The hunt for terror suspects, which resulted in the deadly clashes in Maguindanao, was suspiciously timed with the congressional deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
By DEE AYROSO
Progressive groups said that the January 25 gunfight between government and Moro rebel groups in Maguindanao undermines the efforts for peace by the Bangsamoro people, and shows government’s ‘lack of sincerity.’
At least 44 members of the elite police unit Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) were killed, and 12 were wounded in clashes with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
The PNP-SAF men entered a territory of the MILF in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao to serve a warrant for Malaysian terror suspect and Jemaah Islamiyah official Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as “Marwan.” The suspect is in the wanted list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with a $5 million reward for his head.
MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the PNP-SAF did not coordinate its operation with the MILF, which is part of the ceasefire mechanism, and resulted in the “misencounter.”
On Jan. 26, congressional deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) were suspended as reports of the deaths of the elite policemen came in.
Jerome Aba, Suara Bangsamoro spokesman, said, “We cannot help but suspect that the supposed serving of warrant of arrest against the terror suspects, which eventually became a raid that led to the place of the MILF, was conducted in time with the deliberation of BBL and casting doubts to the capacity of the Bangsamoro government in having its own military and police command.”
The BBL contains the essential elements of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which government signed with the MILF last year. Congress has to pass the BBL, which will serve as the governing law of the Bangsamoro political entity.
Aba said that in spite of its peace agreement and ceasefire with the MILF, the government continues to attack and commit human rights violations in the Moro communities, as it implements its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.
“Now it has even entered an MILF camp,” he said.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) – Philippines said that the police entry into the MILF area despite the government’s peace talks with the MILF was “proof of treachery.”
“This is a big blow to the Mindanao peace process and shows the utter lack of sincerity of the Aquino government towards peace,” ILPS-Philippines secretary general Norma Biñas said. The group called on the monitoring team, the international community and peace advocates “to intervene actively in preventing more clashes initiated by government troops on the Bangsamoro people.”
US government’s hand
The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said that it “holds the US government responsible” for the death of the police commandos.
KMU chairman Elmer Labog said in a statement that the United States government gave intelligence information on the supposed whereabouts of Jemaah Islamiyah-linked bomb expert Marwan. He added that the US government also dangled the $5-million bounty for Marwan’s capture to the PNP-SAF men who were US-trained.
“The government of President Noynoy Aquino, on the other hand, carried out the operations because it is a loyal and fanatic puppet of the US government,” Labog said. “At the same time, it wanted to get the bounty and earn some ‘brownie points’ for Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas who wants to suck up to the US in his quest to be the next Philippine president.”
On January 26, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. suspended the hearings for the BBL indefinitely, as he condemned what he called as a “massacre.” At the House of Representatives, the ad hoc committee on the proposed BBL also suspended all deliberations as they adopted a resolution by Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon asking for reports on the incident from government agencies.
Senators JV Ejercito and Alan Cayetano had withdrawn their authorship on the BBL.
Aba said that Biazon and Marcos “should be reminded that what should be investigated is the false report that led PNP-SAF to attack an MILF area.”
Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate also called for an investigation on the incident.
“Even as we condemned the loss of lives in these incidents, Congress must also conduct a thorough investigation, particularly on the Maguindanao encounter since it appears that there was breakdown in the established mechanisms agreed upon by the GPH and MILF,” Zarate said.
The KMU also called for the upholding of the international humanitarian law (IHL). Labog deplored the desecration of the bodies of the dead commandos, which violates international humanitarian law governing conflict situations. “While the Philippine military is known for desecrating the dead bodies of members of rebel groups, we call on all parties in the armed conflicts in the country to uphold the IHL,” said Labog.
The Suara Bangsamoro lamented the calls made by some politicians for an “all-out war” against the Moro rebels. On Jan. 28, the group will hold a rally against the possible escalation of military operations and breach in the peace process at the Cotabato City Plaza.
“The Moro population has always been under attack,” Aba said. “There has always been an ‘all-out war’ against the Moro communities, because of Oplan Bayanihan and the US war on terror. And we know that it’s the civilians who are most affected.”
“We are not terrorists, and we do not harbour terrorists,” Aba said. “The Moro people will always defend its homeland, community and the people. When the right to self-determination, genuine land reform and national industrialization is implemented, only then can there be peace.”