Lunes, Nobyembre 14 2011
Basilan massacre of Philippine troops big blow to peace talks with Moro rebels
MANILA, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- The already shaky peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were dealt with another big blow after the massacre last Tuesday of 19 soldiers in the hands of heavily armed Moro rebels in Al-Barka, Basilan in Southern Philippines.
Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, who reopened talks with both the Moro rebels and the communist New People's Army after he assumed the presidency in June last year, expressed disappointment over the military's failure to prevent the bloodbath.
President Aquino said he would take up the issues involving the MILF with the military top brass in a command conference Friday.
Despite the one-sided encounter in which government forces were outnumbered by MILF guerrillas, Mr. Aquino brushed aside calls to revive an all-out war against the Muslim secessionist group.
"Nobody gets any benefit from war," Aquino said as he expressed condolences to the families of the slain soldiers.
But Representative Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the committee on national defense of the House of Representatives, called on Thursday the government to immediately suspend peace talks with the MILF.
In an interview with a local radio station in Cotabato City, Biazon, who was a former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that instead of talking with the rebels, the government should concentrate on hunting down those involved in the Al-Barka clash.
Biazon also called for an investigation into the reported link between the MILF and the terror group Abu Sayyaf.
Abu Sayyaf, a notorious kidnap-for-ransom gang in Basilan and Sulu, has links with Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaida.
The military said some of the rebels involved in the Al-Barka clash were colluding with the Abu Sayyaf, a charge that the MILF has repeatedly denied.
Biason, also a former senator, said the Al-Barka clash was not isolated, adding that in 2007, MILF rebels also clashed with soldiers in Al-Barka. In that encounter, 14 soldiers were later found to have been beheaded.
He also said the MILF has refused to surrender Dan Laksaw Asnawi and his men, who were being sought for their alleged role in the 2007 beheadings.
Asnawi was among those involved in the beheading of 14 Marines during a 2007 clash. Asnawi was arrested in the aftermath of the beheading but escaped from the Basilan provincial jail in December 2009 with 30 other inmates.
The MILF has confirmed that Asnawi was the MILF commander under the 114th Base Command in Basilan.
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said that the MILF will not surrender Asnawi and his men. "Why are we going to surrender them? It was the military who attacked their position. Besides, they are covered by our existing truce," Iqbal said.
Iqbal said that the two Al-Barka encounters were prompted by uncoordinated military actions and that the rebel group should not be faulted for it.
According to Iqbal, during the encounter, the military lost 22 men, not 19, while only six MILF guerrillas were killed.
Iqbal said the Al-Barka encounter showed that the military had no regard for the peace process and the agreement on the cessation of hostilities which the Philippine government and the MILF have signed. Its implementation is being supervised by an International Monitoring Team headed by Malaysia.
Malaysia is also the facilitator of the off-and-on peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.
A Malaysian official assigned with the IMT said they were working doubly hard to restore order in Basilan.
"We are doing our best to restore peace in that island province. We have rules and procedures to follow under the signed ceasefire agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government," Major Gen. Dato Mahdi Bin Yusof, IMT head of mission, said.
Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer, head of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the military was not at fault, saying that the encounter took place outside of the MILF's "area of temporary stay". He said the MILF should be held liable for what occurred on Tuesday.
Practically belying Biazon's assertion, government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen said in a statement that the Al-Barka encounter was isolated and should not affect the talks.
"The fighting has already stopped. We are certain that this is an isolated incident. This armed confrontation was not intended by both government and MILF," he said.
"We are confident that the current mechanisms for monitoring violations of the ceasefire agreement are in place and are effectively working. With the assistance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as the ceasefire committees, we hope to be able to get a clearer picture of the causes of this incident," Leonen added.
Leonen said the latest Al-Barka encounter could be tackled when the peace panels meet in Malaysia next month.
Since the l970s, the 12,000-strong MILF has waged a rebellion for an independent state in Mindanao. The rebellion has left about 150,000 people dead and untold suffering to both the Muslim and the Christian population in Mindanao.
The Question is how will our government especially our President react on this issue!.