Alan Peter Cayetano: We’re talking peace to MILF but they protected Marwan | Inquirer News

Alan Peter Cayetano: We’re talking peace to MILF but they protected Marwan

/ 03:59 AM February 11, 2015
RELENTLESS  Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano (right) grills military officials at the Senate hearing, while Sen. Grace Poe listens. EDWIN BACASMAS

RELENTLESS Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano (right) grills military officials at the Senate hearing, while Sen. Grace Poe listens. EDWIN BACASMAS

Like his elder sister Sen. Pia Cayetano, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano also took offense at the absence yesterday of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the Senate hearing on the bloody Jan. 25 commando operation in Maguindanao province, saying it was a tactical move that left Philippine military and police officials pointing fingers at each other.

Cayetano also asked the members of the peace panel if the Aquino administration was negotiating with terrorists, to which Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government panel that negotiated a peace deal with the MILF last year, replied that the MILF had not been listed as a terrorist organization.

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Cayetano then cited reports allegedly showing the MILF’s links to terrorist organizations.

“My point here is we’re talking peace to them, but it’s obvious they protected Marwan,” he said, referring to Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, who has a $6-million bounty on his head from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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He said it was the MILF’s obligation not to let terrorists or criminals enter its territory and to help the government arrest them if they do.

“The bigger question for this hearing: Why is the MILF territories becoming a haven for terrorism here in Asia?” Cayetano said.

 

Rigorous intel work

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said that whether Marwan was with the MILF was matter that still required investigation.

Deles also said the government’s policy decision to negotiate with the MILF in 2003 had been accompanied by dependable, rigorous Philippine intelligence. When terrorist acts are associated with the MILF, this was raised, she added.

“There is a history, every armed group in the world that has fought long and hard have had … flirtations, you can say, with terrorist groups. But the reality is, since 2003, closely monitored by our intel forces, there is no evidence that there are institutional links,” Deles said.

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She added that the MILF had interdicted lawless and terrorist elements that were found within its communities.

Deles said the ceasefire with the MILF was holding.

With the comprehensive agreement signed last year, the MILF has also expressed its respect for Congress, has committed to attend the hearing and has been joining deliberations on congressional hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Marwan’s sanctuary

But Cayetano insisted Marwan was with the MILF for the last four years and said Marwan’s style was to let the fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) do the attacks. The BIFF is a breakaway faction of the MILF. Cayetano pointed out Marwan’s house was only 500 meters away from an MILF commander, he pointed out.

“I admire Secretary Deles. You want peace. But the MILF has to want it also,” Cayetano said.

Rasid Ladiasan, chair of the MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities, said the MILF was not composed of terrorists and has been fighting terrorism in all forms throughout the peace process.

He added that the group had no ties with the BIFF, which does not believe in the peace process.

“We will not sacrifice the 17 years our people suffered,” he said. “It’s not right that at this point, the opportunity for peace would be lost.”

Cayetano challenged the MILF to surrender BIFF chief Ameril Umra Kato, noting that the BIFF’s base is just near its own.

“Prove me wrong. And I will be man enough here to say I was wrong, that MILF has turned its back on terrorism,” he said.

MILF-BIFF ties

Despite denials, the MILF has yet to prove that it is not working with the BIFF, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told reporters. He noted that the BIFF was operating near the MILF base and so far had not done anything about it.

He said the government had been asking that the MILF turn over Abdul Basit Usman, Marwan’s Filipino aide, or help government arrest him, but it has not issued a satisfactory response.

“This is why the sincerity of the MILF is being questioned,” Marcos said.

Marcos advised the MILF to undertake confidence-building measures and acts of good faith to win back the people’s trust.

Mayor Benzar Ampatuan of Mamasapano told the senators said the area where Marwan’ was staying was far from communities and was isolated. “No resident is able to go near the place,” he said. The mayor said he himself had not been to the place.

Deputy Director Leonardo Espina, officer in charge of the Philippine National Police, was asked by Sen. Ralph Recto if he had doubts the MILF and BIFF were both coddling Marwan and Usman, who remains at large. Espina affirmed he had none.

As to whether the PNP was sure Marwan and Usman were training the MILF and BIFF, Espina said, “highly, possible, sir.”

Espina also affirmed there was no doubt on the PNP’s part that the MILF and BIFF had killed the 44 SAF commandos.

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said Marwan and Usman were accommodated by the BIFF, which they were training. The two had not trained the MILF.

Ladiasan, for his part, denied the MILF was coddling Marwan.

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, alias “Marwan, Ameril Umra Kato, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, Benzar Ampatuan, BIFF, Mamasapano, MILF, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Senate hearing, Teresita Deles, US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Zulkifli bin Hir
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