MILF to return firearms, personal belongings of fallen 44 SAF men — Iqbal

By , on February 10, 2015


On the morning of January 29, 2015, the remains of the members of the PNP Special Action Force slain in Mamasapano arrived at the Villamor Air Base. The fallen PNP SAF were accorded arrival honors, led by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas, PNP Deputy Dir. Gen. Leonardo Espina, and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. (Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office)
On the morning of January 29, 2015, the remains of the members of the PNP Special Action Force slain in Mamasapano arrived at the Villamor Air Base. The fallen PNP SAF were accorded arrival honors, led by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas, PNP Deputy Dir. Gen. Leonardo Espina, and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. (Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office)

MANILA – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has decided to return the firearms and any retrievable personal belongings of the fallen 44 Special Action Force-Philippine National Police (SAF-PNP), Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) chairman Mohagher Iqbal said on Tuesday.

In his letter read by MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) chair Rasid Ladiasan during Senate inquiry on Tuesday, Iqbal said the decision to return the firearms was in deference to the peace process and the recognition of the MILF has never wanted the Mamasapano encounter to happen.

”The MIILF never wanted that unfortunate incident on January 25 in Mamasapano in Maguindanao to happen. This was the first time since 2011 that fighting erupted between government and MILF forces,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said the MILF is already in the process of accounting the firearms and personal belongings taken by the MILF fighters from the SAF troopers who executed ‘Oplan Exodus’ aimed at capturing high-profile terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman.

The BTA chairman has also expressed commitment to fully cooperate with the Senate in the search for truth and justice.

”However, the decision has stressed that the appearance will take place after the MILF Special Investigation Commission (SIC) comes out with its findings,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said the MILF will remain to be a revolutionary organization ‘until the peace agreement is fully implemented.’

The statement of Iqbal, however, alarmed no less than Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., chairman the Senate committee on local government that conducts hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

”It is really alarming. It is entirely direct contradictions to the testimony of both sides that signed the framework agreement pushing for the BBL. It is direct contradictions to the conditions describe to us in hearings in Mindanao and here in Manila,” Marcos said.

Marcos said both the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF told him that while peace process is ongoing, there will be a cessation of hostilities of military action or revolutionary actions and decommissioning of weapons of the MILF.

Senate President Franklin Drilon appreciated the MILF’s commitment but he also asked if the MILF has made commitment to surrender Usman, a commander of the BIFF.

”I cannot answer your question but we will raise this with the MILF,” Ladiasan answered.

Drilon reminded the MILF that President Benigno Aquino III has appealed to them to surrender Usman if the terrorist is still in their territory to rebuild confidence between the GPH and the MILF.

Drilon also tried to confirm from Ladiasan if the firearms of the fallen 44 SAF troopers were being sold in Mindanao.

Ladiasan said the MILF is already in the process of investigation about the matter.

”We cannot confirm, we cannot say anything. We are looking into that, and act accordingly,” Ladiasan promised.

Senator Ralph Recto agreed with Drilon that the MILF should surrender Usman, a commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who escaped the SAF operation on January 25 in Mamaspano, Maguindanao.

Recto asked Ladiasan why the MILF cuddled Marwan, an international terrorist linked to Jemaah Islamiyah.

”It is not true that we cuddled Marwan. He is not stationary,” Ladiasan said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Pio Catapang Jr. said it was not the MILF but the BIFF that accommodated Marwan.

”Marwan and Usman are accommodated by the BIFF and they are giving training to the BIFF,” Catapang said.

For his part, acting Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina believed that Marwan is being accommodated not only by the BIFF but by the MILF.

”There is no doubt that Marwan is being cuddled by the MILF and BIFF. We have received information that he was in the place since 2012. It is highly possible that MILF and BIFF are being trained,” Espina said.

Marwan was killed in the operation based on the DNA tests conducted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Marwan, a Malaysian national, has USD5-million bounty on his head being in charge of the South Eastern Asian and Indonesian terrorist group called Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia or KMM.

A 392-member SAF team executed the ‘Oplan Exodus’ but booby traps around Marwan’s house exploded, alerting the combined forces of the MILF and BIFF.

It resulted in a whole encounter that resulted in the killing of 44 SAF troops and at least 250 from the side of the MILF and BIFF.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales confirmed during the hearing that five civilians have been killed in the bloody Mamasapano encounter.