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MILF chief: I’m still committed to peace

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 01:59 AM January 29, 2015
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim AFP FILE PHOTO

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim AFP FILE PHOTO

CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao—Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim on Wednesday reiterated his group’s commitment to the peace process despite the bloody clash between police commandos and Moro fighters. He said it was not the MILF that started the firefight.

The MILF chief said he did not want the peace agreement to be the bigger casualty of the encounter that prompted some lawmakers to withdraw their support for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) pending in Congress. The clash also generated calls from other sectors for the government to abandon the peace process.

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Another all-out war against the MILF as suggested by former President Joseph Estrada would only lead to another round of peace negotiations, according to Murad. He said it was only logical for both the government and the MILF to continue with what they had begun.

“War is not new to us but I think it is time that we realize that even if we fight now, ultimately we will be returning to a peace process. So, if there is still hope for this peace process, why [don’t we] see it through?” Murad said in Filipino.

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He emphasized that the BBL was a “political process.”

“I don’t see any relevance of connecting the political process with the security challenge we are facing because this is entirely different,” Murad said.

Murad met with the media at the MILF headquarters here, a few hours before President Aquino was to address the nation, following the death of 44 members of the elite police Special Action Force (SAF) in what government described as a “misencounter” with MILF fighters.

The SAF fired the first shots at the MILF fighters in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town at the break of dawn, according to Murad.

The MILF chair noted that it was the first time MILF fighters engaged police commandos as big as the group that they encountered on Sunday.

In fact, the MILF fighters did not even recognize the uniforms of the SAF, Murad said.

MILF probe

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The MILF has convened a special investigative commission to look into the firefight. The commission is to be composed of members of the Central Committee and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces general staff.

“Our concern is the truth. There are a lot of speculations as to what happened and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the said incident will weigh down our efforts to bring peace to our homeland,” Murad said.

Commitment to peace

He reiterated “the MILF’s full commitment to the peace process with the Philippine government,” saying that “(a)n enduring peace and justice remain to be our primary objective.”

While he had not spoken with the President after the clash, Murad said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles had met with the message that Mr. Aquino remained committed to the peace process.

Surprised, saddened

Murad said the last time he and the President spoke was on Jan. 13, before the bloody battle.

Murad said the MILF was as surprised and saddened as everyone when it learned about the clash. “We wanted to stop the fighting on the ground.”

He appealed to the public to neither blame the MILF nor describe the incident as a “massacre.”

MILF’s casualties

“This is not the making of the MILF. We were in our own area. We did not attack any government troops. The incident was dictated (on) us. It was not the MILF that started the incident,” he said.

Murad urged the public “not to have a biased opinion” and not to blame the MILF.

The MILF lost 11 men and nine were wounded in the firefight.

Murad noted that the Moro fighters did not recognize the uniform of the police commandos as it was the first time for the MILF to encounter the SAF.

“At first they (MILF) thought it was the Army but the uniform was different,” Murad said.

It was only when the fighting died down that the rebels learned that they had encountered the police commandos.

Commanders called

Ustadz Zacaria Goma, commander of the MILF 105th Base Command and Ustadz Wahid Tundok, commander of the 118th Base Command, have both been summoned to Camp Darapanan.

Goma and Tundok did not take part in the firefight, the Inquirer learned. The two received frantic calls that there was an ongoing firefight and helped the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities to deescalate the fighting.

Protocols

Both the government and the MILF said the police commandos had failed to follow the mechanisms within the peace process to avoid firefights, such as what happened on Sunday.

For over two years, mechanisms such as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group have been followed, Murad said. “We practically had zero encounter because we were following the protocols. It is only now that this has happened.”

The MILF was neither aware that a Malaysian terrorist was in the area, Murad said.

The SAF members went to the area to serve arrest warrants on Jemaah Islamiyah militants Zulkifi bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” a Malaysian, and Abdul Basit Usman, a Filipino.

Deepest sympathies

In a statement, Murad expressed sympathies for the slain troops’ kith and kin.

“We express and send our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who died in the armed encounter,” said the MILF chair.

“The emotions of loss and pain are not alien to us Bangsamoro and mujahideen. Nevertheless, respect and solidarity are due to all, irrespective of which side they belong,” he added. With a report from Cynthia D. Balana

 

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TAGS: Abdul Basit Usman, Bangsamoro Basic Law, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, Barangay Tukanalipao, BBL, biff, Congress, Malaysian, Mamasapano town, Marwan, MILF, Mohagher Iqbal, Moro fighters, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Murad Ebrahim, peace process, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Teresita Deles, Zulkifi bin Hir
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