CBCP President on ongoing Mamasapano investigation


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

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

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.