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Why the military did not reinforce SAF

/ 08:06 PM January 29, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – The military has been criticized for supposedly not reinforcing the elite police officers who fought against combined troops of Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao last Sunday.

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. said during his remarks on Thursday at the Security Reform Initiative’s Bantay Bayanihan at UP Diliman that they could not reinforce the troops because of the ceasefire agreement with the MILF.

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The MILF was not informed of the operation by the police to serve the arrest warrant on bomb expert Marwan, a Jemaah Islamiyah leader who has a $6 million bounty on his head.

“The MILF [was] surprised why there was a firefight going on and they thought all the while they were being attacked because of the miscoordination or no coordination at all…The Armed Forces [could not]  join the firefight because of the ceasefire agreement. That will destroy the entire ceasefire agreement and that will be like a bushfire that will spread up to Lanao and the entire peace talks with our Muslim brothers will fail,” Catapang said.

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If they had joined the fighting, there could have been “a state of war” already, he added.

According to an Inquirer report, Special Action Force Commander Police Director Getulio Napenas admitted that they did not coordinate with the military on their operation as part of the command decision.

The raid resulted in the death of 44 SAF members. A total of 392 SAF troops were deployed for the mission.

President Benigno Aquino III, in his televised speech Wednesday night, said that the military chiefs of the Western Mindanao Command and the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, were only told of the operation after the SAF members had entered the area.

Catapang later told reporters on the sidelines that they were informed of the operation but it lacked details.

Members of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities headed by Brigadier General Carlito Galvez also rushed to the scene in the morning while the fighting was still raging.

“They started talking to the MILF to disengage the forces,” Catapang said, adding that they were able to rescue several dozens of police commandos.

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Asked if they would conduct pursuit operations, the AFP chief said it must be established first which group was clashing with the SAF members.

“If that was the MILF, there must be a fact-finding first but if it can be proven that it’s the BIFF, baka mag-pursuit operations kami,” he said.

The BIFF is the breakaway group of the MILF. The latter entered into a peace agreement with the government last year for the new Bangsamoro entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro bill, however, already suffered a setback in Congress due to the massacre.

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