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De Lima-MILF chair meet: Options for cooperation

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima; Murad Ebrahim FILE PHOTOS

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima                                         Murad Ebrahim FILE PHOTOS

“While there are still pending core issues regarding their help in identifying MILF members involved in the Mamasapano firefight, they showed us alternative ways within the peace process mechanism by which we can expect their help or cooperation,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told the Inquirer after her meeting on Tuesday with Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), at its headquarters in Camp Darapanan, Maguindanao province.

De Lima leads the Department of Justice (DOJ) probe of the deaths of 44 police commandos on Jan. 25.

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She said the meeting established goodwill between the DOJ and the leadership of the MILF, which has signed a peace deal with the government.

De Lima said the MILF leadership “agreed that they would not hinder our investigation if coursed through the peace mechanism.”

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She described the meeting as “cordial even as the DOJ firmly expressed the desire that the MILF cooperate for a balanced, in-depth and objective investigation.”

Discussed at the meeting was the need for the MILF to submit proofs of deaths of MILF and civilian casualties, the justice secretary said.

Eighteen MILF members and five civilians were also killed in clashes after the commandos killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in Mamsapano, Maguindanao.

After a group of commandos shot dead Marwan, they and another group of commandos ran into MILF fighters and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a group that broke away from the MILF.

The MILF earlier said that the clashes were a “misencounter.”

“They acceded in principle, as long as we course our evidentiary requests through the CCCH mechanism,” De Lima said, referring to the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, a ceasefire mechanism between the MILF and the military.

Alternative way

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De Lima said the MILF “did not reject outright” the DOJ demand that the group help it identify those who killed the commandos.

She said the pending issue was to find an alternative way to “identify the assailants through their idea of the proper procedure even as we firmly stated that we see it from a normal penal law or criminal procedure vantage point.”

NBI Director Virgilio Mendez, who was also at the two-hour meeting, said security at the camp was tight but the DOJ team’s security personnel were not disarmed when they entered the MILF headquarters.

“It was a warm and cordial discussion and the MILF leadership promised not to obstruct the investigation as long it goes through the peace negotiation mechanism,” Mendez said.

Also present in the meeting were MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, two other ranking officials of the MILF, NBI Deputy Director Edward Villarta in Central Mindanao, and three members of the DOJ prosecution team.

The MILF has also conducted a probe of the Mamasapano clashes.

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TAGS: Department of Justice, DoJ, DOJ probe, Leila de Lima, Mamasapano clash, meeting, MILF, Rights and justice
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