A top Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) official admitted it cannot control members who, disgruntled with non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), may join the attacks against the government troops.
MILF Vice-chairman Ghadzali Jaafar, during the visit of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the group’s Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao recently, also denied that the armed men involved in clashes with the military in Butig, Lanao del Sur were terrorists.
“Butig is very near the satellite office of the MILF. And this kind of attack and the other attacks similar to what happened in Lanao del Sur was not the handiwork of the terrorists. They were not terrorists. They were not extremists. These people were not radical,” Jaafar said.
“They did that because they were angry at the way the Philippine government is handling the peace negotiation, always with promises, promises, promises that were never fulfilled,” he said.
Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, claimed that the group is led by brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute, who supposedly have links with the Southeast Asian regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah.
There were also reports that the Maute group was being assisted by supporters of the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria.
Lt. Col. Billy dela Rosa, commander of the Philippine Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion, said that they have overrun the stronghold of the Maute group at the heart of Butig town.
Dela Rosa said that 55 bandits have been killed in the clash. The military, meanwhile, has suffered five fatalities.
Jaafar said the MILF leadership may not be able to prevent its members based in nearby Camp Bushra and Camp Palestine should they decide to reinforce the group of Maute, citing blood relations.
He stressed the only solution that the MILF sees to stop the clashes in Lanao del Sur is for the Aquino administration to implement the Bangsamoro government.
The 16th Congress failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would pave the way for the establishment of a new autonomous Bangsamoro political entity, replacing the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Malacañang has said that the quest of the Aquino administration for peace in Mindanao will continue even without the BBL. Senate President Franklin Drilon said that even without the BBL, the peace agreement signed by the MILF and the government is still binding.
President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim signed the final peace agreement titled the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on Mar. 27, 2014.
Part of the agreement was the decommissioning of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces on condition that the government will establish an autonomous Bangsamoro through the BBL.
Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), admitted recently that failure of Congress to pass the BBL caused radical and extremist clashes between government forces and armed men in Mindanao.
“Certainly, the huge disappointment over the non-passage of the BBL provides more enticing, fertile ground for recruitment to radical, extremist thought and action,” said Deles, in a statement sent by Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr.
“Thankfully, our ceasefire mechanisms – particularly, the GPH-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), with the International Monitoring Team (IMT) – are working closely and robustly with the security sector to maintain peace and order on the ground, including curbing the spread of extremism,” Deles said.
“Specific to the ongoing law enforcement operations, the ceasefire mechanisms have repositioned MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) troops to allow law enforcement operations to proceed and have provided sanctuary to displaced civilians with services coming from DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and tAutonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government,” Deles also said.
Government of the Philippines (GPH) Chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer said, “The objectives of the CAB are to translate into law the political and social reforms needed to establish meaningful autonomy in the Bangsamoro, end the armed conflict between the government and the MILF, and transform war-torn villages into peaceful and progressive communities.”
“Towards this end, we continue to work hard and with hope to ensure that the legal-political track to the full implementation of the CAB successfully crosses over to the next administration. It is the position of this administration that it is this comprehensive social justice-based approach that would deter the rise of violent, extremist groups in southern Philippines and comprehensively sustain past and present efforts for peace and development in Mindanao and the rest of the country,” Deles said. (MCA)