MILF report on viral video: BIFF, armed groups also in the area

Angela Casauay
MILF report on viral video: BIFF, armed groups also in the area
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front denies that its fighters 'desecrated' the bodies of the slain members of the SAF

MANILA, Philippines – “Reports about mutilation, beheading, and willful killing are unfounded.” 

Rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made this statement in their report on the bloodbath in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that killed 44 elite cops, 17 MILF combatants, and 5 civilians.

In the report released Tuesday, March 24, the rebel group said their investigation showed that the armed man shown in a viral video shooting to death a wounded SAF member was not from the MILF. 

The video “does not clearly show” that members of the 105th base command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) – the armed wing of the MILF – were behind the killing, the report said.  

There were also other armed groups in Mamasapano, including the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other private armed groups, the MILF noted. 

“Any of these groups could have entered the encounter site after the MILF pulled out of the area after a ceasefire was effected, as was in fact witnessed by the withdrawing 105 BC men,” the report said. 

Following the clash in Mamasapano – a known bailiwick of the MILF – the police has accused the MILF-BIAF 105th base command of overkill due to the number of casualties. The viral video further fanned the flames of the accusation. 

The clash led to a political fallout that has endangered the future of the peace process in Mindanao. 

In a bid to restore trust, the MILF returned 16 SAF firearms that combatants collected as war booty during the encounter. 

The gesture was, however, mired in a number of controversies, including allegations that one of the 16 firearms returned to authorities belonged to PO1 Joseph Sagonoy – the policeman shown being shot to death in the video. 

But even this incident does not prove that the MILF is behind the video, the report said. 

“The taking of the firearms is different from the act of killing. And as stated by the BIAF members, they took the firearms of the dead 55 (Special Action Company) and those who had been immobilized, but there was at least one other group that had come into the encounter site after the BIAF left it at around 1400H,” the report said. (READ: Rebels in viral Mamasapano video likely BIFF – NBI)

It was not until 4 pm of January 25 – the day of the operation – when the crisis team arranged to enforce a ceasefire and was able to enter the encounter said, the MILF added. 

“There was a good two (2) hours when the other armed group, ie, the BIFF, was able to get into the encounter site and may have committed the despicable act,” the MILF said.  

The BIFF broke away from the MILF in 2010 due to disagreements over the peace process. The MILF signed a peace accord with the government in 2014 while the BIFF continues to be opposed to the peace process.

How SAF troopers were retrieved 

Screenshot of the MILF report on Mamasapano

 

Following the clash, reports spread that some of the fallen SAF members were found without their clothes on when their bodies were retrieved. (READ: Espina turns emotional over SAF 44 ‘overkill’)

Police laboratory examinations found at least 3 of the slain SAF members sustained gunshot wounds” on their torsos, which should have been covered with bulletproof vests, while another 6 SAF troopers died through a single gunshot to the head. Several others were shot at close-range while the rest died due to sniper fire. 

The MILF, however, denied that its combatants “desecrated” the bodies of the slain troopers.  

Members of the 105th base command who were interviewed said they did not move the bodies of the fallen SAF “except when it was necessary in order to get their firearms,” the MILF said.  

The report included photos that showed how retrieval operations were conducted. Some of the cadavers had to be dragged from the river. One of the photos showed one civilian pulling on a rope that had been tied to the foot of the fallen SAF trooper. 

Retrieval operations extended up to the day after the clash. It was reported in the aftermath of the incident that local officials in Mamasapano helped in retrieving the bodies. 

The results of the MILF report on the Mamasapano clash was submitted to the International Monitoring Team on Sunday, March 22, and copies were provided to the government peace panel and the Senate, among others. 

The release of the MILF report followed the release of separate reports from the Senate and the police Board of Inquiry over the clash. 

Read here the full text of the MILF report on the Mamasapano incident. – Rappler.com

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