Aquino on SAF deaths: I expect concrete action from MILF

Angela Casauay
Aquino expects the MILF to 'step aside' if future operations against bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman involve their area
CONCRETE ACTION. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak witness the exchange of documents following the signing of a final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on March 27, 2014. Photo by Dennis Sabangan/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – Conducting a probe into the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that killed close to 50 elite cops is great, but more concrete action is needed.  

This was President Benigno Aquino III’s message to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in his national address Wednesday evening, January 28, in the aftermath of what the government has labeled as a “misencounter” between police forces and and MILF elements.

While Aquino commended the MILF’s initial move to probe into the incident, Aquino said further action is expected from the group as soon as possible. 

“Nabasa ko rin po ang pahayag ni [MILF] Chairman Al Haj Murad (Ebrahim) ukol sa insidente sa Mamasapano; magandang unang hakbang ang pagbubuo nila ng isang Special Investigative Commission upang matukoy ang mga detalye at katotohanan ng pangyayari. Inaasahan kong sa lalong madaling panahon, mas kongkretong patunay ng pakikiisa sa paghahabol ng kapayapaan ang ipapakita ng MILF, tungo sa paghahabol ng katotohanan, at sa pagpapanagot sa mga may kasalanan,” Aquino said.

(I read Chairman Al Haj Murad’s statement regarding the incident in Mamasapano. Creating a Special Investigative Commission to ascertain the details and the truth is great. I expect that in the soonest possible time, a more concrete proof of their commitment in the pursuit of peace will be shown by the MILF toward the pursuit of truth and holding people accountable.)

What kind of concrete action does the President expect from the MILF? 

Fielding questions from reporters after his speech, Aquino said he expects two things:

  • for the MILF to “step aside” if military and police operations in the hunt for alleged bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman involve their areas
  • to allow authorities to recover the personal effects of fallen soldiers

“I am very very confident that they are studying exactly how they will demonstrate their sincrerity in this peace process,” Aquino said.  

In his speech, Aquino reminded the MILF of instances in the past when both sides were able to cooperate in security operations based on “mutual trust.” 

Aquino said combined efforts of the MILF and government forces in 2014 helped save a Japanese national and avert a bomb blast.

Despite growing sentiment in Congress against the peace process, Aquino stood firm in his position that the government will continue to push for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress. (READ: Marcos blasts ‘gag order’ on SAF-MILF clash)

He said the entire peace process in Mindanao is anchored on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao. This new region will be parliamentary in form and will be led by the MILF during the transition period. 

“Kung mabibigo ang pagpasa ng batas sa lalong madaling panahon, mabibigo ang peace process, mananatili ang status quo. Kung ganoon, ano pa ba ang aasahan natin kundi pareho ring resulta: Mga taumbayang nawawalan ng pag-asa at namumundok; mga napagkaitan ng hustisya na pinipiling gumawa ng karahasan sa kapwa. Para na po nating tinulungan sina Marwan at Usman na maabot ang kanilang mga layunin,” Aquino said. 

(If the passage of the law in the soonest possible time fails, the peace process will fail and the status quo remains. If that is the case, what can we expect but the same results: people who will lose hope and take tothe mountains, people who will suffer injustice and choose to do harm to others. It’s like we’re helping Marwan and Usman reach their aims.)

The Senate is holding a hearing on the Maguindanao clash on February 4. Representatives from the MILF, as well as the police and the army, are expected to attend. (READ: SAF-MILF clash may delay Bangsamoro law passage)

The government and the MILF signed a peace pact in March 2014, which now serves as the basis of the proposed law pending in Congress. 

Before a final peace pact was signed, negotiations with the MILF were marred by a past policy of an all-out war under the Estrada administration, as well as a Supreme Court decision declaring an initial peace framework as unconstitutional under the Arroyo administration. 

Talks between the MILF and the government were revived when Aquino, against all advice, held a suprise and confidential meeting with Murad in Japan in 2011 to jumpstart negotiations.

Read the full text of the President’s speech in Filipino and English – Rappler.com