BESIDES “passionately” defending the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in her conversation with Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles also argued that accountability should be exacted from the side of the police commandos who stormed the rebel lair on Jan 25 in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province.
At one point during the conversation between the two officials, a digital copy of which has been obtained by The Manila Times, Deles stopped short of branding the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) as the “enemy” who entered the MILF territory.
Marcos brought to her attention the report about the MILF’s alliance with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), whose combatants also joined the fray and killed a number of SAF commandos.
“They (MILF and BIFF) fought together against government forces,” noted Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government that hears the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Correcting Marcos, Deles denied that the MILF deliberately swooped down on the policemen with the help of the BIFF.
“Not together but they saw the same enemy coming at them. Kasi pumasok talaga sila (SAF),” she pointed out.
Deles also argued that the failure to coordinate mainly caused the incident because it did not pass through the ceasefire mechanisms that were set up to prevent such things from happening. This statement, however, angered Marcos.
“I didn’t feel there’s any mechanism at work because they surrounded them and killed every single one. The reinforcements coming pinatay din nila (they were also shot dead). (There was) no mechanism, there was just all out war. They were taking no prisoners,” the lawmaker said in a loud voice.
Deles admitted that the mechanism did not work “in terms of prevention because we’re not alerted.”
“I am just saying [sic]about the use of mechanisms. They don’t work if you don’t bring them in,” she told Marcos.
The lawmaker again retorted: “It’s not the fault of (the SAF). Mahirap naman sabihin na because they did not coordinate. They were not there to attack the MILF. The police force (was) going to arrest a terrorist (Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan).”
But Deles insisted that the rebel forces in the area were not used to communicating with government troops.
“That’s why (we have) mechanisms. For so long (they are) lawless, unruled . . . Hindi naman ‘yan sanay na sasagot sa pulis talaga. Ang mechanisms, ang mga tao sasabihan sila, wag niyo gagalawin (ang mga pulis),” she emphasized.
Deles went to see Marcos on Jan 26 following the lawmaker’s decision to suspend all hearings on the BBL.
While Marcos expressly aired his disgust with the MILF, Deles tried to appease him throughout their 15-minute conversation that began at 1:30 p.m. The official also suggested that accountability should be placed on both sides, not just the MILF.
Asked by Marcos on how the government and the MILF “can handle the matter together,” Deles replied: “I think pag klaro kung sino (ang may kasalanan sa) kwento, which means the accountability (should be on) both sides.”
“How can we make accountable the rebel? Sundalo kayang-kayang i-court martial pero ‘yung rebel papano?” the senator emphasized.
In pushing for the BBL, Deles told Marcos that long-term peace can be achieved by putting a “governance entity there that will help put this kind (of things) in order.”
“That will make sure they will get decommissioned and disarmed and become part of our (system). The grey area is that at this time, they are still rebels until (the BBL is implemented),” she explained.
Let her explain
When asked to comment on the statements of Deles, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it should be the peace adviser who should explain.
“(I am) requesting (a) reply from Secretary Deles,” Coloma said in a text message.
Deles had admitted meeting with Marcos at the latter’s office on Jan 26. In fact, she said she even met with Senate President Franklin Drilon on the same day.
Deles, also, belied reports that she asked Marcos to “whitewash” the Mamasapano incident.
“I did have two meetings with two senators the day after the Mamasapano incident. One was with Sen. [Ferdinand] “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. and the other with Senate President Franklin Drilon,” Deles recalled. “But I never adverted to anything about a plan to ‘make the incident disappear’ or for a ‘whitewash.’”
One of Marcos’s media staff, Reynato Custodio, confirmed that the meeting took place and that Deles was only clarifying the reasons why Marcos had to suspend the hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). He could not, however, ascertain the authenticity of a supposed audio recording of the conversation where Deles “passionately” defended the MILF in a bid to save the BBL.