Criminal charges filed vs Bravo, followers

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has filed charges of manslaughter against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Abdulrahman Macapaar alias Commander Bravo and over 90 of his men before the provincial prosecutor’s office in Lanao del Norte.

The charges filed last Thursday stemmed from last Monday’s simultaneous attack in five towns of Lanao del Norte by MILF rebels led by Bravo, resulting in destruction of properties and the deaths of 28 civilians, three soldiers, four militiamen, and a policeman.

Aside from multiple murder, the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detection Management (DIDM) also lodged frustrated murder, robbery in band, arson, and serious illegal detention charges against Bravo and his men before the Provincial Prosecutors’ Office in Tubod town.

Also named respondents in these cases, aside from the 30-man MILF group, led by Alvin Canto, who surrendered to the Army authorities the other night in Iligan City were Abu Sawaf, Abu Subair, Alin Pangalian, and Lunday Dayaan alias Commander Topsider.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the central leadership of the MILF had been informed about the government’s legal actions against Commander Bravo and his men and those against Commander Amirel Umbra Kato.

Puno said they are studying the possibility and still subject for approval of court, if they could use Canto and 30 of his men as state witnesses to pin down Bravo and the rest of his rogue members for their barbaric acts in Lanao del Norte.

He added that the matter is now in the hands of the MILF central leadership, if it is really for peace in Mindanao, to assist ongoing government efforts to bring Bravo and his co-conspirators before the bar of justice.

“If they are truly committed to peace and want the peace process to continue, then we expect them to fully to cooperate with our system of justice,” Puno said in a press briefing at Camp Crame, Quezon City.

He said that the government might look for and deal with a real group who can truly speak for and represent the entire Bangsamoro people in the peace process in Mindanao.

Next week, Puno will visit various areas in South to hold dialogues with local government executives, Ulamas, and Catholic bishops on how to restore normalcy to the lives of the people in areas attacked by the MILF rebels.

The two-day visit will also formalize the mobilization and deployment of Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) to protect and defend their respective communities.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr., meanwhile, assured that the CVOs to be mobilized in all areas of conflict would first undergo rigid background check.

These CVOs, whose role would be limited to the security and protection of their respective village, would be issued shotguns.

On the other hand, Razon said the PNP would not allow any armed groups to operate against the MILF in Mindanao, referring to the supposed reorganization of the Ilaga group of Antiquenos and Ilonggos who fought alongside government troops in North Cotabato against the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1970.

Reports said that a number of Muslim CVOs at the height of fighting two weeks ago in North Cotabato have fled with their issued firearms to fight alongside their MILF brothers.

Asked on information that scores of Muslim CVOs have switched loyalty to the MILF, Puno denied the report.

PNP recent inventory showed that there are 2,500 to 3,000 active CVOs now deployed in North Cotabato, 30,000 in Sultan Kudarat, and 12,000 in Maguindanao.

‘Killers and liars’

Puno said the insistence of the MILF that they have their own internal justice system to prosecute erring personnel is a tacit approval of the killing rampage committed by their men in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.

He called Bravo and his men as “mga mamamatay tao (killers) and sinungaling (liars),” as he pointed out that there is only one justice system in the country.

“This pronouncement is already a violation of the Constitution,” Puno said, referring to a statement issued by MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal that they would not turn over Bravo and Kato to government authorities and instead conduct an investigation themselves.

Iqbal even twitted the government forces to get Bravo and Kato if they can, with an accompanying warning that the two commanders will fight to the last man to defend themselves.

But Puno simply dismissed this warning as he vowed that government security forces would bring Bravo and Kato before the bar of justice.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP are still using proportionate force to flush out MILF rebels.

If the MILF will not surrender Bravo and Kato to government authorities, Puno hinted that the government might be forced to abandon its peace talks altogether with the group.

“How can we be talking about peace if they continue killing Christians and Muslims alike,” Puno said.

But he said that he is still hopeful that the MILF central leadership will resolve the issue by surrendering Bravo and Kato soon to prove their sincerity in bringing lasting peace to Mindanao.  

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