Monday, October 24, 2011

AFP to MILF attackers: Surrender or be hunted

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be asked to surrender the rebels who killed 19 soldiers in Mindanao last week or allow government troops to hunt them down.

In an interview over dwIZ radio on Monday, acting Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said, "It's either they surrender their criminal members sa amin or let the AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) perform their mandates."

"They should allow us to enter, if they cannot police their own ranks, let us do our job, ang AFP at PNP. Hayaan na lang nila kung hindi nila madisiplina ang kanilang myembro,< he said.

Cabunoc also said the AFP will provide the MILF with a list of those reportedly involved in the attacks in Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay, all in Mindanao.

Cabunoc said the AFP intends to pursue only selective targets — those "continuously" engaged in criminal activities — not the MILF as an organization.

Cabunoc said government and MILF representatives met on Saturday and agreed that the MILF's 115th and 114th base commands would stop offensive operations.

However, Cabunoc noted the the MILF was linked again to more attacks last weekend.

"Sa ganyang situation we are authorized to run after them, to pursue them ... Ang problema, in most cases, tumatakbo sila sa ATS (areas of temporary stay) kung saan kailangan natin makiupag-coordinate sa ceasefire committee para pasukan ang area na ito," he said.

While the MILF's central committee appears to be serious in pursuing peace talks with the government, Cabunoc said some MILF members are involved in crimes like kidnapping.

"Nakita ko ang central committee nila walang hangad kundi kapayapaan. Nagkakaproblema sila on the ground, there are so many members ng MILF na hindi sumusunod, who are actually criminals already. Sila ang nangunguna sa kidnapping, extortion," Cabunoc said.

Attacks in Mindanao

On October 18, a total of 19 soldiers, including four officers, were killed in the clash with MILF members.

The MILF earlier said the killing happened after soldiers allegedly intruded into their territory.

However, on Twitter, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the "soldiers are aware of MILF Areas of Temporary Stay (ATS) as per ceasefire agreement."

The AFP insisted that the location of the clash between government and rebel troops Tuesday last week was four kilometers away from the MILF's ATS.

Cabunoc said the MILF hierarchy may have even been misinformed about the circumstances surrounding the Basilan attack.

"Ang nangyari kasi sa Basilan kung saan 19 ang namatay e hindi naman nila area yan. They are just claiming area nila yan. Kahit sabihin ng vice chairman nila area nila I believe he was misinformed ," he added.

On October 20, the last missing soldier in the clash with rebels in Basilan province was rescued after managing to swim out to sea to his freedom.

Several other attacks, believed to be perpetrated by the MILF, followed after the October 18 killings in Basilan.

On Sunday, eight more people, including four civilians, were killed in two separate attacks, bringing to 34 the number of people believed to be killed by MILF rebels.

Last week, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday rejected the idea of declaring an all-out war against the MILF.

“Are we advocating... all-out war...? Would that [improve] the situation? Matuto naman tayo. Giyera, walang nakikinabang," Aquino said on Thursday last week.

He said he does not want to judge the entire MILF organization just because of “one rotten egg."

In an interview over radio dwIZ also on Thursday last week, presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said, the government and MILF peace talks will continue despite the attacks.

"There is a mechanism to investigate what happened and find out what can be done to avoid a repeat of the incident. In the meantime, our preparations for the next round of talks will continue," Deles said.

Although there is no definite date yet for the next round of talks, Deles said the government expects the talks to resume by November.

Demoralized but ready to seek justice

Cabunoc said government troops may be feeling demoralized after the attacks but are ready to seek justice for the slain soldiers.

"You get demoralized pag namatayan kayo. But yung demoralization sa pagkamatay, with the loss of so many soldiers, yung collective, it is good for the service kasi nagtatrabaho na kami in a certain objective para mabigyan ng hustisya yung ating mga namatay na sundalo," Cabunoc said.

Cabunoc said, "Nalulungkot tayo sa nangyaring namatay but this does not hinder us from doing our job. Yung demoralization na nababanggit pag sinabing demoralized ang AFP, parang hindi ito magtatrabaho, walang gana, it's not that way." - VVP/RSJ, GMA News
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