Our experience, our mechanisms, our approaches have become a rich source of inspiration to these countries that remain challenged by their respective domestic conflicts.

Moreover, our document would be unique in that it would be the first such agreement to be signed by a woman, not only as one of two chief signatories to a comprehensive agreement, but also because a total of three women – one half of the 6-person negotiating team of the GPH, and about one-fourth of the total number of signatories – would be signing it.  Happy women’s month to everyone!

The point, however, is not simply that you have women in Track 1, but that this agreement is a partnership in many ways: a partnership between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government, between and among peoples of different faiths and ethnicity, and between men and women.

And together, we can make it all happen. Together, we can make peace, not war.

That said, the historic signing is but a short station stop in this difficult but rewarding journey to build peace, attain development and exercise meaningful autonomy for the Bangsamoro and the other people in the parts of Mindanao that will fall under the autonomous government.

We cannot rest, we shall be moving on, full speed ahead, towards full implementation.

Thank you.

Wave of Destruction in the Season of Creation

By N.J. Viehland

(update 1 Sept. 23, 10:35 p.m.)

Photos and reports showing ravaged communities and people left homeless in Zamboanga City  have saddened viewers and left some aghast.

Was it only nine days ago when I woke up to the voice of Jesuit Father Nono Alfonso as he shared over Church-run radio Veritas 846  stories reaching Ateneo de Zamboanga of armed men massing up, and of gunfire that could be heard in places served by the cathedral parish in Zamboanga City,  roughly 1,102 kilometers southeast of Manila ?

Reasons for the fighting vary, depending on who is telling the story. In fact Filipino Muslims, called “Moro” have been fighting for centuries for self-determination.

Military officials reported on Sept. 9 that MNLF lieutenant Habier Malik, known to be based in Sulu, south of Zamboanga City, led hundreds of armed men into the city to hoist their flag as a symbolic declaration of independence.

MNLF leader Nur Misuari weeks earlier was reported to have declared an independent Mindanao, Palawan and Sabah to demonstrate his opposition to ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which had split from the MNLF in the 1970s.

No MILF involvement in this Zamboanga crisis has been reported. Armed Forces of the Philippines officials in press conferences said when government troops prevented the MNLF faction from raising their flag at the city hall the rebels took hostages. Fighting was reportedly “contained” until Friday when the MNLF allegedly fired mortars on civilians and burned houses.

Mayor Beng Climaco of Zamboanga said she spoke on the phone with Misuari, who disowned Malik, but MNLF’s spokesperson told an interview with a tv station Climaco may have just misunderstood Misuari. He would not disown his lieutenant.

After the military launched its “calibrated attacks” Sept. 16 on “pockets of MNLF resistance” in the city, Zamboanga archdiocese’s social action director estimated the number of civilian evacuees grew beyond 100,000, including people who fled their homes to stay with family and friends, instead of evacuation centers

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan told a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, just northeast of Manila, MNLF fighters left fighting in Zamboanga City could be just down to 75 men after the killing of 93 MNLF, and the capture of  179 others since Sept. 9.  Tutaan said 11 soldiers, three policemen and seven civilians were also killed in the fighting. Some 105 military men, 12 police and 67 civilians were injured. A total of 152 hostages had been rescued but less than 100 others remained captive.

Military operations were focused on Santa Barbara and Santa Catalina district, while at least four others have been affected by the conflict, Tutaan told reporters.

There are stories portraying the military as the aggressive party and human rights violations by both sides have been reported.

A few hours ago, the government reportedly claimed victory over the MNLF.

Victory? Who wins in these battles? For these people, the fight against sickness, hunger, homelessness, despair has just started.

Catholic groups have taken up the challenge with Muslim and other partners and neighbors to rebuild what was ruined, restore life in plantations, industry in communities and hope in people’s hearts.

Even Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila more than a thousand kilometers away, shared a prayer for softening of hardened hearts of aggressors and for generosity of prospective donors. He joined the people of the Philippines only in prayer for Zamboanga while he was in Rome during most of the crisis to attend meetings.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila closes the press conference on the October 2013 Philippine Conference on New Evangelization with a prayer.  N.J. Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila closes the press conference on the October 2013 Philippine Conference on New Evangelization with a prayer. N.J. Viehland Photo

Imagine, barely two weeks ahead of the Zamboanga “siege,” Cardinal Tagle led the launch of Manila Archdiocese’s observance of “Season of Creation”  Sept. 1-Oct. 4 at San Fernando de Dilao Church and Paco Catholic School downtown Manila.  The “season” ending on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, hopes to remind people that all creation belongs to God, and that humans have been entrusted as stewards, not owners of all creation. Gifts of the earth have been created for all to share, Cardinal Tagle said.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in his homily for the launching Mass of the archdiocese's observance of "Season of Creation" Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013 reminded people at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila of their role as stewards of God’s creation, emphasizing that they are not owners who could rule over God's creation.  “We have to be reminded that we are mere stewards of creation. God created them and He is the rightful owner of everything,” he said. NJ Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in his homily for the launching Mass of the archdiocese’s observance of “Season of Creation” Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013 reminded people at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila of their role as stewards of God’s creation, emphasizing that they are not owners who could rule over God’s creation. “We have to be reminded that we are mere stewards of creation. God created them and He is the rightful owner of everything,” he said. NJ Viehland Photo

 Cardinal Tagle lamented the “arrogance, selfishness and greed” that deprive other people of basic needs and sentence them to a life of poverty. People need to stop abusing and neglecting nature, the environment and each other, Cardinal Tagle reminded people at the Mass.  He said all creatures are interrelated and interdependent.

Closing Mass at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila for the Aug. 31 launching seminar of Manila Archdiocese's observance of "Season of Creation" from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. NJ Viehland Photo

Closing Mass at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila for the Aug. 31 launching seminar of Manila Archdiocese’s observance of “Season of Creation” from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. NJ Viehland Photo

Fr. Georg Ziselberger, SVD, president of GeoChrisFoundation, concelebrated with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the Mass at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila on the Aug. 31 launch of Manila Archdiocese's observance of "Season of Creation" that runs from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013. At a forum before Mass, Fr. Georg shared his theological reflection on the theme: Caring for God’s Creation Is Our Moral and Spiritual Responsibility. Photo by N.J. Viehland

Fr. Georg Ziselberger, SVD, president of GeoChrisFoundation, concelebrated with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the Mass at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila on the Aug. 31 launch of Manila Archdiocese’s observance of “Season of Creation” that runs from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013. At a forum before Mass, Fr. Georg shared his theological reflection on the theme: Caring for God’s Creation Is Our Moral and Spiritual Responsibility. Photo by N.J. Viehland

He may not have had Bangsamoro issues in mind in that homily. Before fighting in Mindanao broke out citizen movements and anti-corruption advocates, including religious groups in Manila were fighting their own battle pressing for the abolition of alleged graft-laden pork barrel and Special Purpose Funds from the national budget. They have become like “weapons of destruction” of greedy officials against ordinary citizens they pledged to serve.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica's College museum.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica’s College museum.

Maybe gunfights will end in Zamboanga tonight,  tomorrow, next week. For sure, destruction of life, spirit and the future of this and coming generations will persist as long as people apply position and power to personal or political goals and neglect the common good.