• ‘SAF killers will be charged in court’

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    Malacañang on Sunday gave assurances that those responsible for the killing of 44 police commandos in the infamous Mamasapano massacre will be charged in court, with the Department of Justice (DOJ) having wrapped up its fact-finding investigation of the incident.

    In an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government will pursue justice for the fallen policemen “with or without the help of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).”

    “Sa kasalukuyan ang ating pamahalaan sa pamamagitan ng DOJ ay nagsasagawa na ng case build-up at isusulong po ang hustisya sa pamamagitan ng mga hukuman ng Pilipinas batay sa findings ng DOJ at ng Government of the Philippines. Ang katarungan po ay itataguyod nang puspusan at hanggang makumpleto po ang prosesong ito kung nagbigay man o hindi man nagbigay ng input ang MILF [Currently, the government through the DOJ is doing a case build-up to attain justice for the Fallen 44 through the courts, based on government findings. We won’t stop until the quest for justice is completed, with or without any input from the MILF],” he said.

    Coloma was reacting to a statement of the MILF that it will only release an executive summary of its internal probe of the bloody encounter in Mamasapano.

    The Palace official said the government will ferret out the truth behind the encounter and that the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process will be on top of this process.

    Quoting Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles, Coloma added that the submission of the MILF report to Malaysia goes with the understanding that the MILF will submit the report to the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

    Deles, in an earlier statement, explained that this is “simply a matter of protocol, that the respective ceasefire committees submit all reports to the IMT, which then passes it on to the other party.”

    “It appears that the MILF wants to show respect for and strengthen the ceasefire institution by using the ceasefire mechanisms and protocols in this regard. This is in accordance with the ceasefire agreement and the operational guidelines, which have been signed by the parties,” she said.

    Meanwhile, government forces on Saturday killed four more members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) tagged as among those who slaughtered the Fallen 44 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.

    This brought to 18 the number of BIFF bandits killed in a series of clashes with the military since Friday.

    Lt. Col. Willy Manalang, commander of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 8, said the group his men encountered in Pusao Village, Shariff Saydona, Maguindanao, on Saturday was led by Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman, a target of anti-terrorist operations that led to the death of the 44 police commandos.

    According to Manalang, he sent a small-sized patrol composed of the 63rd Force Recon Company and the Special Operations Platoon 8 to track down Usman’s group.

    “My troops surprised the enemy and engaged them in a firefight,” he said.

    The Marines seized a 60mm mortar and an M14 rifle from the bandits. Two of the dead BIFF, one of whom was wearing a SAF uniform, were left behind by their comrades.

    “I believe that this bandit is one of those who butchered the members of the 55th SAC [Special Action Company] in Tukanalipao village on January 25. Despite their crimes, we will turn them over to the community leaders to be given a decent Islamic burial,” Manalang added.

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