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DND to MILF: ‘Discipline your ranks’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:09:00 05/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. dared the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday to “discipline” its ranks amid allegations separatist rebels banded with the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in attacks on Marine forces in Basilan province over the weekend.

At the same time, Teodoro said he hoped the alleged collusion between the rebels and the extremists would be resolved at the level of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), before which the military has filed a protest over the Sunday morning attacks in Ungkaya Pukan town.

On Monday, the AFP Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) filed a protest before the CCCH the joint ceasefire monitoring body of the government and the MILF over the Sunday encounters.

“In so far as the ceasefire is concerned, they [MILF] should discipline their ranks,” Teodoro told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

Teodoro said he saw no reason for a “credible” organization to be in cahoots with the Abu Sayyaf, which he described as “terrorists, bandits and criminals.”

“We have long been receiving reports [of collusion], especially in Basilan. If they [MILF] don’t know [about it], this means their command and control over their fighters is weak,” he said.

“We leave it up to the CCCH to bring this to their [MILF’s] attention and I hope the issue can be resolved on that level,” he added.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. issued a similar call to the rebels in a separate interview with reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“If the top [MILF] leadership has a hold [on ground troops], we hope they could solve their internal problem. We hope that the leaders would also control the actuations, the decisions of their sub-leaders,” Torres said.
The AFP has demanded that two MILF commanders who led the attacks on the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 8 detachment in Tongabto village and a reinforcement convoy in Matarling village, both in Ungkaya Pukan, be stricken off their rolls.

The military also asked the CCCH to determine the motive for the attack, identify who were behind it, and restrict the MILF to its designated areas in the southern island province.

“That’s why we filed the protest is because we believe there was a collusion between the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf group,” Torres said.

“Preventing such things from happening would all depend on the sincerity of both sides in pursuing the peace process. That [sincerity] is very important,” he added.

When pressed if the alleged collusion reflected on the MILF’s sincerity in pursuing the peace talks, Torres said, “I just don’t want to comment on that yet because the collusion has to be declared by a third party.”

The Sunday attack came as formal peace negotiations are deadlocked on the ancestral domain issues, with the rebels blaming the government’s inaction for the delay.

The MILF has dodged persistent allegations that its fighters were aiding the Abu Sayyaf.

On July 10, 2007, a combined force of MILF and Abu Sayyaf members ambushed a Marine convoy in Ginanta village, Al-Barkah town, Basilan, killing 14 Marines, 10 of whom were also beheaded.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-05-27T07:17:39+00:00UTC05bUTCTue, 27 May 2008 07:17:39 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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