MILF challenged to help locate Marwan’s grave

By , on February 8, 2015


Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan
Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan

TAGBILARAN CITY — A former ranking Muslim rebel, who rejoined the government years back, appealed on Saturday to both the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels to pursue the peace process even as he challenged the MILF hierarchy to show its sincerity by helping the government locate the burial site of slain wanted terrorist leader Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Marwan to put an end all doubts of his demise.

Dimas Pundato, former undersecretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and former vice chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and chair of the MNLF Reformist Group, made the call in an interview with this writer.

Pundato’s appeal was in response to calls by some sectors for an all-out-war in the aftermath of the brutal killing of 44 police commandos by Muslim insurgents and terrorist group in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Pundato said that while the government announced the killing of Marwan during a surprise raid by a 392-man Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Mamasapano last Jan. 25 that also resulted in the killing of 44 SAF troopers, there are persistent reports that the wanted terrorist leader was reportedly alive despite the DNA confirmation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States that the DNA test belongs to Marwan.

However, the FBI said it would conduct further tests using the cut-off finger of Marwan the government sent to them.

But Pundato insisted that the only way to settle this swirling controversy is to exhume the body of Marwan which was buried somewhere in Mamasapano.

“If it is true that Marwan was buried in Mamasapano, his remains are there,” Pundato said.

At the same time, Pundato pointed out the need to continue the ongoing peace process between the government and MILF because “an all out war as some sectors are calling would be disastrous to the country.”

He urged the government peace panel, headed by Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohaqer Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, to coordinate more closely to avert the outbreak of an all-out war in Mindanao.

“There must be close coordination and full trust between the two panels,” Pundato said.

He warned that an all-out would mean more Filipinos would be killed.

Pundato said that while full trust and sincerity must be observed from both sides, he urged the MILF to show its sincerity by helping the government locate the grave site of Marwan, who was reportedly buried in Mamasapano immediately after the 12-hour fighting between the SAF troopers and MILF and elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He explained that in the Muslim tradition, their dead must be buried within 24 hours after death.

Pundato said that he was pretty sure that some MILF and BIFF men knew where Marwan was buried, adding that “I believe more or less 20 rebels and BIFF elements recovered the body of Marwan.”

At the same time, Pundato questioned “why the SAF troopers failed to bring the body of Marwan, instead of cutting only a finger that was sent to the FBI for DNA test.”

“They should have brought the whole body of Marwan as he dismissed the claim by SAF troopers that they could not bring the terrorist’s remains because they were in the midst of the fighting.”

“They could have easily done that,” said Pundato, a veteran of the fighting in Mindanao in the ‘70s between the MNLF and government forces.

The killing of Marwan was confirmed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States through a DNA test based on the cut-off finger of the slain international terrorist, tagged as the Bin Laden of Southeast Asia.

The government has also announced that Marwan was killed by SAF troopers but some sectors have disputed the claim, saying Marwan is still alive and reportedly hiding in Lanao. Though the FBI had already confirmed that Marwan was slain, yet it said they would conduct further tests for reconfirmation.

“The finding that Marwan was indeed killed must be conclusive to erase all doubts and the MILF and BIFF must be asked where is Marwan buried?” Pundato said.