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MILF sincerity questioned

Legislators questioned the sincerity of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in pursuing peace after the Muslim rebel group refused to surrender one of its commanders accused of beheading Marines in 2007.

Senator Francis Pangilinan said the MILF’s decision to keep Dan Laksaw Asnawi within its fold was “a blow to the peace process.”

“Coddling wanted individuals and the criminally accused does not speak well of their motives and intentions,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

“We are for peace and we challenge the MILF to show that it is truly sincere in wanting peace as well,” Pangilinan said, noting that President Benigno Aquino III had shown his commitment to peace by secretly meeting with MILF chair Murad Ibrahim in Japan last August.

At the House, party-list member Sherwin Tugna (Cibac) and Zambales Representative Milagros Magsaysay similarly took the MILF to task for its intransigence.

“We are beginning to doubt its leadership’s sincerity in the peace process. There’s something wrong when they agree on a ceasefire and sit for talks while at the same time refusing to hand over men who face arrest warrants,” Tugna said.

Magsaysay said if the MILF does not trust the government in giving Asnawi a fair trial, then the government cannot rely on the group to cooperate in its efforts to seek “all-out justice” for the murdered soldiers.

Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, meanwhile, questioned the government’s grant of P5 million to the MILF to help establish a Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

“Under what parameters and conditions-precedent is the Republic of the Philippines obligated to remit financial assistance or is the donation already due and for how much?” Lagman asked.

He also wanted to know where the P5 million was sourced from and whether the amount was specifically appropriated in the national budget of 2011.

“Pending the conclusion of the peace accord, is the MILF not considered a rebel and secessionist group which is fomenting discord and committing atrocities in Muslim Mindanao against Filipino soldiers and civilians until now, and therefore an enemy of the state?” Lagman asked.

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