The appointment of newly retired General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. to the position of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process shows that Mrs. Arroyo is either controlled by the military or is completely insincere about the peace process (or both). General Esperon, as the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines until recently, was adamant about crushing the communist and Moro insurgencies as well as terrorism. Today, we are asked to believe that the general has had a change of heart with the change in his position.

General Esperon’s military record shows him leading the 602nd Infantry Brigade during the all out campaign implemented by then President Joseph Estrada against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He led his troops in many victorious but bloody skirmishes in dismantling of the MILF camp in Rajamuddah at the Liguasan marsh complex in 1999. He also led troops in Basilan against the feared Abu Sayyaf Group. Are we to believe that this man whose career was built on a foundation of war would suddenly trade in his sword for a plowshare?

The Malaysians have withdrawn from the International Monitoring Team (IMT). The IMT is withdrawing from several satellite offices in Central Mindanao. With a much diminished presence of peace monitors, who will be the buffer between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front when the Peace Adviser himself is a firm believer in the effectiveness of military solutions over peace processes? What of the Communist insurgents whom he and Mrs. Arroyo have vowed to eliminate? Symbolic gestures are critical to the success of peace processes, especially when they are stalled. What message is this government trying to send with the appointment of Esperon?

Machiavelli once advised rulers that even when they do something evil, they should at least appear to be good. Mrs. Arroyo obviously doesn’t care at all. We might as well end the charade of a peace process now.

Amina Rasul
Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy
Dateline: May 19, Marawi City