The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not keen on accepting the offer of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to help the government fight members of the militant Maute Group in Marawi City.
Lawmakers also warned against accepting the offer, saying it would only complicate combat operations against the terrorist group.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said that before MNLF members can help quell the Marawi crisis, mechanisms for any kind of arrangement should be discussed.
“Right now we don’t have the appropriate protocols and coordinative elements on the ground to make this happen,” he said.
Representatives Gary Alejano of the Magdalo party-list and Rufino Biazon of Muntinlupa City questioned the statement issued by chief government negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd that the government welcomes the “firm commitment of the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups in the Philippines to join the fight against the Maute Group.”
“Having these communists and other rebel groups on board will just complicate the combat operations against. Maute which runs on coordination, communications, intelligence and logistics. I believe that our Armed Forces are capable of solving the conflict in Marawi even without the help of the NPA and the MNLF,” Alejano, a former Marine captain, said in a statement.
“Receiving help from these groups or seeking their help is as good as admitting that our military is not capable of beating Maute,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he is willing to accept the offer of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari to allow 2,000 of his fighters to help government troops fighting the Maute militants.
“I’m willing to take in 2,000 as regular troops of the Armed Forces of the government,” Duterte said.
But Padilla said the military may no longer need help from the MNLF because the conflict in Marawi City is almost over.
“For the moment, that is the way we see it. And if this prolongs a little bit more, then perhaps we can do it, but hopefully not,” he said.
Padilla added that enlisting MNLF fighters as integrees is possible but this can only happen after Marawi City has been cleared of militants.
“If it will really push through, many issues have to be discussed so it will be settled accordingly and will not cause any complications,” he said.
Meanwhile, Alejano called on the NPA and other rebel groups to help by providing information on the Maute and Abu Sayaff.
Biazon, vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, echoed Alejano’s statement.
“While we appreciate the offer of help by the NPA, allowing them to join the fighting might cause complications in how the operations are conducted. For one, will they allow themselves to fall under the authority and command of the Armed Forces? How will they fit in to the tactics and strategy being employed by the Armed Forces?” Biazon said. CATHERINE VALENTE and LLANESCA T. PANTI