Return SAF weapons, ARMM governor asks MILF

REGAIN PUBLIC TRUST. A file photo of the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in March 2014.  Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau

REGAIN PUBLIC TRUST. A file photo of the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in March 2014.

Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau

COTABATO, Philippines – The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) urged Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief Murad Ebrahim to order his forces to return the weapons, mobile phones and other belongings that they took from slain police commandos during the January 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. 

This is to show sincerity in the ongoing peace process, Governor Mujiv Hataman told a press conference early Wednesday, February, 4, before leaving for Mamasapano to check on the situation there.

Hataman said the gesture will help the MILF regain public trust amid calls to suspend and scrap the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which aims to provide Moros expanded autonomy. The Aquino government and the MILF signed a peace agreement last year, and the passage of the law is the second phase of the process that both sides hope would lead to the creation of a Bangsamoro region before the President steps down in 2016.

"I challenge the MILF to hand over the properties of slain policemen to improve confidence in the peace process," said Hataman. "If I had my way, the firearms and other things taken from the SAF should be turned over to the government."

He said weapons confiscated by the MILF’s breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), are out of the question since they're not part of the peace agreement with the Aquino government. The BIFF was also involved in the Mamasapano clash.

Partners

"The government and MILF are now partners because of the peace negotiation, so there should be some confidence rebuilding [because] that was destroyed by the bloody incident," he said.

"We tried to piece together the information and the stories together as to how the encounter unfolded and ended," he added. "We have at least a picture as to what happened but I will not make it public. Instead we will submit it to Congress if the legislative body so desires," Hataman added. (READ: Inside Mamasapano: When the bullets ran out)

The MILF's 105th Base Command has kept mum on whether its troops indeed recovered firearms from the elite cops. The BIFF earlier said it seized at least 10 assault rifles from the incident.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, earlier said they're still investigating the clash.

On January 25, 44 elite members of Philippine National Police Special Action Force were killed while 14 others were wounded when they came to Mamasapano town in Maguindanao for a “law enforcement operation" against top terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman.

Marwan, who has a $5-million bounty from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, was reportedly killed while Usman managed to escape. 

While police commandos were pulling out from the site, they encountered a group of MILF rebels under the 105th Base Command, resulting in the bloody clash that wiped out the SAF's blocking force. At least 17 MILF rebels were also killed. – Jeofrey Maitem/Rappler.com