De Lima: Gov’t may use peace pact or the law to charge MILF | Inquirer News
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De Lima: Gov’t may use peace pact or the law to charge MILF

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Fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) failed to notify the government of the presence of criminals in their Order of Battle or list or targets, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that this was noncompliance to the terms of the peace agreement. She said the government might enforce the law as this constituted criminal offenses such as “knowingly harboring a criminal, assisting or obstructing law enforcement operations for his arrest … and aiding in escape of targets.”

Still, she also pointed out that the only way the MILF could be exempted from criminal liability from the criminal offenses was whether there were extenuating and justifying circumstances. De Lima declined to elaborate what these circumstances were lest that, she said, she would be accused of “preempting the investigation or lawyering for any side.”

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When Sen. Francis Escudero clarified whether she meant that nothing prevented the State from filing a case versus the MILF, De Lima replied in the affirmative.

If evidence warrants it, the government can charge with murder and other offenses members of the MILF who took part in the deadly Jan. 25 slaughter of 44 police commandos, according to De Lima.

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Equally liable are government officials who may have “willfully” violated the terms of peace agreements, such as not coordinating with the MILF on operations inside MILF-defined areas, De Lima on Tuesday told a Senate hearing into the Mamasapano incident in Maguindanao province.

Also liable for “usurpation of authority” are government officials who took part in the operations “not authorized by law to be part of the official decision-making of the government,” she said.

De Lima was obviously referring to Director General Alan Purisima, who gave “advice” to the SAF troops although he had been suspended as chief of the Philippine National Police for alleged corruption. Purisima resigned last week.

But De Lima made it clear that she was simply stating a “legal framework” in approaching the issues surrounding the Mamasapano incident while the government and the MILF were observing cessation of hostilities and moving forward in the negotiations for peace.

“We’re still coming from a position where facts have yet to be completely established and accountability is yet to be conclusively determined,” she said.

Even Senate President Franklin Drilon cautioned that De Lima’s statements were just an “academic framework” as the Senate was still in the course of unraveling the story behind the deadly clash.

De Lima said the government had two tracks to pursue in seeking the MILF’s criminal liability: As “enforcer of the duly promulgated laws of the state or as a party to a contract of the (peace) agreement.”

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“Or it can approach this issue on the perspective of both, that is the law enforcer and as a peace partner,” she said.

De Lima said that the government could choose to apply the mechanism on the agreement on the cessation of hostilities or proceed to apply the law, in this case, seeking criminal liability for the incident.

MILF members are liable for the political crime of rebellion, or ordinary crimes of murder or direct assault, she said.

However, there is no law, she stressed “that prevents the government from implementing its power to arrest and prosecute criminal offenders,” including those harboring criminals.

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TAGS: Alan Purisima, De Lima, Franklin Drilon, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Leila de Lima, Mamasapano incident, MILF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, order of battle, Peace agreement
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