MANILA — Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Executive Director Luisito Montalbo assailed allegations made by priest Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado that the government thru OPAPP is purchasing weapons to make it appear that the MILF is returning the firearms of the fallen Special Action Force troopers .
“We don’t know where that is coming from. Certainly, there is no truth to that.” Montalbo said. “We find it very disappointing that Fr. Jun, whom we’ve known for a long time and who used to directly engage our Office as a peace advocate, would come out publicly with claims that are unsubstantiated and unverified.”
“It saddens us to note that Fr. Jun would feel that he could no longer directly engage our Office constructively as many other local and national civil society peace advocates, religious leaders, and other stakeholders are currently doing,” Montalbo said. “Alam naman niya (he knows) that we are just a text or call away should he wish to check with us the truth behind some information or rumors he receives.”
“His public pronouncement is wrong and also unfair to our ground forces, the ceasefire committees and our international monitors who personally documented, facilitated and officially witnessed the retrieval of the weapons from the MILF.”
Montalbo was referring to the GPH – MILF Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, and the International Monitoring Team or IMT, both of which are mechanisms under the ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF, and were instrumental in the retrieval of SAF weapons.
The GPH CCCH is headed by Brigadier General Carlito Galvez with Secretariat head Director Carlos Sol Jr. The MILF CCCH is headed by Rashid Ladiasan. The IMT, on the other hand, is composed of representatives from different countries and is led by Malaysian MGen Dato’ Abdul Samad Bin HJ Yaakub as Head of Mission. An IMT member, Norwegian William Hovland, served as official witness in the documentation and retrieval of weapons.
Last Feb. 18, the 16 and a half high-powered SAF weapons were publicly presented to Government of the Philippines peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer by Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal in a program hosted by the 6th Infantry Division’s Camp Siongco in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
Witnesses at the presentation of the retrieved weapons were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, GPH peace panel member Senen Bacani, Joint Normalization Committee co-chair Muhammad Nassif, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang Jr., AFP Western Mindanao Command Chief Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Philippine Army 6th Infantry Battalion Commander Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan and PNP ARMM OIC Senior Supt Noel Armilla.
Last Feb. 19, the retrieved SAF weapons were formally turned over by the ceasefire mechanisms and the AFP to the Philippine National Police Headquarters.
Montalbo noted that OPAPP’s legal unit has already started looking at various malicious misinformations being directed at the agency, which now include Mercado’s claim.
“Definitely, we cannot allow such untruths and violations of our rights to go unchallenged. It is not just the name of the agency that is at stake, but hundreds of its employees who have no way to protect themselves from being maligned in this way.”