MANILA, Philippines -- The reported tampering of the firearms seized from the fallen Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao has “destroyed” any goodwill generated by the weapons’ return to the Philippine National Police, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Tuesday.
In a manifestation at the Senate hearing into the bloody January 25 incident, Marcos appealed to Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal to convince the organization’s leadership to undertake more confidence-building measures to restore the peace process, which has been placed in doubt over the January 25 incident, which saw 44 SAF commandos, 18 MILF fighters and at least five civilians dead during the operation to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”
In the wake of the incident, the government said the MILF could prove its sincerity in pursuing peace by returning the SAF firearms, helping pursue Abdul Basit Usman, the Filipino bomb maker who was the secondary target of the Mamasapano mission, and surrender the fighters involved in the clash.
Earlier, the PNP complained that a number of the 16 firearms returned by the MILF had either missing or cannibalized parts.
Responding to Marcos, Iqbal acknowledged that, if true, the tampering of the firearms would put the MILF in a “bad light” but, at the same time, stressed that, “while we understand the material considering, on our part it is the symbolism” of returning the guns was what was important.
The return of the weapons meant “we are willing to do anything possible because we have spent a lot of political capital convincing our fighters and commanders to return the firearms (because) we also spent lives and there was also destruction” on their part, Iqbal said.
At the same time, he said the reported tampering of the weapons bolstered his call for an independent investigation.
As for the surrender of their fighters, Iqbal said aside from the legal dimension, there was also a “political dimension” dictated by agreements and other documents that are “binding” on both the government and MILF, as well as mechanisms to address violations “on both sides” of the ceasefire.
He also pointed to a “third dimension” -- human rights -- that he said was applicable to the viral video showing the execution of a wounded SAF commando in Mamasapano.
The MILF chief negotiator said this covered not only the killer and the person who took the video but also those who uploaded the video on the Internet.
When asked by Marcos how the MILF would respond if the identity of the killer was proven to be a member of their organization, Iqbal said: “If it is in the nature of a war crime, we will submit.”