MILF: Don’t blame us; we suffered heavy casualties, too | Inquirer News

MILF: Don’t blame us; we suffered heavy casualties, too

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 03:40 AM February 01, 2015
mohagher-iqbal

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. AP FILE PHOTO

KUALA LUMPUR—Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal on Saturday said the MILF was not coddling international terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Basit Usman.

Iqbal also neither confirmed nor denied that President Aquino had asked the MILF to clear the way for government security forces to arrest Usman, who eluded arrest by police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos on Jan. 25 in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province.

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“The truth will show that we have not been coddling Marwan. Marwan was in the company of the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters),” Iqbal told reporters at a joint press conference with the government peace panel led by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

Usman was also not with the MILF, Iqbal said.

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“I don’t want to sound philosophical but you cannot turn over someone who is not with you,” Iqbal said when asked if the MILF would turn over Usman if he was in MILF territory.

Don’t blame MILF

Iqbal said the MILF also suffered heavy losses in the bloody encounter in Mamasapano: 18 fighters killed and 14 others wounded.

He gave journalists a list of the names of the dead and the injured.

“I am very hopeful that as soon as the truth comes out, the MILF will be vindicated and I think we are doing everything, including this press conference, so that we will approach the problem in a very objective manner,” Iqbal said.

He also appealed to the public, “especially to members of the media … not to fan the emotions of hatred and prejudices.”

“The Bangsamoro people have also suffered a lot in the conflict in Mindanao, as a result of several massacres in the various parts of the Bangsamoro,” Iqbal said.

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“The encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, was not intended by either side. It was a pure and simple misencounter. The operation was intended for the BIFF, which is coddling Marwan and Basit Usman,” Iqbal added.

Biggest loss

Marwan was killed in the SAF operation, but the police commandos lost 44 of their own, the biggest single-day combat loss by government security forces in recent memory. Usman managed to escape.

The nation has been outraged by the deaths of the commandos, with many blaming the MILF.

But Director Getulio Napeñas, the sacked SAF commander, admitted skipping coordination with the military and the MILF in the operation to get Marwan because he “did not trust the MILF.”

Ferrer said that in the peace process, there had been “cooperation” between the government and the MILF in running after terrorists and other criminals.

Peace mechanisms

Ferrer said the Philippine National Police had the mandate to arrest criminals, being the country’s law enforcement agency.

Short of saying the MILF does not have power of arrest, Iqbal said it was the peace mechanisms such as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) that should work toward giving government security forces the time and space to arrest terrorists like Marwan and Usman if they were found to be in MILF communities.

Aside from the AHJAG, the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) are the other mechanisms employed to minimize the chances of clashes between government security forces and MILF guerrillas.

Iqbal said the AHJAG had been tasked to “interdict or isolate” criminals in Mindanao.

“I think the issue of the AHJAG has to be considered in the light of the current situation, meaning if there is a need to upgrade the mandate of the AHJAG in relation to the current situation, the MILF for one is willing to consider it,” Iqbal said.

Containing criminals

The MILF’s Von Al Haq, a member of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), said that through the AHJAG, MILF forces could “block the exits” for criminals the government security forces wanted to arrest.

“But to run after them is the sole world of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP. We can provide them information (on the terrorists),” Al Haq said.

A well-placed Inquirer source said President Aquino had sent word to Iqbal, through Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, for the MILF to clear the way for government security forces as they intensify the hunt for Usman.

The source said Mr. Aquino’s letter was handed by Deles to Iqbal in a meeting following the Mamasapano incident.

Iqbal said at the press conference that he did not receive a letter addressed to him from the President.

“Perhaps to the chairman … I would presume it is the proper way. But to me directly, I have not to received a letter or any communication from the President,” Iqbal said.

‘We’ll get Usman’

In his eulogy for the 44 SAF commandos on Friday, President Aquino promised their families that the government would get Usman.

“Number one on our list of things to do is to arrest Basit Usman. I have directed authorities to do a careful planning of the operations to arrest this person …. We will prove that the rule of law prevails in the entire Philippines. I assure you, we will get Usman,” Mr. Aquino said.

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TAGS: alias “Marwan, Basit Usman, international terrorist, Maguindanao province, Mamasapano, MILF, Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Zulkifli bin Hir
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