Gov’t, solons urge MILF: Discipline your men | Inquirer News
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Gov’t, solons urge MILF: Discipline your men

/ 01:53 AM August 16, 2011

A top military adviser to the government peace panel on Monday urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to discipline its forces, warning that continued fighting among the rebels might undermine the upcoming peace talks.

In Congress, some lawmakers called on President Benigno Aquino III to suspend negotiations with the MILF until it had shown it could control its men and proved that it was speaking for all of the insurgent groups.

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Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, a senior military adviser to the government peace panel, voiced concern about the possible impact of the clashes between two MILF factions on the talks themselves.

“We still have to find out but it will be adverse… This is the third rido (clan war) already for the year,” Aguilar told reporters.

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“For people following the negotiations, how can they trust the ongoing peace talks (in terms of) the quality that will be delivered by the MILF commanders, their discipline, how they can control their own people. That’s a problem,” Aguilar said, speaking in English and Filipino.

23 dead

At least 23 combatants have been killed in the clashes—provoked by a quarrel over land—in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, between the MILF’s 106th Base Command and the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Ameril Umbra Kato.

Aguilar said that given the present hostilities, the government panel would invoke a previous agreement with the MILF under which both sides agreed to discipline their respective ranks.

“Many lives have been disrupted because of rido between one family and another. Unfortunately they use arms to settle their differences,” Aguilar said.

He said government troops were not taking sides in the dispute and were limiting their role to securing about 3,000 displaced villagers now staying in makeshift evacuation centers.

MILF problem

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Aguilar said the MILF Central Command’s order to the 106th Base Command to cease “aggressive” operations and take on a defensive posture appeared to be holding.

They were, however, waiting if the BIFF forces would continue shooting, he said.

Replying to a question, Aguilar said the fighting gave the impression that the MILF could not control its forces. “That’s why the negotiating panel wants that they solve their problems within their turf,” he said.

Asked if Kato’s forces could undermine the talks since they were reportedly insisting on their original demand for secession, Aguilar said: “We believe that Kato is the problem of the MILF, not ours.”

Good faith

Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo said the MILF should first show good faith by ordering its forces to stop fighting.

He said the government should not resume the negotiations unless MILF chair Murad Ebrahim could show he had full control of the entire MILF, especially its rogue elements.

Gunigundo said the talks might prove futile, especially if a splinter group would sabotage the negotiations.

Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said that Ebrahim should also prove that he represented the interest of the entire rebel community and not just a faction of it.

Barzaga said that Mr. Aquino ran the risk of making commitments to just a faction of the MILF while being confronted with other demands from other factions.

“How many factions does he (Murad) represent? How about those who do not see him as their representative?” Barzaga asked.

Complex problems

Barzaga said that before the President proceeded with the talks, the MILF should show it deserved the trust and confidence of the government.

The chief government negotiator, Marvic Leonen, took exception to a statement made by an MILF senior panel member, Michael Mastura, who had asked whether Mr. Aquino was willing to sacrifice his popularity in exchange for an end to the decades-old conflict.

In a statement, Leonen said the problems in conflict areas in Mindanao were “myriad and complex” and that it was “always wise not to lose sight of how all of these causes work together to cause underdevelopment.”

“To reduce the choices in the negotiations to simplistic dichotomies like ‘popularity or peace’ is dangerous because it fixates on a debate that does not exist. There is more to the problem than this false dichotomy,” Leonen said.

Radyo Inquirer

“We are done with posturing and grandstanding,” Leonen said, urging the MILF “to buckle down with us to clearly see the problem on the ground, the viable solutions that we can stage within the remaining years of the current administration with a view to meeting all the interests of all peoples in Mindanao.”

“We are in serious negotiations. But it is the open mind, more than a feisty one, that can find peace,” he added.

Interviewed on Radyo Inquirer, Leonen also expressed dismay at Ebrahim’s statement.

“I am disappointed that a senior MILF member would go down to that level. I only wish that they were more circumspect,” he said.

“If you say it’s a choice between popularity and peace, it’s like saying neither popularity nor peace at the same time. But the problem in Mindanao is more complex than that,” Leonen said.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Palace was standing by its position that the two sides should “negotiate with ourselves and not through the media.” With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Christine O. Avendaño and Fe Zamora

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), BIFF chair Ameril Umbra Kato, chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen, government peace panel, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), President Benigno Aquino III, rido (clan war)
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