MILF conducts own probe into Maguindanao clash
MANILA, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday, January 27 reiterated its commitment to the peace process as it announced it is conducting a probe into the deadly clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
In a statement on Tuesday, January 27, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said the rebel group's central committee and the general staff of their armed wing will form a special investigative commission to look into what happened at Mamasapano.
The commission was instructed to produce a report "as soon as possible," Murad said.
"Our concern is the truth. There will be a lot of speculations as to what happened and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the said incident will weigh down our current efforts to bring peace to our homeland," Murad said.
The MILF expressed its "deepest sympathies" to the families and friends of the policemen killed in the encounter that killed at least 43 policemen and 5 Moro rebels.
"The emotions of loss and pain are not alien to us Bangsamoro and Mujahideens. Neverthess, respect and solidarity is due to all, irrespective of which side they belong," the MILF said.
A final peace agreement between the MILF and the government was signed in March 2014 after 17 years of negotiations. The process aims to put an end to close to half a century of armed conflict in Mindanao that has claimed the lives of over 120,000 people.
But the deadly encounter in Maguindanao threatens to derail ongoing discussions in Congress for a proposed law creating a new autonomous region in Mindanao – a product of the peace accord.
Lawmakers want the MILF to explain why 50 policemen had to die in their territory when a ceasefire was supposed to be in effect, especially with discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law now in crucial stages in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The MILF earlier said their troops acted in self-defense after members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) entered their area to arrest wanted terrorists without coordination. (READ: Top PH cops didn't know details of PNP-SAF operation)
Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said initial reports revealed members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter attacked members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) then the PNP-SAF had a "misencounter" with the MILF because one unit attempted to avoid the MILF area.
The police is conducting a separate probe into the matter. The International Monitoring Team overseeing the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF is also expected to produce their own report to be submitted to both parties.
After the deadly clash, two senators withdrew their co-authorship of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, stripping proponents of a guaranteed majority vote in the Senate.
Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, chair of the main committee handing the measure, decided to postpone hearings pending the resolution of the incident - a move that could make it hard for the Senate to beat the March deadline to put the law into a vote.
Their counterparts in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, agreed to push through with executive meetings and put the bill to a vote on February 17.
But a number of House members, led by lawmakers who are former soldiers, remain unconvinced and want the MILF to justify whether the lack of coordination with ground commanders was enough reason to kill at least 43 policemen. (READ: What now after the Maguindanao clash?)
In his statement, Murad underscored the importance of adhering to "established protocols" agreed on during the 17-year negotiations in keeping peace.
"It is unfortunate but not surprising that when parties do no follow established protocols, lives are placed in harm's way. We therefore recommit ourselves to follow these process and protocols," the MILF said.
Read the MILF statement below:
This is the official statement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front relative to the unfortunate event that happened at Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.
1. First and foremost, we express and send our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who died in the armed encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The emotions of loss and pain are not alien to us Bangsamoro and Mujahideens. Nevertheless, respect and solidarity is due to all, irrespective of which side they belong.
2. Our concern is the truth. There will be a lot of speculations as to what happened and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the said incident will weigh down our current efforts to bring peace to our homeland.
3. In order to give meaning to their deaths, we must resolve not to let something like this happen again. To this end, the MILF is convening a Special Investigative Commission (SIC) to be composed of members of the MILF Central Committee and BIAF General Staff who are tasked to investigate the events at Mamasapano, Maguindanao that resulted in the deaths of members of the MILF and of soldiers of the Philippine Government. The mandate of the SIC is to gather as much reliable information and interview witnesses to establish the truth. The SIC is given instruction to come up with a report to the Central Committee as soon as possible.
3. We hereby reiterate the MILF's full commitment to the peace process. with the Philippine Government. An enduring peace and justice remains to be our primary objective. In this regard, all actions and pronouncements of our political and military units of the MILF should advance and adhere to this primary objective as much as possible and with due regard to the safety and security of our people and communities.
4. The MILF have been in negotiations with the Philippine Government for some time now. During this time, both parties have established protocols, ways of proceedings and mechanisms, which support and keep the peace. Adherence to these mechanisms have created a peaceful environment and lessened actual hostilities through the years. It is unfortunate but not entirely surprising that when parties do not follow established protocols lives are placed in harm's way. We therefore recommit ourselves to follow these processes and protocols.
5. For widest dissemination.
AL HAJ MURAD EBRAHIM
Central Committee, MILF