The Moro Islamic Liberation Front said said the real circumstances on the deaths of the nine MILF members can easily be determined with the help of probers from the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team.
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MILF, peace advocates seek probe into death of 9 guerrillas in anti-drug ops
John Unson (Philstar.com) - May 28, 2018 - 12:21pm

NORTH COTABATO (Updated 3:45 p.m.) — Peace advocates want a third party probe into the deaths of nine members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in a police anti-narcotics operation in Matalam town Saturday.

Officials of the MILF, which is engaged in a peace process with Malacañang since the 1990s, said in separate statements Monday that the victims, who belonged to their 105th Base Command, were not involved in drug trafficking, contrary to assertions by the police.

The North Cotabato provincial police announced on Saturday that the team that raided their lair in Barangay Kilada in Matalam, North Cotabato to search for narcotics was forced to neutralize them when they opened fire.  

Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said the allegations that the nine guerrillas provoked the encounter were unfounded.

Citing their initial findings, Butch Malang, chairman of the MILF’s Committee on General Cessation of Hostilities, said the victims had all been disarmed before automatic gunfire reverberated through the scene.

“No illegal drugs were found on the spot where the alleged encounter happened,” Malang said Monday.

The Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF are bound by a security accord—the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities—to cooperate in resolving security issues besetting conflict flashpoint areas in southern provinces.

Various peace advocacy organizations in central Mindanao have flooded the Facebook walls of their friends in the media community with appeals for a “third party” probe into the incident.

The alleged shootout is feared to stifle anew the bilateral peace initiatives of the government and Malacañang, meant to put a negotiated closure to the now five-decade Mindanao Moro problem.

Bobby Benito, a directorate staff in the Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the real circumstances on the deaths of the nine MILF members can easily be determined with the help of probers in the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team.

The foreign peacekeeping contingent, comprised of military and police officers from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, and civilian conflict resolution experts from Norway, the European Union and Japan, has been helping oversee since 2004 the enforcement of the now 21-year ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

Malang and Al-Haq separately said Monday the MILF has called on the government’s ceasefire committee to look into the incident. 

Local officials in Matalam said all the slain MILF members, Dadting Hassan, Muhamidin Hassan, Burrah Salping, Muhalidin Salping, Tiyo Mantik, Orom Mantis, Deng Malunok and Pakat Abo had all been buried in keeping with Islamic tradition of burying the dead within 24 hours from the time of death.

Army to assist ceasefire panel

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said he has directed the 602nd Brigade, which has jurisdiction over Matalam town, to help the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee investigate on the incident.

The joint committee, comprised of representatives from the MILF, the PNP and the AFP, resolves misunderstandings between state and guerrilla forces on the ground based on established security protocols.

“The 6th ID adheres to IHL (International Humanitarian Laws) and values the primacy of the peace process. We just have to give the joint ceasefire committee enough time to carry out its task of resolving that issue,” Sobejana said, referring to the incident in Matalam last Saturday.

The Palace, meanwhile, said the ceasefire panel should be allowed to do its work.

"They (MILF) already filed a formal protest. There are mechanisms and there will be an investigation," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing. "Let us wait for the results of the investigation to determine if some members of the MILF are really implicated in the drug trade," he added. — with a report by Alexis Romero in Manila

MILF MINDANAO PEACE PROCESS WAR ON DRUGS
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