We at PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the 44 men of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, and also to the families of the 16 members of the Moro community, who lost their lives in Mamasapano, Maguindano during a tragic clash in the pre-dawn hours of 25 January 2015. As rumors swirl and conflicting narratives of the tragic events proliferate, we await the respective findings of the investigative commissions of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). We would also like to see a report from an independent investigative body.
We urge all our community members and volunteers to practice patience and sobriety even while so many voices are crying for war and vengeance. Even now, the GPH and the MILF are pursuing a promising new blueprint for peace in the southern Philippines. Let us not allow this late catastrophe to beget an exponentially greater calamity by dragging us back into the chaos of war.
We affirm the wise counsel of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who, in the aftermath of the carnage in Mamasapano, urged her countrymen to “contribute to our nation’s search for just and lasting peace by encouraging all parties to bring any conflict to the table of peace instead of the battlefields of war. Let us not add to the darkness, but to the light. It is the only way that we ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen policemen would not be in vain.”
We also commend the words of the MILF’s official statement on the tragedy. “In order to give meaning to their deaths, we must resolve not to let something like this happen again… We hereby reiterate the MILF’s full commitment to the peace process with the Philippine Government.”
Let us not forget our earnest prayers for peace in Mindanao – prayers which, in the last months, have seemed so near to being answered. We have come too far in the peace process to allow ourselves to be diverted now, while peace and healing for our war-weary homeland is still within reach. Let us turn a deaf ear to the drumbeats of war, and pay heed instead to the words of James, the brother of our Lord: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Even as we are tempted to react in anger at the senseless destruction of lives in Mamasapano, we ask the Lord to grant us a patience and a peace which are beyond human capability or understanding. Only thus can we participate in God’s plan for peace in our nation.
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) is the faith community network with whom PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. is affiliated. Here is our statement on the current Mamasapano crisis:
PCEC STATEMENT ON THE PNP-SAF OPERATIONS IN MAGUINDANAO
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and the 16 members of the Moro communities who lost their lives in Mamasapano, Maguindano during a tragic clash in the morning of January 25, 2015. From our biblical perspective, all lives are created in the image of God and are inherently and equally valuable in the eyes of the One who created all human beings. Though we sincerely cry with those who lost their loved-ones, our words would not be enough to describe the deepest pain and suffering of their families and loved-ones.
We look at this traumatic event through the lenses of truth and mercy as well as of justice and peace (Psalm 85:10). With these biblical values, we hope to express a balanced perspective of this sad reality before us.
:: WE SEEK THE TRUTH. We appreciate the fact that both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have committed to conduct their respective investigating bodies to establish the facts. We expect transparency on the basic facts. What? Where? When? Who? Why? How? We also call on civil societies, the religious bodies, the business sector, and all other peace-loving organizations to help conduct a joint fact-finding mission independent from both the GPH and the MILF.
:: WE CALL FOR MERCY. Violence makes us angry. When we are violated, we naturally want to get even. We are tempted to see human society as ‘us’ versus ‘them’ in a perpetual adversarial relationship. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to transform adversarial relationships into reconciling relationships. This is done through loving God and loving our neighbors, even loving our enemies. This kind of love looks at the ‘other’ who violated us with mercy — the kind of love that withholds punishment despite the fact that such punishment is deserved. Mercy is not a suggestion to those who follow Jesus. Mercy is our calling in this violent world. Mercy is our mandate and mission as the Body of Christ.
:: WE DEMAND JUSTICE. We cry and shout justice for all who died in this armed encounter. Based on established facts and under the rule of law, those who are responsible for these violent deaths must be brought to justice. All those who are responsible — from the official who planned and sanctioned this operation, to the personnel on the ground who pulled the trigger, whether they are from the GPH side or the MILF side — must be brought to justice. May the God of justice prevail over the forces of injustice!
:: WE PURSUE PEACE. As a church council, we laud the determination of both the GPH and the MILF to continue the peace process in Mindanao. We call on the Senate and Congress to finish the process of public consultations until the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed. We must advance the rule of law. We must not be succumbed to the rule of guns and bullets. We affirm the wise counsel of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who urge us to “contribute to our nation’s search for just and lasting peace by encouraging all parties to bring any conflict to the table of peace instead of the battlefields of war. Let us not add to the darkness, but to the light. It is the only way that we ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen policemen would not be in vain.”
May God’s love embrace us so we can embrace others. May the peace of Christ rule our hearts and our country. May the comfort of the Holy Spirit energize us as we pursue peace in our land.
Signed: January 29, 2015
Bishop Noel A. Pantoja
National Director Designate, PCEC
Bishop Efraim M. Tendero
National Director, PCEC
Bishop Cesar V. Punzalan III
Chairman, PCEC Board