De Lima calls for independent probe on Pikit massacre


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged an independent fact-finding committee to thoroughly investigate the recent joint raid by the police and military in Pikit, Cotabato that apparently violated the ceasefire protocols agreed upon by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, underscored the need to unravel the truth on what really transpired during the bloody raid that left six people killed considering the contradicting accounts of the police and the residents of the area.

“Imagine, in the wee hours, while the targets and eventual casualties of a bloody show of force were in peaceful slumber, government forces attacked like thieves in the night. The circumstances surrounding the raid should, at the very least, raise suspicion. No color of authority – even warrants supposedly legally issue – should be conveniently used as a license to perpetrate what is being characterized by residents/witnesses as a massacre,” she said.

Ang mga pahayag na ito ay dapat linawin kasunod ng isang masinsinan at walang kinikilingan na pagsisiyasat ng isang independiyenteng komite o task force sa paghahanap ng katotohanan.

Kung isasaalang-alang kung ano ang maaaring nakataya dito, dapat na muling isaalang-alang ng gobyerno ang posisyon nito at makinig sa mga testimonya ng mga saksi ng masalimuot na pangyayaring ito,” she added.

Last Dec. 29, 2021, a joint police and military raid involving 400 alleged stolen motorcycles reportedly took place in Gokotan village in Pikit, Cotabato, killing six individuals and wounding three policemen and a civilian.

The chairman of the Moro Consensus Group, an NGO monitoring the human rights of Muslims in the area, alleged the incident was not a legitimate counter-militancy operation but a “rubout.”

Residents dispelled police report describing the fatalities as motorcycle “thieves,” adding that people in the area, being an MILF community, did not harbor members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), as police earlier claimed.

At the minimum, De Lima said the raid might have been a breach of the ceasefire protocols under the Agreement which requires government forces to inform and coordinate with the MILF before any military operation is conducted.

“They seem to have completely disregarded the AHJAG’s [MILF Ad hoc Joint Action Group] mandate which is to ensure that law enforcement operations are effectively conducted without jeopardizing the ceasefire between the government and the MILF,” she said.

“Government forces simply cannot barge in and do whatever they want when an Agreement is in place specifically to prevent them from doing that in the first place. Due process has to account for something,” she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol reminded government that it cannot keep calling for peace and then just shoot thoughtlessly away in blatant disregard of protocols in place. 

“This fragile peace can ill-afford any incident that could threaten to undermine the decades of work it took to achieve it. Attaining peace is only half the struggle; keeping it is another battle altogether,” she said.

“I can only hope that the Duterte administration knows the stakes that they are playing with before they shut the door on yet another self-proclaimed case of ‘nanlaban’. Remember, it won’t be long before this alibi will soon lose currency and go down with Duterte,” she added.

It may be recalled that in March 2014, the Philippine government under the Aquino administration, and the MILF, signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, concluding 17 years of peace negotiations between the two parties and seeking to end the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao.

De Lima pointed out that true and lasting peace can never be achieved by treacherously and violently breaching pacts entered into for the very purpose of harmony and amity.

“At the very least, this Government owes it to everyone involved – the targets, the government forces, the residents and bystanders, the MILF and, in fact, the entire nation – to let the truth of the encounter come out.  That is the only way that our hopes for true and durable peace can still be saved,” she said. (30)

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