The Tripartite Commission of the Bishops-Ulama Conference, met on May 7 in Pasig City, Metro Manila, issuing a statement on the breakdown of peace negotiations in Mindanao. It is composed of religious leaders of the Catholic Church, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and Ulama of Mindanao, MISNA missionary agency reported.
"We are most saddened by the bloody confrontations in various parts of Mindanao, but most especially in Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, which caused many deaths among innocent civilians" and drove many "away from their homes," they said. However, "our two religions teach us to work actively for peace."
The members of the conference offered themselves as third party mediators in any negotiations aimed at solving the conflict in Mindanao. They also offered to monitor the implementation of any cease-fire agreements and other related matters.
"Respectful dialogue, however long and tedious, rather than armed means, is the human way to resolve this conflict," they stressed.
The statement was signed by Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, Bishop Antonio Ledesma of Ipil, Bishop Hilario Gomez, Bishop Felixberto Calang, Dr. Mahid Mutilan, Professor Elias Macarandas and Professor Shariff Julabbi.
Yesterday, the military published a report accusing the MILF of killing 192 people, 142 of them civilian casualties, in 400 assaults since the war began on February 11. The assaults included the two bombing incidents in Davao City, supposedly planned by the Communist New People's Army and implemented by the MILF, and the recent bombing of the evacuation center inside the Pikit parish compound.
However, Norberto Gonzales, presidential adviser on special concerns and negotiatons with the MILF, admitted in a radio interview yesterday that the "government knows that not all the chaos in Mindanao was the handiwork of the MILF. A deeper investigation has been launched to uncover this 'third' force muddling the situation in the troubled island."