The bloodshed in Basilan that claimed the lives of 19 government troops and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should not get in the way of the ongoing peace negotiations, Senator Chiz Escudero said.

Escudero, however, said that while he shared the determination of the government peace negotiators to pursue talks with the MILF, the peace panel should not gloss over the incident.

“I don’t agree with the nonchalant manner our own negotiators dismissed the incident as simply ‘isolated.’ Nineteen of our soldiers were killed. That’s 19 widows and countless children who will grow up without their fathers who were out there to serve the country and our people,” Escudero said.

Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government peace panel, said in a statement that, “We are certain that this is an isolated incident. This armed confrontation was not intended by both government and MILF.”

Government representatives to the peace negotiations are preparing to meet their MILF counterpart next month.

At the very least, Escudero said, government negotiators should come out strongly against these killings.

“It is imperative for our negotiators to pursue efforts to finally find peace in Mindanao. But they should also give equal importance to the lost lives of our soldiers who were vital instruments in protecting our people from rogue elements,” he pointed out.

As this developed, Escudero is calling for a review of the Armed Forces of the Philippines protocols, tactics and standard operating procedures because “as of late, they are suffering from too many casualties.”

He added that if government troops are protecting the citizens and the community, there must be systems, institutions and people who should protect them in return.

“I commend our soldiers for their gallantry and bravery and for fighting for our freedom. I want to know if our soldiers were killed in a legitimate encounter or were they again butchered like pigs like what happened with our five marines,” Escudero said.