Sunday, November 18, 2018
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Estrada stands by all-out war strategy vs MILF

MANILA, Philippines – “Kung hindi makuha sa santong dasalan, eh di daanin sa santong paspasan” (rough translation: If you cannot get it through a saintly prayer, then get it by whatever means that is fast and effective.)

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada resorted to this Filipino adage as he told reporters what he would have done to control the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, amid the latest skirmish between police commandos and the rebel group’s men in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, leading to the death of at least 44 policemen on Sunday.

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Estrada lamented the latest bloodbath in Maguindanao, which started on Saturday night when nearly 400 members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force mounted a large operation to nab Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) commander Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” a bomb expert linked to the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

The operation was done allegedly without the knowledge of the PNP’s top brass, as well as MILF leaders and peace monitors.

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“It’s saddening and very unfortunate that this thing happened, claiming the lives of our policemen,” he told reporters at a chance interview at the Manila City Hall on Wednesday.

Estrada, who launched an all-out war against the MILF in 2000 while he was still the president of the Philippines, once again raised the idea of fighting with the MILF rebels head-on, as he believed it would be the only solution to achieve lasting peace.

“For me, to achieve real peace in Mindanao and to avoid further bloodshed and incidents like this, we must end this immediately so that no more lives will be sacrificed,” he said.

He recalled issuing the directive for the military to “go all out” against the MILF on March 21, 2000, after the rebels invaded the town of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, taking hundreds of people hostage.

“Before that, we gave the MILF an ultimatum of three to six months to back down. But they kept on insisting on their demand for a substate then,” Estrada recalled. “On the fourth month, they took Kauswagan. I was angered so I declared an all-out war.”

Estrada then cited the gains of his military campaign, where troops captured over a dozen major MILF camps and nearly 50 satellite camps.

He stressed that the MILF has been engaged in a cycle of peace talks, attacks, and cease fires for the better part of four decades, and doubted they were sincere with their intentions.

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“They’ve been going on for 40 years, and it’s always ‘peace talks, ceasefire, peace talks, ceasefire.’ That’s still what they do now. Will you still trust them?” Estrada said.

However, he stopped short of recommending an all-out war to the government, in recognition of the peace pact that has been signed with the MILF and the peace process to implement the commitments made in the pact.

“I don’t like to give unsolicited advice. Mahirap na. (It’s difficult). Let’s just pray that the current round of peace talks will be successful,” Estrada said.

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TAGS: all-out-war, Bangsamoro autonomy, Bangsamoro Basic Law, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, bomb makers, Ceasefire, clash, Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, counter-insurgency operations, crime suspects, Encounter, gun battle, Joseph Estrada, law enforcement, Maguindanao, Mamasapano, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, News, peace negotiations, peace process, Peace Talks, Philippine National Police police commandos, policemen killed in action, policemen killed in combat, policemen killed on duty, pursuit operations, serving of an arrest warrant, Special Action Force, suspected terrorists
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