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‘MILF no warmonger’

Gives back 16 SAF weapons; Palace wants more

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Wednesday turned over to the government 16 of the firearms of the police commandos who were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao even as the group denied that it ordered its field commanders to gear for war ahead of the junking of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said they still hope both houses of Congress will see the wisdom of passing the BBL although Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Senate cannot just rubber stamp the draft measure especially after the Mamasapano incident.

Firearms returned. Soldiers sit next to high-powered firearms in a
camp in Cotabato after those were returned by MILF rebels who took
them during a firefight with police commandos tasked to arrest an
international terrorist. The firefight resulted in the death of 44
police commandos. AFP
As a confidence-building measure, the MILF turned over at least 16 of 63 firearms that were lost in the Mamasapano clash during ceremonies held at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao Wednesday morning.

MILF military chief Von Al Haq said the guns were recovered by the MILF 105th Base Command and the return of the weapons was part of confidence-building measures amid the recrimination over the Mamasapano clash.

But Malacañang said it was not satisfied with the return of the 16 firearms and the MILF still needs to show more concrete proof that

it can be trusted by the government as a partner for peace.

“The return of the firearms is only in partial fulfillment of the earlier call of President Benigno Aquino III that the MILF should show concrete proof that they can be trusted as partners of the government in the peace process,” said  Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

“The government is still waiting for more concrete proof such as the following: helping the government or stepping aside in efforts to catch Filipino terrorist Basit Usman; identifying and holding accountable those who are involved in killing the SAF44 heroes; and returning all the other firearms and personal effects that they stole from the SAF44,” Coloma added.

And if the MILF fails to fulfill all the demands of the Aquino administration, it will only show that the MILF is not really sincere in talking peace with the government, Coloma said.

After the weapons’ turnover, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told journalists that he also received a text message, purportedly for MILF commanders, to prepare against for war if the BBL is shield but he denied that the “advisory” came from the MILF central committee.

“That is not true,” Iqbal said of the text message that even included his name. “That is the work of people who have nothing better to do.”

“It’s just a pure and simple act of warmongering, and it did not emanate from the MILF,” Iqbal said.

For the MILF, Iqbal said “there is no other option but the option of peace” and suggestions to junk the BBL will only give more radical elements in the MILF the “moral ascendancy” to say that they were right in rejecting peace talks with the government.

“We will have a problem because other groups will have moral ascendency. They will say ‘We were right. We already told you not to talk with the government of the Philippines’,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said he hoped that Congress will not water down the BBL, which he considered to be “good legislation.”

But if the Congress, both houses which suspended deliberations on the BBL because of the Mamasapano incident, decides to water down the BBL, they will have to consider other options, including the rejection of whatever measure Congress manages to produce. “What happens when the MILF accepts [a diluted BBL]? The MILF will become meaningless at the problems of Mindanao will continue because the solution, the supposed medicine given to the patient, will not be given,” he said.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate committee on local government, acknowledged that the Muslim leadership wants the original version to stay, but that is no longer feasible because of the Mamasapano incident.

“I believe that’s what they want. But they cannot stop us as legislators here in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. We need to do our job,” Marcos said, noting the need to study and re-visit problematic provisions lawmakers have identified.

“He said there are many areas which are unclear, being left open because Congress will put the details. And that is exactly the process that we are undertaking right now,” Marcos said.

“I will use the three tests that I have applied to the draft BBL. We cannot abandon our function to make sure that at the very least, any bill we pass in Congress is legal, is constitutional and is enforceable. Those are the same three tests that we will apply to the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he explained.

Marcos said he hopes the MILF will be open-minded and a little flexible because the amendments being contemplated by lawmakers are studied provisions and not capricious.

“Let us not forget that the aim of the BBL is peace in Muslim Mindanao,” he said, adding that Congress may produce a stronger BBL that, in the end, will ensure peace in Mindanao.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano warned the MILF that should not blackmail Congress with terror attacks that make it appear like “you’re poking your gun at us.”

“It is like you are shooting your hostages one by one, and then you would be saying you really want peace. You are wrong, if you’re hoping  the government will back off, if that’s your tactic,” he said.

He pointed out that there should be no terrorism in peace talks.  He said the actions of the MILF in the next few weeks and few months will tell whether or not they really want peace or they just want to conquer most of Mindanao.

 

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