Govt bought back SAF arms from MILF – priest

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DID the government pay the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the return of some of the firearms of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who lost their lives in an encounter with MILF fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25?

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal on Tuesday firmly said in a Senate committee hearing that no payment was made, adding that they voluntarily returned the firearms as a sign of “goodwill” to show their commitment to the peace process amid nationwide clamor for termination of peace talks between the government and the MILF.

But a Catholic priest, Fr. Eliseo Mercado, who first broke the information that money changed hands, stood pat on his earlier pronouncement, saying details of the transaction were relayed to him by a highly reliable source from the MILF.

According to Mercado, his informant has “close ties” with field commanders of the 105th and 118th Base Commands of the MILF, whose men were among those who engaged the SAF commandos in Mamasapano.


“It’s a privileged information. I believe my informant. He is reliable,” he said.

Mercado was also unperturbed by a threat from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) that it is considering taking a legal action on what it considers as “malicious information” being directed at the agency.

OPAPP Director Luisito Montalbo has criticized the priest, a known peace advocate, for coming out publicly with claims that are “unsubstantiated and unverified.”

The priest claimed that he had learned that the government paid P190,000 or more than P3.040 million for the 16 firearms returned by the MILF.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has disclosed that important original parts of the guns have been replaced.

Mercado said surrendering weapons for love of country “is not the culture” in the region especially after sustaining 18 MILF and 7 civilian casualties.

“But there’s always a price tag for them because they can buy better ones,” he added.

“The SAF weapons are first class,” Mercado said. “They may surrender their wives [but]never their firearms. But they can sell them of course.”

According to the priest, Aquino played a big role in the Mamasapano operation in Maguindanao province because as early as January 24, he was asked if he would join in welcoming the President to Sharif Aguak town in the province on January 25.

“I did not believe and there was no occasion for a visit. And [the President]was in Zamboanga [City]. Only an afterthought and after the fact . . . that he would go there to be presented the terrorists Marwan and Basit, dead or alive,” Mercado said.

He, however, refused to identify who invited him to meet with Aquino but said it was somebody from Shariff Aguak. “He thought I was still close to [the President].”

The priest also claimed that the US had direct involvement and was partly to blame for the botched mission.

According to him, US forces were with Gen. Getulio Napeñas at the command post of SAF in Sharif Aguak.

Amid growing calls for Aquino’s resignation, Mercado is also convinced that the President must vacate his post not only because of the failed operation but also of his direct hand in a US war against Marwan and Usman.

“And his moral turpitude to hide or obliterate his and US connections to the [failed]operation . . . is more than enough to show his incompetence and sense to hold on to the presidency,” the priest said.

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1 Comment

  1. Eliseo Jr. P.Tenza on

    This priest is definitely not a religious priest. The government must not just say that this allegation is not true, but investigate it. If this is not true, dont allow a person to speak lies and try to destroy the integrity of the Philippine Military.