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Gov't warns MILF against coddling fugitives

MANILA (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government on Tuesday reminded the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that its ceasefire agreement with the government prohibits the coddling of fugitives.
The government also said that the rebel group should "cooperate or stand aside" in the government's pursuit of "lawless elements," among them an MILF commander.
In a phone patch interview with reporters, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte reiterated the government's position that the pursuit operations are not directed against the MILF but against lawless elements responsible for attacks on government forces in parts of Mindanao over the last few weeks.
"We have made it clear from the onset that this is not against the MILF as an entity but against lawless elements. Either they cooperate or stand aside and let our law enforcers do their jobs," Valte said, in response to the MILF's pronouncement that it is ready to defend itself against military attacks on its forces, particularly on Dan Asnawi.
The MILF had said that Asnawi is the second highest MILF commander in Basilan and is not a criminal but a "victim of an unjust justice system where the innocent is charged of a crime that he never committed."
To this, Valte said, "there is no other recourse but to defend himself in the court..The proper venue to ventilate that would be the courts."
Asnawi figured in the incident in Basilan last month, which led to the death of 19 soldiers.
Valte said that those who protect lawless elements would be held accountable as well.
"It is strictly prohibited under the ceasefire agreement to provide safe havens for fugitives," she said.
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