THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) remains a revolutionary group despite the signing of a peace agreement with the government, Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace panel and Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), told the Senate on Tuesday.
Iqbal did not attend the hearing being held by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on the Maguindanao incident that killed 44 police commandos from the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The MILF leader, however, sent a letter that was read by Rashid Ladiasan, chairman of the MILF Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities.
“While we have signed the a peace agreement with the Philippine government after 18 years of intermittent war and negotiations, that peace agreement [is]yet to be implemented,” Iqbal said in the letter.
“The MILF is a revolutionary organization. Until [the]peace agreement is implemented, we remain to be a revolutionary organization,” he added.
Malacañang brushed off Iqbal’s statement, but Sen.Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was alarmed, saying it is not consistent with the peace pact that the group signed with the Aquino administration.
Marcos added that Iqbal’s declaration showed that the MILF has a different take on the framework agreement pushing for the enactment of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“In the hearings on the BBL, we were told that we are in a condition where there is a cessation of hostilities of military action, or revolutionary actions. This contradicts that.
Even in our first hearing, we were already told that the [MILF] decommissioning [of its firearms]has begun,” according to Marcos, chairman of the Senate local government committee that held public hearings on the proposed BBL,
But Miriam Coronel Ferrer, head of the government peace panel, said the government is not at war with the MILF.
“We are not at war with them, but the ceasefire agreement was broken on January 25. That is the matter being investigated now, the circumstances that led to the breakdown of the ceasefire on January 25 around the events related to the law enforcement operations conducted by the SAF,” Ferrer added.
She said the comprehensive agreement signed with the MILF contains a roadmap that will lead to full transformation of the group into an unarmed organization that will fully participate in the political, social, economic and cultural processes of the country.
“Part of the roadmap includes decommissioning process whereby in a gradually phased manner, the arms will be turned in to an independent decommissioning body, the combatants will become ex-combatants alongside the political process that we have laid out,” Ferrer added.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also on Tuesday dismissed Iqbal’s statement, saying what matters is the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
“Ang mahalaga para sa pamahalaan ay ang pagpapatupad ng mga probisyon ng Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro [CAB] [What is important for the government is the implementation of the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro],” he told reporters.
CAB is the final peace agreement signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in March last year.
Coloma said the government is waiting for the MILF’s “concrete” actions to prove that the group is complying with its obligations under the peace agreement.
He added, “Inaasahan mula sa MILF sa lalong madaling panahon ang mas konkretong patunay ng pakikiisa sa prosesong pangkapayapaan sa pamamagitan ng pagtulong sa operasyon laban kay Usman; pagkilala at pagpapanagot sa mga may kasalanan; at pagbabalik ng mga armas at personal na kagamitan ng mga nasawing miyembro ng PNP-SAF [The MILF is expected to, at the soonest possible time, show concrete proof of its adherence to the peace process through the following: assisting in the operation against Usman; identifying and holding accountable the perpetrators; and returning the weapons and personal effects of the PNP-SAF members who were killed in the clash].”
Usman is Abdul Basit Usman, a Filipino bomb-maker and one of two terrorists whom the police commandos were out to get on January 25 in an operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The elite troops were also after Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan, a Malaysian and also a bomb expert, who reportedly was killed in a firefight that claimed the lives of 44 commandos.