Wednesday, November 02, 2011

MILF won’t surrender members allegedly involved in Basilan clash

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday rejected calls from government to surrender MILF deputy commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi and his men who allegedly killed 19 soldiers in a clash in Basilan on Oct. 18.

“We cannot surrender him. Asnawi is accused of something criminal he did in the past. In the principle of justice, it means that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. That means that there must be due process," MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar told reporters on Tuesday.

Asnawi is wanted for his alleged involvement in the beheading of Marine soldiers in 2007. The soldiers were out to serve a warrant against Asnawi and about 10 men, including some Abu Sayyaf members, when the fighting ensued in Al-Barka town.

Philippine Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said late Tuesday that the Army has lodged a complaint before the ceasefire committee and cited as truce violations the MILF's harboring of Asnawi and his men.

Ortiz said if the MILF does not surrender Asnawi, the Army will conduct pursuit operations.

Earlier in the day, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the MILF should “stand aside" if it does not intend to help the government track down the armed men involved in the clash.

Jaafar questioned government’s motive in “forcing the issue" despite the lack of a court decision on Asnawi’s case. He said the MILF will cooperate with the government once the guilt of Asnawi and his men has been established.

'The process'

“If its validated… that that person committed a crime, the validation is positive, the MILF and government will collaborate to effect the surrender or arrest of that person, that is the process," he said.

Jaafar said the Special Forces troops of the Army “did not coordinate with the MILF, they ignored the (ceasefire) mechanisms, ceasefire agreement… What we should do is investigate the incident to determine who are responsible (for the violation)… There is a provision in the mechanism that calls for the sanctioning of a violation, may that be from the government side. It is stated there who should impose the sanction," he said.

Meanwhile, AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said the government will exhaust all means and will work with peace negotiators for the arrest of Asnawi and his men.

“It's actually out of the hands of the AFP already," Cabangbang said. He pointed out that “the MILF is not calling for war, the government is not calling for war. Why is it that the media is discussing an all-out war scenario?"

"We are still prioritizing (the peace process), our priority now is making the mechanism work…The (peace) mechanism is working, both panels are talking. This can be solved if the negotiations are continuous. It’s just a matter of agreeing how it will be carried out," Cabangbang explained. — With Andreo Calonzo/ELR/VS, GMA News

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