ABS-CBN News – MILF remains a revolutionary group: Iqbal

By ABS-CBNnews.com

abscbn_thumbMANILA, Philippines – Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday criticized the chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for saying that the MILF remains a “revolutionary organization” despite the ongoing peace negotiations with the Philippine government.

In a letter to Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chairperson Grace Poe, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal apologized to the Senate for failing to appear during the second day of the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano carnage.

Iqbal said he will appear before the Senate inquiry after the MILF investigation commission comes out with its own findings on the incident, which will then be the basis of his testimony. He said the MILF Central Committee is also asking that he be allowed to testify in an executive session.

He said the MILF will also return any firearms and retrieved effects taken from SAF troopers killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Janaury 25.

A total of 44 police commandos were killed by MILF rebels and private armed groups during the anti-terror operation in Mamasapano.

Iqbal pointed out that the MILF remains a revolutionary organization that has signed a peace agreement with the government after 18 years.

“While we may have signed a peace agreement with the government after 18 years of intermittent war and negotiations, the peace agreement has yet to be implemented. Until the peace agreement is fully implemented, we will remain to be a revolutionary organization,” he said in the letter read by Rasid Ladiasan, chair of the MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities.

This irked Marcos who said the statement is a direct contradiction of what has been said during the ongoing talks about the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“We are told that we are in a condition between MILF and the Phil government were there is a cessation of military action or revolutionary action. This contradicts that. During our very first hearing, we were already told that the process of decommissioning had begun. But this is not consistent with that. I want to know what basis we are talking here. Can we now assume that we are still at war?”

“This is an alarming development that we have returned to war.”

Sen. Grace Poe said she believes Ladiasan is not in a position to answer Marcos’ question, saying that this was a question for the MILF leadership.

She also pointed out that the Senate is not asking for a complete report on the Mamasapano carnage but an initial assessment.

“Everyone here is giving initial assessment…This is the reason why we are asking him to come,” she said.

She also said information divulged in an executive session can be made public if it does not jeopardize national security.

She said the next missive from Iqbal should say when he or a representative will appear before the hearing.

Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chairperson of the Government Peace Negotiating Panel, said the government is not at war with the MILF because of the ongoing ceasefire which was broken last January 25.

She also said it is very important that the MILF leadership appears before the Senate hearing to explain their side to the senators.

For his part, Ladiasan said the MILF is very committed to the peace process.

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