It is with profound shock and sorrow that we view the events as yet unfolding in the surrounds of Mamasapano in Maguindanao. Our hearts bleed at the carnage wrought and the needless loss of Filipino lives brought on by a series of decisions, events, judgment calls and developments that may never be fully and publicly unraveled. We extend our deepest condolences to those who’ve lost loved ones, and bear with those now undeservedly suffering in its aftermath. We can even understand the grief, rancor and rage now simmering as a visceral response by many to these events. We are aware and empathize with these feelings and emotions to a degree. Yet despite this and to all we still say, stay the course of peace, for it remains our best recourse.

As civil society and citizens, we are challenged to seek clarity and resolution for the lives lost and the promise diminished in the wake of this violence. It underscores the ease with which some events can still quickly escalate into confrontation and bloodshed, despite mechanisms emplaced to counter them. We can only begin to surmise how this singular event redounds on the ongoing peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). We have long valued the sizable investments made through the years by both parties and their supporters in building mutual confidence and trust, coupled with mutually agreed-upon processes and mechanisms. Through those years, these systems have borne up well, granted they are allowed to fully function. Thus we remain steadfast in our call for respecting and trusting the mechanisms and processes in place, and staying the course of peace.

This most regrettable clash also shows us that much remains to be done on our path to genuine peace. Our common cause remains challenged in the countryside, in the halls of Congress and more so in the minds and hearts of many Filipinos. But this is the reality we must address if we seek a permanent solution to the so-called Moro question. The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), while imperfect and in need of enhancement, is the best answer we have before us. It is a collective work in progress anchored on 40 years of conflict, negotiations and lessons learned at very high cost to many of us. It exemplifies our best expression of engagement, involvement, investment and discourse on the Bangsamoro. The Mamapasano incident shows us that we cannot yet rest and entrust the peace process to a roadmap without continuing to be engaged, involved and aware of the travails and possibilities that dot and crisscross our course to peace.

In these very trying times, we maintain our call for utmost sobriety.

We salute the immediate response of the joint ceasefire and coordinating mechanisms of the government and the MILF to this incident. While there are still bodies to retrieve and some scattered fighting are continuing, there is an actual palpable disengagement and quiet– albeit tense– obtaining. We pray and ask all parties to sustain this.
Let us address the emergent issues of Mamapasano accurately and through proper channels. Let us continue to engage in discourse and discernment. Let us continue working together for a more all-encompassing solution to the issues at hand.

Let us continue to engage on the BBL and the Bangsamoro question. Let us not be detoured by those who will pounce on this tragedy to derail, if not scuttle the peace process.

Let us not be defined nor divided by the conflicts between us, but rather by our constancy to our course for peace.