The government should suspend the ceasefire agreement enforced in certain areas in Mindanao, specifically Basilan, following the series of attacks against government troops by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) early this week, Senator Chiz Escudero said.

While agreeing that peace negotiations should continue, Escudero said the Basilan offensive should be taken up as a distinct and separate issue considering the cunning way the MILF has waylaid the Army’s Special Forces last Tuesday that killed 19 soldiers.

“Yes, talks should continue, but I was hoping that it is conditioned upon the surrender of those responsible for the Basilan massacre and ceasefire is lifted in that area to give our troops a level playing field in hunting down those responsible for the bloodbath,” Escudero explained.

The senator, who earlier expressed indignation over how government troops were slaughtered by the MILF in an encounter, also expressed displeasure over how our peace negotiators are handling the situation.

“The approach of the OPPAP to the entire peace process is erroneous and misguided. Our soldiers are literally made like sitting ducks in a carnival waiting to be plucked and aimed at by those rogue criminals one by one,” Escudero said.

Escudero challenged Presidential Peace Adviser Ging Deles and government chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen to take a stronger position on the Basilan incident and the subsequent Zamboanga attacks with their counterparts.

“They cannot continue with a business as usual stance once they meet with their counterparts next month and desperately pretend there is nothing wrong along the way,” added Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

He said the peace panel should reevaluate the situation and the direction surrounding the peace talks before taking any concrete steps.

“They should ask their counterparts why things are not going right, those offensives were trickeries, the rebels know they can swoop down on our troops and then cowardly hide behind the cloak of peace process while we watch helplessly how our soldiers’ lives are bartered away only because their hands are tied by the peace negotiations,” Escudero said.