COTABATO CITY – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed interim peace agreement with Manila in 2014, appealed Thursday to the Duterte administration to ensure that the declaration of martial law in Southern Philippines will not affect the bilateral ceasefire accord between the two groups.
The MILF strongly condemned the recent attack by the ISIS-affiliated Maute group in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur province in the Muslim autonomous region. The daring attack left dozens of casualties and destruction in Marawi.
“The MILF strongly condemns the violence in Marawi perpetrated by group or groups whose only aim is to sow terror. There is no justification for launching an offensive against civilian populace and to destroy infrastructures and institutions serving the public,” the rebel group said in a statement.
It said that while it is not a position to question the factual basis of President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation of martial law, the MILF “appeals to the Philippine Government to ensure that the ceasefire mechanisms continue to work on the ground, and that any military operations against the Group that perpetrated the violence in Marawi does not spark more fighting in other areas.”
“Mobilizing the military in Mindanao should still respect the mechanisms that have proven to be effective in scaling down armed encounters between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).
MILF and government forces had previously clashed in some areas in Mindanao with security officials accusing the rebels of attacking troops or engaging in terrorism and ransom kidnappings.
And the rebel group reminded the government that: “Recent events have shown that disregard of these mechanisms have been disastrous to our communities and to the effort to bring to fruition the end of the decades-long conflict in our homeland.”
But the MILF assured that it remains committed to the peace process and said: “Now more than ever, the MILF and the government must work closely to ensure the protection of the gains of the peace process and to even forge with greater resolve to immediately implement the peace agreement so that no other groups may use its non-implementation to justify their continued pursuit of violence for violence’s sake.”
The MILF said it is firm in its resolve to settle the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people through the negotiated process now contained in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
“The different mechanisms of the peace process are still engaged with their esteemed counterparts in government and are working towards finding ways on how best to address the challenge posed by the violence being committed in Marawi by groups who have chosen to take violence without regard to the best interest of our people,” the MILF said.
“The Moro Islamic Liberation Front stands in solidarity with the people of Marawi and Lanao del Sur during this tragic day. We call on our forces to extend all necessary assistance to the people of Marawi to ensure their safety and frustrate the aim of any group or groups to sow divide in our communities. Let us all stand united to win peace for our people.”
Duterte placed the whole of Mindanao and the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi under a state of martial law following the Maute siege of Marawi City. The martial law will stay in effect for 60 days.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said with the declaration of martial rule, police and military can now do searches without a warrant, arrest suspected terrorists and suspend the writ of habeas corpus, among others.
The Maute jihadists hoisted ISIS flags at several establishments and burned down the police headquarters, a prison facility, a Catholic church and a school before taking more than a dozen hostages, including a priest. They also executed at least 9 civilians who were captured at a Maute checkpoint.
Lawmakers said the daring attack was the result of a failed intelligence and they questioned the police and military on how they spent billions of pesos in intelligence funds allocated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command said the fighting erupted in Marawi after Maute members attacked security forces sent to the area following intelligence reports that gunmen, including Abu Sayyaf chieftain Isnilon Hapilon, who is also the titular head of the local ISIS group, was spotted along with a group of jihadists hiding in a house.
Hapilon was first reported by the military to have been either killed or wounded in clashes last year with security forces in nearby Butig town. Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said sympathizers of the Maute group also attacked soldiers triggering a gun battle.
Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman also condemned “these acts of terror” and said the government stands in solidarity with Marawi “in these dark times.”
“Words might seem useless right now, as no words can express what we feel as we share in the fear and anger of our people. We strongly condemn these acts of terror committed against the people of Marawi City and swear to take immediate action as necessary. Marawi City is known as the Philippines’ Islamic City, but it is home to people of different histories, different beliefs. That these acts of terror are happening in a diverse community bound by mutual respect and a shared commitment to peace is a travesty.”
“Any group who sows terror and then dares to say that they do it in the name of Islam should be ashamed. Any man, who claims to fight for a just cause, yet dares to incite violence a few days before the Holy Month of Ramadhan is a monster whose words belie his actions. The regional government stands in solidarity with the city of Marawi in these dark times. We have won many struggles together and we will stop at nothing to bring these terrorists to justice and win back the peace in your beloved city and in the Bangsamoro,” Hataman said.
This was not the first time jihadists had launch attacks against security forces right in the heart of Marawi. There had been previous Maute offensives that military and police failed to prevent. The siege lasted for several hours.
Photos and video clip of the siege were also posted by locals on their social media account and ISIS Live Map also uploaded pictures on the Internet showing heavily-armed jihadists clad in black robe walking the streets of Marawi. One of them even spoke on a bullhorn as he walked the street while locals listen nervously. (Mindanao Examiner)
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