Despite clashes, gov’t confident peace deal will push through
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The government remains confident that the peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will hold despite clashes in Basilan that left four MILF members dead.

The fighting took place just two weeks after the MILF signed a peace deal with the government.

Four MILF rebels were among the 20 people killed in clashes between government forces and Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan on Friday.

The MILF fighters helped the Abu Sayyaf in fighting the government forces but did so for personal reasons, President Aquino said yesterday.

“Those MILF members who were killed were trying to help their relatives in the Abu Sayyaf during the encounter with government forces. So they joined the fight for personal rather than political or ideological reasons,” he said.

Aquino said the incident would not pose a problem in the peace agreement with the MILF.

Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said the incident is being investigated.

“This will not affect the entire peace process,” Deles said. “The resolve of both parties has not waned.”

Deles said the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf were coordinated with the MILF under the existing ceasefire mechanisms.

“Investigation is ongoing to verify if there were indeed MILF elements among the casualties. If true, the government and MILF have existing ceasefire mechanisms that will be tapped to look into the matter and determine possible courses of action,” she said.

Aquino also said the MILF was informed ahead by the military regarding the operations against the bandit group.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar denounced the killings, saying the four were apparently mistaken by the military for the enemy.

“Four of our members were martyred,” Jaafar told newsmen.

Jaafar said the MILF had called on the international committee monitoring the ceasefire to investigate who is to blame for the incident.

He admitted the MILF was not the actual target by the military in the operations.

“The report I’m getting is that our men in the area were affected directly, although the targets were not them. We are surprised why they were hit when the target of the raid was very far,” Jaafar said.

Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the soldiers involved in the fighting were ordered to go after the Abu Sayyaf only.

“Our troops were not targeting the MILF as they were only after the Abu Sayyaf,” Zagala said, adding the military leadership would welcome an investigation into the incident.

“We also wanted to know why there were MILF fatalities in the fighting because as far as we are concerned our troops were only fighting the Abu Sayyaf and not the MILF rebels,” he said.

An Army officer who was involved in last Friday’s clashes in Basilan said the MILF rebels initiated the attack.

“They attacked us and they were in fact shouting at us that all of us will no longer be returning to our families alive and so we have to fight back,” he said.

The MILF, through its website,, came out with an article denying the military had coordinated its operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan with the joint ceasefire committee.

“The movement of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) soldiers was not in any way coordinated with CCCH (Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities) neither did the military inform the AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group),” the article read.

The article also said a civilian was killed and four minors were hurt in last Friday’s military operations in Basilan.

The article identified the slain civilian as Julamri Bapakil and the wounded minors as Adzmar Abdurahim, 14, Hudri Julamri, 16, Basri Pamasad, 17 and Jihad Abdurajim, 17.

Citing reports from the ground, the article also identified three of the slain MILF members as Buka Kerok, Soy Tarung and Mohammad Soh. The encounter also left a certain Totong Ausal and Muthim Imam wounded, the article added.  â€“ Jose Rodel Clapano, Alexis Romero, Jaime Laude

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