MILF submits Mamasapano report to peace monitors
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has released results of its own investigation of the January 25 Mamasapano incident, which they now officially insist was a violation of a ceasefire agreement that they had signed with the Philippine government.
“This report was submitted to the Head of Mission of the International Monitoring Team (IMT),” said MILF Vice Chairman and chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. “It’s a comprehensive report.”
The 38-page report was endorsed to Maj. Gen. Dato Sheikh Mokshin Bin Sheik Hassan, the Malaysian military officer who heads the ITM based in Cotabato City, by Muhammad Ameen, secretary of the MILF Central Committee.
The report, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, was dated March 22. A handwritten acknowledgement on the cover letter indicated that it was also received on the same day.
The IMT, which was created to oversee implementation of the ceasefire agreement, is composed of representatives of Japan, Indonesia and BruneiDarussalam, and is supported by the United States and the European Union.
“What happened in Mama-sapano on that fateful January 25 was a violation of the ceasefire agreement by the Philippine government because there was no prior coordination with the MILF as far as the SAF [Special Action Force] operation was concerned,”
The MILF launched its own inquiry into the January 25 incident after lawmakers accused the separatist group of breaking the truce that it had signed with the government.
Iqbbal said the IMT will send a copy of the report to Kuala Lumpur, facilitator of peace talks between the MILF and the Philippines.
A copy will also be sent to the Philippine government through Manila’s chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.
The MILF report blamed the Philippine National Police for the incident, saying the commando operation was not coordinated with the MILF despite an agreement and, hence, violated the truce.
The report denied that MILF members mutilated or beheaded the police commandos and said some members of the Special Action Force used the bodies of their slain colleagues as shield during a gunbattle.
“The MILF men saw that some of the 55 SAC [members of the 55th Special Action Company]men’s bodies were found underneath one another as if purposely piled. They noticed that the dead bodies sustained multiple gunshot wounds. They realized later from the position of the dead bodies and the number of wounds of some of the 55 SAC [men]that some of them had used the bodies of their dead comrades as shield during the intense fighting,” a part of the report said.
The SAF police commandos were pinned down in a cornfield in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, at the height of implementation of Oplan Exodus, which targeted international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman, a Filipino bomb-maker.
Marwan was killed in the mission but Usman managed to slip out.
The fighting killed 44 members of the Special Action Force as well as 17 MILF fighters, including three civilians and several members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
While MILF report blamed the police for the fighting, the separatist group also acknowledged that its commanders from the 105th and 118th Base Commands failed to detect the presence of Marwan and Usman who hid in a house in Pembalkan village.
The house was previously owned by an MILF member—Ustadz Baguindali—who died in 2008.
The two base commands also failed to detect the entry of the police commandos in the area.
“The MILF and civilian residents in Mamasapano did not know that Basit Usman and Marwan were in their community. The house in which Marwan was found and killed belonged to Ustadz Baguindali, who had died in 2008. The MILF did not know that Marwan and Usman had moved into Barangay Pembalkan. When Marwan was killed, he was with the group of Basit Usman, in the vicinity where the BIFF and the break-away group [Justice for Islamic Movement] of Mohammad Ali Tambako [who was captured recently in General Santos City]are based,” the report said.
It added that the area is 3 kilometers away from the MILF combatants in Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano.
The report said the MILF, in 2005, ordered both Zulkifli and Usman to leave MILF camps and communities after both men were tagged as “terrorists.”
The MILF denied it coddled Zulkifli or protected Usman.
“This policy of cleaning its ranks of terrorists has not changed and is the very reason why the [Philippine] government has continued negotiating peace with the MILF,” it said.
According to the group, it will not surrender those involved in the fighting with the police commandos because it has the sole authority to impose sanctions on its members.
The report recommended to the MILF to file a protest with the Aquino administration and for the government to further investigate Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan, of the Special Action Force, for killing four MILF members, who were shot dead inside a mosque in Tukanalipao, and a civilian, Mohammad Ambilang.
It said new security mechanisms must be immediately put in place by both the government and MILF peace panels to prevent future clashes between government and rebel forces.
The report was prepared by the MILF Commission headed by Ustadz Said Abdusalam whose members included Hussein Muñoz, Toks Ebrahim, Von al-Haq and Ustadz Abu Ubaidah Agkong.