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Fighter-turned-witness worries gov’t, Moro panels

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 01:47 AM March 01, 2015
mohagher-iqbal

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal: We are verifying this. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–The news that a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatant during the Mamasapano massacre has become a government witness is deeply unsettling, both to the government and the secessionist group.

The worst implication of the guerrilla-turned-government-witness naming the MILF rebels involved in the Mamasapano massacre would be that it would trigger fighting within the MILF itself, the source said.

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“We are verifying this,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said in a phone interview on Saturday.

Iqbal declined to elaborate, saying only that the MILF was “looking at this through the peace process.”

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Two government officials privy to the peace process said that an MILF guerrilla claiming to have been a participant in the Jan. 25 bloodbath in which 44 SAF commandos were brutally killed had run to the government for protection had serious implications.

The two officials said they were caught by surprise by the news, which they read in the Inquirer on Saturday.

The Inquirer report said that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, with justice department prosecutors and National Bureau of Investigation investigators, had interviewed the MILF combatant in an undisclosed place in Mindanao, and that the latter had given a statement in which he named the MILF fighters who participated in the massacre.

Needs validation

The report also said that the MILF-combatant-turned-government-witness had decided to talk to the government because he feared for his life and those of his family.

“Those familiar with the inner workings of the MILF know that the fighters don’t act this way. So this is quite different,” said one of the officials who asked not to be identified.

The identity, background and motives of the MILF guerrilla should be “really validated,” said the second official.

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“What he said he would do, naming the MILF fighters involved in Mamasapano, will have great implications. I hope there is a good way of validating him,” the second source said.

For both Inquirer sources, there is more than meets the eye in an MILF fighter running to the government for protection.

He could be a disgruntled fighter, a government asset, a follower of an MILF official who had been expelled from the group, or even an asset of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway group of the MILF.

The two officials said they did not know the identity of the MILF fighter and were basing their comments on the Inquirer story.

There are at least eight groups investigating the Mamasapano incident that left 67 people dead: 44 Philippine National Police-SAF commandos; 18 MILF guerrillas; and 5 civilians, including an 8-year-old girl.

No need to consolidate

Aside from the NBI, those investigating the incident are the PNP board of inquiry (BOI), the Senate, the Commission on Human Rights, an MILF’s special investigating body, the International Monitoring Team and the House of Representatives.

But even with several investigating bodies looking into the incident, Malacañang said it did not see the need to have a consolidated government report on Mamasapano.

“At this point, I don’t think the President has expressed any preference but he is expecting first and foremost the report of the BOI. We know for a fact that Secretary Leila de Lima is likewise conducting her own investigation led by the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the NBI, and at this point, we do not see at least a need to consolidate,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Saturday over the state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

Valte said it made no difference if the reports of the different government agencies would be consolidated or not.

“What’s important are their findings,” she said.

Valte said it was unlikely that the results of the different investigations would result in confusion rather than finding out the truth.

“The reports will be made available to one another,” she said, referring to the different investigating bodies.

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TAGS: investigations, Mamasapano clash, MILF, MILF fighter turned witness, Mohagher Iqbal, probes
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