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Palace cites two-track approach to 'all-out justice'

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino is employing a two-track approach in dealing with separatist rebels, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday.

Valte said the President had deemed it best to go after those behind the killing of the 19 soldiers in Basilan last Oct. 18 while pursuing peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“The pursuit of the lawless elements will continue. The President was very categorical – you cooperate or you stand aside because we are trying to make the distinctions as to who really wants peace,” Valte said.

“Those who are just meddling and hiding, we are trying to determine, we are trying to separate these kinds of people. But the President was very categorical: regardless of affiliation, if you violate the law, you will be liable and we will come after you,” she said.

Malacañang denied the government had not been swift in addressing the situation, saying “we cannot sacrifice thoroughness for speed.”

Valte said they were aware of the comments on Aquino’s approach in dealing with the situation.

“We are aware of comments: why come out only now? Why talk only now? And our answer is always… I think the President addressed it also partly in the past few days that he wanted to verify all the facts first before coming out and before giving a statement on it,” Valte said.

“We wanted to be absolutely sure as to what happened before taking any step.”

Valte explained the President is working on pursuing the MILF rebels behind the attack while at the same time, pushing the peace talks with the MILF.

“These are separate tracks now. The peace talks is a separate track (from) those who perpetrated the incident in Basilan. And the military and our law enforcement forces already know the steps they have to take,” she said.

Valte said the military approach is not targeting the MILF.

“What does that mean? You will not be pursued just because you were affiliated, a former member, a current member, you were a member for a brief period of time – just because of your affiliation. The President was very categorical: if you’re considered a lawless element because you broke the law, we will come after you – that is very clear,” she said.

Valte said all the troop movements would be calculated now “and everybody should be forewarned because of the operations that we are conducting.”

She said there was “an ongoing investigation” into the Basilan incident, including the alleged use of the P5-million cash that the government gave to the MILF to purchase arms.

The P5 million was intended for the Bangsamoro Leadership Management Institute that the government has yet to release.

Valte also said the Department of Social Welfare and Development would be ready to take care of the families who would be displaced by the operations.

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By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated October 26, 2011 12:00 AM

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