MANILA, Oct. 21, 2011—An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged government to run after militants who killed at least 19 soldiers in Basilan and bring justice to their deaths for the sake of their families, especially the children they have left behind.
Fr. Conegundo Garganta of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY) said
government should not compromise the pursuit of justice for the slain soldiers with the ongoing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
It was recalled that Malacañang ordered the investigation of the cause of the mass murder in Al-Barka town in Basilan but did not categorically assure families of the slain military men that perpetrators will be put to justice as doing so will affect the resumption of peace talks with the rebels.
“Giving justice to the soldiers’ deaths should not be set aside because there are lives lost. Are we not going to run after those who did this to them? Ganun na lang ba yun?” he said.
Garganta added that government owes it to the families of slain soldiers to find justice for their deaths and for losing their loved ones in line of their official duty as protectors of the state.
“What kind of peace do we really want if justice is not served? What kind of message will it give the children of these soldiers if those who are serving the country end up dead?” he added.
But while he is advocating for justice for the death of the military, Garganta also warned government against declaring an all out war against the rebels.
“War as a reaction to the incident will only result to feeding the vicious cycle of mistrust and arrogant use of (government’s) power,” he added.
A total of 19 soldiers were killed in a firefight Tuesday with a mixture of MILF and Abu Sayyaf rebels. Thirteen others uniformed men sustained injuries while nine soldiers escaped unscathed.
The MILF accused the military of breaking conditions of ceasefire agreement in view of the ongoing peace talks but military officials said it was the MILF who violated the truce by participating in the firefight between uniformed men and Abu Sayyaf members. (Kris Bayos/CBCPNews)