MILF still state ‘enemy’

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THE 800-member Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) on Wednesday condemned the killing of 49 policemen on January 25 in Maguindanao, describing the incident as a “heinous, barbaric massacre” that cannot be justified under an ongoing peace process with Muslim insurgents.

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According to the AGFO chairman and president, retired Lieutenant Gen. Edilberto Adan, the killing of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) commandos in Mamasapano town was “a heinous, barbaric massacre that cannot be justified even under the current protocols of the peace process between the Government and the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front].”

The group, composed mostly of retired star-rank military and police officers who are veterans of the Mindanao insurgency and the campaign against terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, demanded the surrender of the perpetrators and the return of the firearms seized from the slain policemen.

AGFO called for a “swift and independent” investigation of the supposed “mis-encounter.”

Adan, who served as spokesman for the AFP and eventually superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy prior to his retirement, said the MILF remains an “enemy” of the government.

Agfo gave little support to the ongoing peace effort with the secessionists.

“It should not be forgotten that even as negotiations are happening, the status of the MILF forces as a combatant force that considers the government forces as its enemy is real, as shown in the Al Barka ambush of Army Scout rangers in Basilan in 2011 and many other skirmishes,” Adan warned.

Limited control
He said the MILF does not seem to be the umbrella group that represents the people in Mindanao, especially since recent incidents showed that it has little control over some of its forces.

“The MILF has shown that it cannot or has limited control over some of its forces and has rogue commanders over whom they have no real authority… When the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) under Commander Kato broke away from its ranks, the MILF leadership failed to take disciplinary action against it. Now their forces are living together in the same area,” Adan added.

The AGFO head challenged the MILF leadership to prove that it exercises authority and discipline over its commanders.

“Since the objective is peace, the government should be talking with the entity that has control of elements who can wage war,” Adan pointed out.

The 50-year-old organization is composed of mostly retired and active duty generals and flag-ranked officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and Bureau of Fire Protection.

Agfo recommends the observance of national mourning where the Philippine flag will be flown at half mast throughout the country for one week, “to show the abhorrence of the nation and show support to the rule of law and the nation’s men in uniform.”

“This tragic disaster, happening as it did when the government has demonstrated its willingness to accommodate the aspirations of the Moro people, underscores deeply the need to examine closely the security implications of any final agreement with any armed rebel group like the MILF,” Adan said.

‘Not our call’
The Armed Forces, through its Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, said the decision to continue or not to continue with the peace talks should come from peace negotiators.

“We respect the opinion of our retired officers who had also served in the frontlines before us. This proposal should be discussed and decided upon by those who are involved in the peace negotiations,” Cabunoc explained, saying the AFP remains committed to the primacy of the peace process.

The PNP officer-in-charge, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, claimed that he had asked the military for reinforcement at the height of the firefight but soldiers who responded only arrived after several hours when the SAF forces were already at the mercy of the MILF rebels.

But Capt. Joann Petinglay, spokesman, 6th Infantry Division, said the soldiers went to the encounter site “not actually [to]reinforce, they were there to help aid [the police]in retrieving the casualties because there are casualties from the SAF.”

On the MILF side, Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, in an official statement, said he has convened a Special Investigation Commission (SIC) that would look into the bloody incident even as it maintained that the government forces had broken established protocols governing such situations.

The SIC is composed of the MILF Central Committee and Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) general staff. The BIAF is the armed wing of the MILF.

“In order to give meaning to [the police commandos’]deaths, we must resolve not to let something like this happen again,” Murad said, adding that the SIC is given instruction to come up with a report to the Central Committee as soon as possible.

The MILF, according to Murad, remains committed to the peace process with the government, saying “an enduring peace and justice remain to be our primary objective.”

Murad maintained that a breach in protocol led to the bloody clash.

“It is unfortunate but not entirely surprising that when parties do not follow established protocols, lives are placed in harm’s way. We therefore recommit ourselves to follow these processes and protocols for widest dissemination,” he said.

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6 Comments

  1. There is an old saying “Just Us”; this is what MILF’s impression now. Peace at the expense of precious lives is not truly a lasting peace.

  2. vagoneto rieles on

    After giving up ‘a piece of the farm’ last year, our negotiators are back again in Malaysia to ‘cement’ the give-away. The real damage is not in making a mistake..it is in insisting that it was right. Our side is putty in the hands of Murad, Iqbal and the Malaysian referees.

  3. I would suggest that the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) talk Aquino into resigning and then make sure justice is served while law and order is bought to the south.

  4. Yes there is no control of armed men in Mindanao. It is a land of many mini kingdoms with fierce and loyal private armies. They live by the guns and not die with the guns.
    Muslim Mindanao ahs no problem – they enjoy what they have. The problem – they are more loyal to their religion, tradition, and way of life.They are fully armed to resist change. GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF US>

  5. Jose R, Bonifacio on

    Correction:

    I had been saying some forty years ago that the only time I “trust” those guys from the moro-land is when they are asleep. The PI government should device a system to get them integrated into the general population regardless of their religion. Sharia law should not be allowed.

  6. We therefore recommit ourselves to follow these processes…
    Ang galing, coming from them, it meant they breached the process and after inflicting evil, now they’re talking peace?
    Where’s justice?