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Government protests MILF role in deadly clash

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The government has filed a formal protest against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for its alleged involvement in the July 26 clashes in Basilan that left 10 soldiers dead, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday.

Gazmin said they filed a formal letter of protest with the committee overseeing the ceasefire between the government and the MILF but he did not expect the incident to adversely affect the peace talks with the rebels.

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“We sent a letter of protest because of the involvement of one MILF commander [in the clashes],” Gazmin said in a press conference yesterday.

He explained that even before the military launched its operation against Abu Sayyaf terrorists on July 26, it had already coordinated with Dan Laksaw Asnawi, the local MILF commander.

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Asnawi was involved in the infamous clash between government forces and the MILF in Al-Barka, Basilan, that left 19 soldiers dead in October last year.

MILF was informed

 

“What happened here is that even before the encounter, the MILF [forces] of Asnawi were already informed that this was a military operation against the Abu Sayyaf and they should not get in [the area of operation],” Gazmin said.

He said that Asnawi agreed and that his men “did not move.”

“But while it was being coordinated, there were already MILF [men] inside [the area of operation] so the MILF got involved,” Gazmin said.

“The problem here is that MILF and Abu Sayyaf members are oftentimes blood relatives. So among the enemy, there were three killed whose surnames were Asnawi,” he said.

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As this developed, the Philippine Army has replaced the head of the 104th Infantry Brigade which conducts military operations in the island province of Basilan.

Army spokesperson Major Harold Cabunoc said Colonel Carlito Galvez Jr., a veteran of Basilan and Sulu military operations, formally took over from Colonel Arthur Ang, 52, during turnover ceremonies Thursday morning.

The change of command was presided over by Major General Ricardo Rainier Cruz, head of the 1st Infantry Division. Lieutenant General Noel Coballes, head of the military’s West Mindanao Command, was the special guest.

“At the age of 49, Galvez, a member of PMA Sandiwa Class of 1985, is the youngest military officer to command a brigade. He was the chief of the Operations Division, OJ3 AFP, a sensitive post that he held for three years,” Cabunoc said.

He added that Galvez was also assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division as acting chief of staff in 2008.

“As a young officer, he distinguished himself in combat by leading the Scout Rangers in flushing out communist insurgents in southern Mindanao in the late 1980s,” Cabunoc said.

He served as battalion commander of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, First Scout Ranger Regiment, in 2000.

“As a result of his extraordinary feats in combat, he received four Gold Cross Medals and various Military Merit Medals both for combat and administrative functions,” Cabunoc said.

“The 1st Scout Ranger Battalion that he commanded in Sulu and Basilan was adjudged the Best Battalion for two consecutive years,” he said.

Cabunoc said Galvez was also one of the awardees of Metrobank and Rotary Club Makati Metro’s The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers in 2007.

He was likewise awarded the Distinguished Service Star, the third highest military award “for eminently meritorious and valuable service rendered in a position of major responsibility,” Canuboc added.

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TAGS: Basilan, Crime, Defense, DND, Insurgency, MILF, Mindanao, Violence, Voltaire Gazmin
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