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MILF still liable for massacre

JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday the ongoing peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not stop the filing of criminal charages against MILF fighters who killed the 44 police commandos in Mamasapano on Jan. 25.

De Lima added that the MILF cannot invoke the peace process to extricate its commanders or fighters implicated in the murder of the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

De Lima
“We’re talking about crimes here that are covered by the criminal justice system. What is clear to me is that even in the course of peace negotiation under a peace process regime, the power of the state to go after violations of criminal laws is not suspended,” De Lima said in an interview.

De Lima she would insist on this stand once she approves the recommendation of the fact-finding team of the Justice Department for the filing of several criminal charges against 90 commanders and members of MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups.

“They (MILF) should understand that we would not accept that argument (that they could not be charged because of the ceasefire agreement). We will insist on our position,” she said.

The MILF, in its own report on the Mamasapano incident, said its fighters were merely defending themselves and that it was the police commandos who had violated a ceasefire agreement.

But the Justice Department report on the same incident said the MILF and other rebels could be charged for the deaths of the police commandos.

The MILF on Friday said it would not surrender any of its men involved in the Mamaspano massacre.

“We have long said that we will not surrender them because they did nothing wrong. They were only defending themselves,” MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said in a TV interview.

“If it were up to us, it would be better if they are not charged with a crime. The only thing they did was to defend themselves,” Jaafar added.

A spokesman for the military said they expect the MILF will not stop government forces from serviing the arrest warrants on the MILF members.

“Once the court issues the warrants of arrest, we will assist the Philippine National Police when they enforce [them]. That’s our major role, to assist the Philippine National Police in the law enforcement operations,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said.

He said, however, that they would still coordinate with the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities. – With Francisco Tuyay

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