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Palace: MILF's refusal to yield Asnawi a ceasefire violation

The refusal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to surrender its deputy commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi is a violation of the ceasefire agreement with the government, Malacañang said on Monday.

“Insofar as the ceasefire agreement is concerned, it is very clear the MILF cannot harbor criminal elements, that is in violation of the ceasefire agreement," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters in a phone interview.

Asnawi, deputy commander of the MILF’s 114th base command, has been the subject of manhunt operations since he bolted the Basilan Provincial Jail in December 2009. He was allegedly among the MILF rebels who beheaded 10 Marines following an encounter in Al-Barka town in Basilan in 2007.

The MILF, through its vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar, had rejected calls for them to turn in Asnawi, saying the joint government-MILF investigation showed that the MILF had nothing to do with the beheading of the Marines.

Lacierda said they would ask Marvic Leonen, the government chief negotiator in the talks with the MILF, to enlighten them on the group’s claim that it had been cleared of liability in the 2007 incident.

“We’d like to also get some enlightenment with that regard. Remember, [in] 2007 we were not in government [yet], so that’s something that we’d like to also get clarification on," he said.

Asnawi and his men were reported to be among the forces that attacked a military patrol in Al-Barka, Basilan on October 18, resulting in the deaths of 19 soldiers — an encounter that the MILF said would not have happened if the military honored the agreement on the rebel group’s area of temporary stay (ATS). Several of the soldiers were captured and mutilated before being killed.

The ATS is a place designated by the government and the MILF Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) where forces of the secessionist group can stay to prevent encounters with troops pursuing members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf group.

The 19 soldiers were part of a team that was supposed to serve a warrant on Asnawi and about 10 of his men, including some alleged Abu Sayyaf members, when the fighting ensued last Oct. 18

Lacierda said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the CCCH are now working out the operational details to pursue lawless elements in areas considered as MILF lairs.

“They are discussing the mechanisms on those things and that’s the reason why the operational needs are left to the AFP and the CCCH to discuss," he said. — KBK, GMA News
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AMITA O. LEGASPI, GMA News

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