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Noy on SAF case: MILF expected to stand aside

Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is expected to stand aside when government launches an operation to obtain justice for members of the Special Action Force killed in the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident, President Aquino said Tuesday.

“At the very least, I am very positive of this, they will – as they have already demonstrated in the past – if there is a law enforcement operation, they will stand aside,” Aquino said in an ANC interview.

“They will not hamper the procedure. But I would venture to guess that perhaps they will do even more than that. Again, they will not be a hindrance to our enforcement,” he said.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed charges of direct assault with murder against 90 members of the MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups for the deaths of 35 SAF troopers.

The DOJ has yet to file cases for the killing of nine other SAF troopers, as no witnesses have come forward to link any member of the rebel groups to their killing.

Aquino said most of the respondents were not members of the MILF.

“And also the BIFF. Their forces are called the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) so those are also not under their control but, again, let me restate, for their forces they will not prove a hindrance towards enforcing… We presume this 90 will… be given subpoenas to appear for the preliminary investigation,” he said.

“Most of them probably will not appear. I asked what is the effect? The effect is you waive your right to preliminary investigation. Subsequently, a court will issue warrants of arrest against these people,” he said.

The President revealed in the same interview his meeting with 12 of the 13 members of the SAF’s strike force to clarify things about the Mamasapano incident.

He said that after his discussions with the 12 commandos, it became clearer to him that the SAF troopers did engage at least one or two persons inside the hut where Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, was killed.

“Their testimony is this guy first shined a light on them while they were approaching. They stopped, they crouched and subsequently this guy started firing at them, and then there were other groups that were firing at the periphery towards their direction as they were assaulting. So I guess the testimony is erroneous in the sense that they misidentified the person in the secondary room as Marwan,” Aquino said.

With regard to dismissed Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and sacked SAF chief Getulio Napeñas Jr., Aquino said questions would persist, especially on why they pushed through with the operation despite the risks.

Aquino suffered one of his worst crises because of the Mamasapano incident. He was criticized severely for allowing Purisima, who was then suspended, to take charge of the operation. He maintained he was misled and not given the right information while the operation was being conducted.

“I haven’t talked to him (Purisima) for quite sometime… Perhaps… just to put some substance to the assertion, and I think it was (then interior and local government secretary) Mar Roxas who did mention it at one point in time,” he said.

The President said there were other questions, including on the activities of Napeñas that particular day.

“First and foremost to my mind is the issue of insubordination. And suddenly, my warnings to them were proven. And actually I don’t know if warning is a correct word. It might be a reminder because he did operate as the regional public safety battalion in that area and presumably he would know the terrain, would know all of the people,” he pointed out.

“When I’m given all of the details of these plans… Well, the execution of the plans versus the plan as presented to me is a very – how should I put it? – very unprofessional conduct of it,” he said.

The President also reiterated he did not attend the welcome honors for the SAF 44 at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City because he wanted to respect and give their families time to grieve.

He said the government has also been assisting them fully. “Most of them and some of them I am told did not report for the jobs that they were applying for. Or some have changed what they wanted to do from getting employed into starting a livelihood project,” Aquino said.

Filing of cases praised

Senior administration lawmakers, meanwhile, welcomed the filing of criminal charges against the killers of the SAF commandos.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said it was about time the DOJ show its resolve to help the grieving families of the SAF troopers get justice.

“I hope that this will not end there, as this is just the first step in our quest for justice of those killed in the police operation, including the civilians,” Vargas said. – Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano, Christina Mendez

ACIRC ALAN PURISIMA ALFRED VARGAS AQUINO ATILDE BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC ARMED FORCES BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BUT I CHRISTINA MENDEZ MAMASAPANO SAF
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