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Cayetano: Marwan protected by MILF; government knew it

/ 03:26 AM March 12, 2015
BEATING THE WAR DRUMS  Sen. Alan Cayetano during his privilege speech on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, cites what he describes as new evidence showing that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had allegedly coddled the terrorist Marwan and that the government knew about it.  JUN ANICETA/SENATE PHOTO

BEATING THE WAR DRUMS Sen. Alan Cayetano during his privilege speech on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, cites what he describes as new evidence showing that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had allegedly coddled the terrorist Marwan and that the government knew about it. JUN ANICETA/SENATE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–The government ignored information showing that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), particularly its commander Wahid Tundok, protected Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,”

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said on Wednesday.

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Cayetano said the government and the peace panel were aware of all this.

Cayetano took to the Senate floor to continue his tirade against the MILF, saying it was not a trustworthy peace partner for now.

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At the same time, he called for the replacement of the members of the government’s peace negotiating panel with negotiators who would represent the country’s interests.

Cayetano also hit warnings of war in case of the failure to pass in Congress of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, a product of the peace deal between the government and the MILF, and said the country did not deserve a “fake and temporary peace.”

Cayetano said the peace panel cleared Tundok of involvement in the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash that killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, and identified him as the one who reported the encounter and brokered the ceasefire.

The panel also worked to free Tundok after he was arrested in February 2014, he said.

But Marwan’s e-mail exchanges with his brother Rahmat bin Hir showed that Tundok had acted as the protector of the Malaysian bomb expert, Cayetano said.

The e-mails were part of the US government’s charge sheet against the brothers in 2007, he said.

Tundok is one of the most senior warriors of the MILF and has several cases of murder, arson, robbery and other crimes. He is the commander of the MILF’s 118th Base Command, he said.

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“These e-mails show that Commander Wahid Tundok was himself the protector of Marwan,” he said.

One of the messages showed that Tundok was the one informing Marwan of the source of weapons that could be purchased, he said.

Another message showed that Tundok had warned Marwan to be on high alert and not to sleep because soldiers were planning to attack, and a third indicated that Tundok told Marwan to watch out for drones, he said.

In a fourth e-mail, Cayetano said, Marwan talked in detail to his brother about Tundok and a military operation against the latter.

“The government knew this information. The peace panel knew this. Chair [Miriam Coronel-] Ferrer herself was able to say where I got these on a TV show,” he said.

“Why did they disregard this? Why did they believe Commander Tundok instead of the evidence in a US court [that] the US government itself filed? They knew Commander Tundok was the protector of Marwan,” he added.

Despite knowing that Tundok protected Marwan, the peace panel worked to free the MILF commander in February 2014 after he was captured, Cayetano said.

He went on to ask what the government got in exchange for Tundok’s freedom, and also wondered why Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles and Ferrer immediately absolved Tundok and his fighters in the Mamasapano clash.

“The peace panel must answer this. We must know the truth,” he said.

Marwan’s hut

Cayetano said this, along with the evidence that emerged in the Senate hearings, showed that the MILF knew Marwan and his Filipino associate, Basit Usman, were in their area and were coddling them.

Cayetano also said Marwan’s hut belonged to a deceased MILF commander, and the Malaysian was a devout Muslim who prayed every day at the mosque of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Thus, it was impossible for the groups not to have known of his presence, he said.

Common sense would also show that the MILF knew of Marwan’s presence. Marwan was a wanted terrorist with a $6-million reward on his head, and was the target of at least 10 government operations, he said.

“Why would you hide in a place where you do not think you are welcome and safe?” he said.

‘Dead issue’

Responding to Cayetano’s tirade, Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said the allegation that the MILF coddled Marwan was a “dead issue.”

“We have answered that numerous times already. We said it’s negative. We have not coddled Marwan,” Jaafar told the Inquirer in a telephone interview.

Deles and Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, said they did not hear Cayetano’s privilege speech.

Deles said, however, that going by what people had told her about Cayetano’s speech, the senator did not disclose any new information or raise any new issues.

“I have nothing more to say. I had already addressed all the issues he had raised. However, I respect him as a senator to do a privilege speech,” Deles said.

Iqbal said if Cayetano continued to insist that the MILF was a terrorist group that coddled terrorists like Marwan, then Philippine Presidents themselves should also be faulted for talking to terrorists.

“If we were terrorists, then Presidents Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino could be faulted for talking to terrorists. Even US Presidents (George W.) Bush and (Barack) Obama could be faulted for talking to terrorists,” Iqbal said.

In 2003, then MILF chief Hashim Salamat wrote to Bush seeking support for peace talks with the Philippine government.

In 2012, the MILF sent a letter to Obama congratulating him on his reelection.

Cayetano also warned of an arms race and arms buildup in Mindanao, saying it was not just the MILF that was stockpiling arms, but other groups in the area, both Christian and Muslim.

He said this was because if the proposed BBL was approved and the MILF would be able to get funding and power, it had only two courses of action.

It could go after other armed groups, who are expected to fight back. Or these groups could band together and Bangsamoro could become a haven for armed groups and a possible terrorist haven, he said.

It is also possible that they could enter other territories outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that the MILF and the armed groups that are secretly their allies want to get, he said.

According to Cayetano, other areas that are under threat are also stockpiling arms and building up forces.

“This is the sentiment and concern of Mindanao residents outside of the ARMM,” he said.

He also said that while these were taking place, international extremist groups who wanted to take advantage of the situation and form a worldwide caliphate were waiting on the sidelines.

Attacks on civilians

There are also fears from many in Mindanao that if the BBL is not approved, the attacks on civilian targets, similar to what happened in 2008, would be repeated, he said.

But he said the BBL or any piece of paper was not the way to peace, but trust in each other, disarmament and the surrender of weapons.

“There would be no true peace if there is no disarmament,” he said. “Disarmament cannot be the product of peace, disarmament must be a precondition to peace.”

Addressing the government, Cayetano said “no single bill is more important than justice and preserving our country’s integrity.”

He said the focus must not be on the BBL, but on building a just, inclusive and lasting peace. The government must also negotiate from a position of strength, he added

He directed his appeal to replace the peace panel members to President Aquino.

“Mr. President, you said that you are willing to talk to anyone who has an open mind. We ask you to have an open mind as well. We ask you to replace the present peace panel with people who will represent the Republic of the Philippines and not the MILF,” he said.

“We should give all Filipinos what we are willing to give the MILF. And we should ask the MILF to make the sacrifices as we are all being asked to do,” he added.

Challenge to MILF

As for the MILF, he challenged it to fulfill certain actions within a year to prove its commitment to peace.

These actions include the surrender of criminals and terrorists in its area, submission to the judicial process of the MILF members involved in previous massacres, cooperation with the government in pursuing criminal elements and abandonment of terrorism in all forms.

He also called on the MILF to stop recruiting troops, strengthening its arsenal and fortifying their camps. It should also allow a United Nations-type of independent inspection and assessment of all its camps, strongholds, communities and territories, to determine if it is a worthy and sincere partner for peace of the Filipino people.–With reports from Nikko Dizon in Manila and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao

 

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Commander Tundok, Marwan, MILF, peace panels, privilege speech, Senate
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