MILF accuses gov’t of attacking its forces, disregarding agreements

“It was a well-planned raid, considering that the Army Special Forces were involved,” said Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of MILF peace panel, in an interview with Bulatlat.com.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it was just a “spin” of the military and the “spoilers of peace” when it was reported that the MILF “ambushed” a unit of the Philippine Army last Tuesday in Basilan in Mindanao, where 19 soldiers were reportedly killed in a nine-hour firefight. In reality, according to the MILF, it is they who have reasons to cry foul because “there is a pattern already” of the Philippine government’s continuing attack on the MILF despite their ceasefire agreement with the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the terms of reference of their Adhoc Joint Action Group AHJAG.

Last Tuesday, said the MILF, two Philippine Army platoons attacked the MILF from two different directions in Al Barka in Basilan. “It was a well-planned raid, considering that the Army Special Forces were involved,” said Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of MILF peace panel, in an interview with bulatlat.com. But the MILF had been tipped off and had prepared.

“Where the armed encounter happened is an area deep into MILF grounds, far from ATS (area of temporary stay), meaning the MILF was really consciously and deliberately attacked (by the Philippine Army),” Iqbal added.

The purpose of the military operations in the area was not clear at first, but the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently acknowledged to the media that their mission had been to arrest a criminal, who turned out to be an MILF brigade commander, Dan Laksaaw Asnawi.

A pattern of continuing attacks against the MILF despite the ceasefire

“In reality, 31 and not only 19 (army) were killed. The 22 army casualties reported in luwaran.com was just a preliminary report.” Iqbal said, “As you know, it’s normal for the military to hide their true casualties.”

In 2007, the Philippine government reportedly accused Asnawi, an MILF commander, of killing 14 Marines, also in Al Barka town of Basilan. They arrested Asnawi, who managed to escape from jail in 2009.

Asnawi had been on his way to a pilgrimage in Mecca in Saudi Arabia when soldiers arrested him as he boarded a plane at Zamboanga, Iqbal recalled. He explained that the Terms of Reference of their ceasefire agreement with the government of the Philippines (GPH) and their Adhoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) “do not allow for that” arrest.

Aside from hounding Asnawi despite the ceasefire, Iqbal pointed to other violations of their ceasefire agreement committed by Army troops in Western Mindanao.

“There is a pattern already,” he repeated, and this covers the GPH troops’ “attack in Sibuco in Zamboanga del Norte, Payong in Zamboanga Sibugay, and then in Basilan” this week.

“Yesterday the AFP attacked our forces in Payao (Zambaoanga Sibugay) on the pretext that they’re looking for the Abu Sayyaf, but they are targeting MILF forces,” said Iqbal.

Asked if the MILF ceasefire with the GPH has been unilaterally lifted by the GPH, considering the pattern of continuing attacks, Iqbal replied that “The best that we can describe it is, there is a selective implementation of the ceasefire.”

Although there has been no serious violations yet in Central Mindanao, in Western Mindanao Iqbal noted, “the MILF is being attacked, in violation of the ceasefire.” He reiterated also their earlier objections to the movements of (AFP) troops and bigger deployments happening in areas with predominantly Moro population, without coordination with the MILF. He said these deployments also constitute a violation of their ceasefire agreement.

Doing away with past agreements

If the GPH peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has been stalled for eight months now, its negotiations with the MILF have likewise been going nowhere as of now. The reason for the standstill appears the same – both the NDFP and the MILF have been saying that the Aquino government is proceeding with the talks “from scratch,” as if there were no previous agreements signed between them.

In the negotiations with the NDFP, the Aquino government is reportedly unilaterally doing away with the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) when it refuses to free the detained NDFP consultants.

With the MILF, the GPH is not only reportedly violating the AHJAG (which is similar to JASIG) and the ceasefire, it has also been seemingly disregarding its past agreements. “Substantially nothing has moved or changed (since the Aug 23 talks in Kuala Lumpur) when the GPH submitted a proposal without continuity,” said Iqbal. The MILF rejected the GPH proposals on the ground that it does not take into account their previous agreements.

The MILF leadership views the “3 in 1” proposal of the Philippine government for a peace agreement as “detached,” has “no connections” and has in fact “derogated the past agreements and consensus reached by the two parties in the past 14 years of negotiations.”

As of this report, there is no breakthrough yet that could push the parties to the negotiations away from this current impasse, as the GPH “proposals remain about integration and not autonomy. Although the proposals are cloaked in autonomy, in reality the offer is really about integration,” Iqbal explained.

Murad and Aquino agreed in a one-plus-one meeting in Tokyo last August 4 to fast-track the negotiations. “But fast-tracking the negotiations means also that there is continuity,” said Iqbal.

This means that the points that were already concluded and agreed upon by both sides should be the starting point of the negotiations, Iqbal said.

The MILF accused the rich and the “oligarchs” in government as “the spoilers of peace process.” Asked what they will do in case the Aquino government formally announces an all-out war against the MILF, Iqbal replied, the MILF ��will defend ourselves. A revolutionary organization has to be always prepared.” ()

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  1. if it was planned by special forces then i cant see where they will have lost 19 dead ! I just cant buy that part. I am a former US Marine and know a little esp. about the MILF having served in RPH. So this is the reason that i make the statement of disbelief

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