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Don’t play ISIS card, MILF told

Updated

By Ellson Quismorio

Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao on Thursday asked Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al-Hajj Ebrahim Murad “not to play the ISIS card” as the House of Representatives endeavors to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“As the representative of Iligan City, I am deeply concerned about the statement of MILF Chairman Al-Hajj Ebrahim Murad that Iligan City and Cotabato may already be targets of terrorist groups for a sequel of their siege of Marawi City, in case the Bangsamoro Basic Law fails to pass,” Siao said in statement.

Murad Ebrahim, chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), gestures as he speaks during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum in Manila on February 20, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE / MANILA BULLETIN)

Murad Ebrahim, chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
(AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE / MANILA BULLETIN)

 

It was recalled that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-inspired Maute gunmen occupied Marawi without warning on May 23, 2017. This sparked a gruelling door-to-door campaign by government troops, who would manage to liberate the city later in October.

Marawi sustained billions of pesos worth of damage, not to mentioned a forever damaged psyche.

While Siao said that he had since confirmed from military and defense officials that Iligan and Cotabato aren’t under any imminent terrorist threat, he still hoped that Murad would talk to the same officials first before speaking to the media.

“The concern of the esteemed MILF chairman for the welfare of Iligan and Cotabato is much appreciated, but I also hope he would first confer with top officials of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), DND (Department of National Defense), and DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) instead of first making such statements to the news media,” he said.

“Let me take this opportunity to assure Chairman Al-Hajj Murad that there is a good base of support in Congress for the passage of the proposed BBL and so there is no need to play the ISIS card while the BBL goes through the legislative process,” added Siao, who is a vice chairman of the Committee on Tourism.
proposed BBL primarily aims to usher in a period of peace and prosperity in Mindanao with the creation of a Bangsamoro juridical entity.

The Bangsamoro will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.

The previous draft BBL – although aggressively pushed by the previous Aquino administration – failed to get the Congress approval due to its alleged plethora of unconstitutional provisions.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, President Duterte’s top lieutenant in the House of Representatives, has repeatedly said that the Lower Chamber would conduct exhaustive discussions on the proposed statute in the current 17th Congress. In fact, committee hearings are being held about the BBL nearly every session day.

“Congress is simply in the process of ironing out the details to significantly increase the BBL’s success factors during the implementation phase,” Siao said.

He said that his city is still reeling from the effects of the Marawi siege last year.

“Iligan is one of the most progressive cities in Mindanao and is still recovering from the impact of the Battle of Marawi. The extension of martial law in Mindanao has helped stabilize the peace and order situation, as well as business confidence in Iligan and all over Mindanao.”

Siao, in the same statement, hailed government troops and police for being steadfast in their defense of Mindanao against all security threats.

“Their commitment to their dutyhas earned the admiration and respect of Iliganons,” he said.

MILF fighters disarmed

Meanwhile, government forces seized on Tuesday high-powered firearms from MILF members for moving around Maguindanao without coordination with local authorities and ceasefire monitors.

According to reports reaching the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Camp Siogco, Maguindanao, heavily armed men on board a mini-cargo truck were seen along a village road in Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao.

Soldiers flagged down the vehicle loaded with MILF fighters, led by Orly Gampong, in Barangay Mileb. The rebels did not resist and peacefully handed over their rifles to elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion.

The seized firearms now in Army custody included 18 M-16 assault rifles, five M-14 assault rifles and an M-203 rifle fitted with a launcher for 40 millimeter grenade projectile.

Under the 1997 government and MILF ceasefire agreement, Moro rebels must coordinate with local military and police authorities when moving from its camps to other areas. The same applies for government forces if it operates in MILF identified areas.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman for the 6th ID-led anti-terror Task Force Central, said Gampong and his armed followers belonged to the MILF’s 106th Base Command.

Besana said the military and police are determining if Gampong’s group was to reinforce its comrades fighting another group of MILF in Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao.

Fighting had erupted between MILF’s 105th and 106th base command. (With a report from PNA)

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