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The Basilan Encounter: Was It Provoked To Scuttle The Mindanao Peace Process And Foment Another All-Out War?
1. Rehearsing the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the MILF and the GRP
• MILF-GRP Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001
- Rehabilitation and Development
- Ancestral Domain
1.a. Security Aspect of the MILF-GRP Tripoli Agreement on Peace
Ø “All Past Agreements of the Parties shall be implemented in accordance with the Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of the Peace talks signed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 24 March 2001 for the progressive resolution of the Bangsamoro Problem with honor, justice and integrity for all sectors of society.” Past Agreements include the ‘GRP-MILF Agreement for General Cessation of Hostilities’ signed in Cagayan de Oro city on July 18, 1997 and its Implementing Administrative Guidelines dated September 12, 1997 and Implementing Operational Guidelines dated November 14, 1997.
1.b. Mechanisms in Effecting the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement
Ø The Deployment of the International Monitoring Team (IMT)
Ø The Creation of the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH)
Ø The Reactivation of the Local Monitoring Teams (LMTs)
Ø The establishment of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) through the MILF-GRP Joint Communiqué of May 6, 2002 in Cyberjaya, Malaysia
2. The Basilan Encounter: GRP-AFP Version
Ø Marines of the 1st Marine Brigade entered Ginanta, Albarka (part of Tipo-Tipo) at 9:00 am of July 10, 2007 because of an intelligence information that the kidnapped Italian priest, Giancarlo Bossi, was being kept there by his abductors.
Ø When the Marines failed to locate the priest and his abductors, they decided to return to their headquarters in Camp Uno at Lamitan City.
Ø At 9:45 am, while on their way out of the area, one of their vehicles got mired in the mud thus halting the convoy. At 10:00 am the convoy was suddenly fired upon from all sides by MILF guerillas.
Ø The AFP also says that the area is not an MILF area and is not aware of an MILF camp there.
Ø The AFP further claims that 14 soldiers died in the ambush, 10 of whom were beheaded, mutilated and robbed by the MILF ambushers who were allegedly joined by Abu Sayyaf terrorists. Nine other Marines were wounded.
Ø The AFP claims this was an ambush. Fighting lasted for 8 hours straight. It started at 10:00 am and ended at 6:00 pm.
3. The Basilan Encounter: From the Initial Result of the MILF’s Fact-Finding Investigation:
• The MILF Investigating Team, composed of three members (one senior member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces [BIAF] General Staff, one Ustadz, and one political officer), was immediately organized after reports of the ‘beheading and mutilation’ reached the MILF leadership. The MILF, as an Islamic revolutionary liberation organization, strictly adheres to the Islamic conduct of war which explicitly prohibits the mutilation of enemy casualties in battle; the MILF also observes the rules of war and the treatment of enemy prisoners and casualties as formulated by the Geneva Conventions.
• The Philippine Marines of the 1st Marine Brigade completely disregarded the ceasefire agreement between the MILF and the government by conducting three prior military operations before the bloody encounter on July 10, 2007:
Ø On July 8, 2007, the Marines conducted military operation in Barangay Lipu Upas, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan creating fear and chaos among the local inhabitants. Limbu Upas is about three (3) kilometers from Ginanta where the July 10 encounter took place.
Ø On July 9, 2007 the same Marine outfit made a follow-up operation and entered Barangay Linuan, Al-Barkah town, the defense perimeter of an MILF area at an adjacent barangay of Ginanta, which is well known to the AFP because the MILF had conducted a peace advocacy program there on June 2, 2006 that was fully coordinated with the MILF-GRP CCCH;
Ø On July 10, 2007, at 7:00 am, the Marines under the command of Major Marcelino entered Barangay Linuan again where they disarmed one MILF member, Hadji Hakim, of his carbine rifle and divested one other MILF member of his tiger uniform and MILF patches. When reminded by one of the two MILF members that the Marines were already encroaching on an MILF area covered by the ceasefire agreement, the Marines said: “We do not recognize any MILF area. The entire Philippines is ours.”
• At around 9:00 am on July 10, 2007, the Marines entered Ginanta, Al-Barkah (formerly Tipo-Tipo), where the MILF forces and camp are located. The presence of the MILF camp is previously known to the Philippine government because of the ceasefire agreement. And when the Marines suddenly entered the area, a firefight ensued.
• The fighting was directly initiated and provoked by the Philippine Marines. There was no ambush. What took place was a legitimate face-to-face 8-hour encounter. Marines killed on the spot based on body count were not just 14 but 23. Weapons captured by the MILF fighters were 17: three (3) M-60 machineguns, one (1) mini-machinegun, five (5) M203 grenade launchers, two (2) M-14 rifles with sniper scopes, one (1) 60 mm mortar, and five (5) M-16 rifles.
• MILF fighters involved in the fighting were only two (2) platoons from MILF military units, namely, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigade of the 114 Base Command of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) based in Basilan. More than 100 MILF fighters arrived as reinforcements but failed to participate in the battle because the fighting was already over when they reached Ginanta.
• At 5:00 pm a ceasefire was already in place, and this was arranged by the MILF CCCH and the GRP CCCH.
• With the ceasefire back in place, the MILF fighters were ordered to disengage and leave the battle scene completely. But before they left they conducted a clearing operation and they found and body-counted 23 Marines dead and not one was beheaded or mutilated.
• The MILF suffered five (5) martyred and six (6) wounded in combat.
• At around 6:00 pm of the same day, the MILF Local Monitoring Team (LMT) informed Marine Major Macatoon that the MILF fighters had withdrawn and the area of battle was cleared.
• At 8:00 pm, same day, Maj. Macatoon inquired from the MILF- LMT if the area was totally cleared, and the answer was positive. Thereupon Maj. Macatoon informed the MILF-LMT that all the Marines and their equipment were withdrawn including their dead casualties.
• At 9:00 pm, same day, Marine Col. Almadrones informed the MILF-LMT that there were ten (10) Marines held by the MILF as “captives”. After a thorough verification, no such Marines were captured by the MILF.
• On July 11, 2007, at around 5:30 am, the MILF-BIAF fighters conducted an inspection of the battle scene and they found six (6) dead Marines already beheaded, and one old man hacked in the back and his throat slashed so much so that his head was almost severed from his body. It was later identified that the dead civilian was 69 year-old Imam Hakim Ali or Alkanul.
• The MILF Investigating Team, in its preliminary findings, found out that on the early morning of July 10, 2007, the Marines forcibly took Imam Alkanul from his house in Ginanta and coerced him into accompanying them to where the MILF base is located. They also forced him to carry some of their loads, especially ammunition. When the firing started, Alkanul was with the Marines. His dead body, hogtied and bearing deeply inflicted wounds and his head almost severed from his neck, was found alongside the fallen Marines.
• The MILF Investigating Team is conducting further probe into the “beheading” of the Marines. All the MILF unit commanders involved in the fighting were investigated but all denied that they or their units beheaded or mutilated the corpses of the Marines. Commander Musawwarin Abubakar, chief of the MILF 114 Base Command, told the Investigating Team that committing barbaric acts to a fallen enemy is a crime against Islam, humanity, and the rules of engagement promulgated by the MILF General Staff. He also condemned the beheading in the strongest possible term.
• Commander Musawwarin reported to the MILF Investigating Team that MILF units involved in the fighting withdrew at 6:00 pm on July 10 and from this time up to 9:00 pm, the Philippine Marines started to retrieve their fallen and wounded comrades as well as equipment. He posed the question: “Why did the Marines only know that there were still ten (10) Marines unaccounted for after more than one hour, and after having been in the battle scene for at least one hour earlier?”
• Commander Musawwarin told the Investigating Team that they are willing to face any further probe especially by international human rights groups to ferret out the truth of the beheading and who were responsible. However, he reiterated that the encounter with the Marines was legitimate and justified because it was the Marines who provoked the fighting by invading their camp.
• Meanwhile, the MILF has assured the families of the beheaded Marines that it has never committed this atrocity. Further in this regard, the MILF has proposed that an international human rights body be composed to conduct an impartial inquiry on the beheading.
4. Some Facts on the Basilan Encounter as Gathered from Published Accounts in the Media and Independent Sources
• The Marines’ allegation that kidnapped priest Fr. Bossi was in Ginanta, Albarkah (Tipo-Tipo), was belied by no less than Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar and the mayor of Al-Barkah. As posted in the Inquirer on July 13, 2007, Congressman Akbar said that the officials of Albarkah, especially the mayor, informed the AFP prior to the Marine operations that nowhere was Fr. Bossi sighted in Basilan. Fr. Bossi was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibuguey. No one knows until then who the kidnappers are because even the Abu Sayyaf, which habitually does not deny a crime it has perpetrated, has not even claimed authorship of the deed.
• In the same Inquirer report, Congressman Wahab Akbar also told the Marines that kidnapped Italian priest, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, was never sighted in any municipality of Basilan. Albarkah Mayor Karam Jakilan was informed by the Marines that Bossi and his kidnappers were hiding in his town but the mayor belied this ‘intelligence report’. He told the Inquirer: “I already spent so much dispatching my people, they did not see Bossi there.”
• Again, in the same Inquirer report, former Deputy Speaker Gerry Salappudin, a political rival of Congressman Akbar, agreed with the latter that Bossi “is not in Basilan”.
• The Marines’ claim that they did not know that Tipo-Tipo is MILF territory covered by the ceasefire agreement is false. Maj. Gen. Raymondo Ferrer, Commnder of the 4th Infantry Division of the AFP, knows that Tipo-Tipo town is a known stronghold of the MILF in Basilan under Hamsa Sapanton and that no Abu Sayyaf operates there. Ferrer told the Inquirer: “I remember that at the height of the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group, there were no reported or monitored encounters in the area. Most of the engagements against these bandits (Abu Sayyaf) were in Sumipsip and Tuburan.”(Philppine Daily Inquirer [PDI], “Imam’s Killings May Have Triggered Beheadings”, July 13, 2007 issue)
• Congressman Akbar also disclosed to the media that Albarkah Mayor Karam Jakilan and its chief of police warned Marine officers against entering Ginanta, which, they said, “is an MILF-controlled area under the ceasefire agreement.” Akbar further said the “unfortunate” encounter took place because despite the warnings to the Marines by local officials, “some eyes and ears are covered and even hearts are sealed.” (PDI, “Mortars were Duds, Warnings Ignored”, posted July 13, 2007)
• Former House Deputy Speaker Gerry Salappudin also commented that the Basilan encounter was a simple case of “disregarding the guidelines under the terms and conditions of the cessation of hostilities.” He was referring to the Marines’ blatant disregard for the ceasefire rules. (PDI, Mortars were Dud, Warnings Ignored, posted Julu 13, 2007)
• As mentioned in the partial results of the investigation being conducted by the MILF, peace advocacy was conducted in Tipo-Tipo on June 2, 2006 by the MILF in conjunction with the ceasefire agreement. This peace advocacy is a program being done in MILF areas with the approval of and in coordination with the CCCH which is a joint body constituting of GRP and MILF representatives. Therefore, there is no likelihood that the Marines were ignorant of the fact that they were entering or invading an MILF area. Their incursion into the MILF area is not out of ‘ignorance’ but it was a deliberate act of provocation.
• According to 2nd Lt. Rowena Muyuela, one of the wounded Marine survivors, the July 10 fighting started at 10 am and ended at 6:00 pm. Ramon Nunal, Jr., chair of the joint ceasefire monitoring team in Basilan, confirms that at 6:00 pm the fighting stopped. (PDI, July 15, 2007 issue) That means the MILF fighters withdrew from the battlefield at that time. An hour later, or at about 7:00 pm, the Marines started evacuating the wounded and the dead. (PDI, July 15, 2007 issue)
• Yet, the governor of Basilan, Jum Akbar, wife of Congressman Wahab Akbar, who went to the battle zone at 10:00 pm, or three hours after the fighting stopped, to help in the retrieval of the dead and wounded never reported any beheaded or mutilated Marine corpses. According to Marine Col. Felix Almadrones, commander of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8, it was only at about 3:00 am on Wednesday, July 11, that Gov. Akbar’s team brought in 4 mutilated and beheaded bodies of Marines. And it was not until 2pm of the same day, July 11, in the third and last wave of retrieval did the governor’s team turn in six (6) more bodies of beheaded and mutilated Marines, bringing the total to 10. (PDI, July 15, 2007 issue)
• This perfectly confirms the report of the MILF Investigating Team that the MILF-BIAF that conducted an inspection of the battle scene at 5:30 am of July 11 found six (6) beheaded bodies of Marines, excluding that of the corpse of Imam Alkanul. Now the question is: why didn’t the Marines who retrieved the bodies of the dead Marines right after the battle ended at 6:00 pm on July 10 find the beheaded bodies of the fallen Marines nor report any beheading? They had all the night to find them.
• Lt. Col. Felix Almadrones told the Inquirer (PDI, July 15, 2007 issue) that nine of the wounded and four (4) of the dead marines were recovered around 7:45 pm on July 10, Tuesday. There was no mention yet of beheading. But where were the other 10? Why were they not found immediately? Dead soldiers, especially with their heads cut off, could not have just left the battlefield and come back to lie on the ground hours later!
• Another puzzling thing: when the Governor’s team entered the actual battle area at 11 pm on Tuesday, July 10, the Marines’ vehicles were intact according to the Inquirer report. But when the team returned at dawn on Wednesday, July 11, “the vehicles were on fire, and my staff told me that the soldiers had been beheaded” says the governor. (PDI, July 15, 2007 issue) At 11 pm of July 10 the MILF guerrilla fighters would have long left the battlefield that was by then swarming with government troops. Neither would Moro civilians, who have experienced government troops running amok and venting their anger on innocent people after a defeat in battle, dare to linger on. Who burned the Marines’ vehicles? Were they deliberately burned to make it appear that the battle was not a legitimate encounter but an “ambush”?
• It is possible that enraged relatives of the murdered and mutilated Imam took revenge on the dead Marines and so beheaded and mutilated them after the MILF guerillas had withdrawn from the battlefield. But this would seem unlikely. Civilians normally do not stay in the battle zone but flee to safety unless they see that reinforcing government troops are nowhere in sight. As a matter of fact, civilians evacuate even before a battle starts. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 15, 2007, some 2,000 residents of Ginanta, the barangay of Albarkah where the encounter took place, had already abandoned their homes since Tuesday, July 10, the day of the encounter. PDI, in the same issue also reported that “three neighboring villages – Linungan, Magtawa and Makalang – had also been deserted by their residents who fled to Tuburan and Lamitan towns.
• In the Basilan encounter, eyewitness accounts state that government troops saturated and continuously bombarded the area to retrieve their wounded or fallen comrades. Even Marine 2nd Lt. Rowena Muyuela who survived the battle, says in her account published in the Inquirer (PDI, July 15) that just before the encounter she saw no people in the houses they passed by when the Marines entered Ginanta. Jun Veneracion, the embedded reporter of GMA 7 reported the same “eerie feeling” triggered by the sight of an empty community when the Marines entered Ginanta (GMA7 News, July 16, 2007).
• So there could have been no Moro civilian around, even if his/her heart burns with vengeance for the brutal execution and mutilation of Imam Alkanul, to cut off the heads of the dead Marines. The Abu Sayyaf? Maybe. But Maj. Gen. Raymondo Ferrer of the 4th ID already said the ASG does not operate in Tipo-Tipo. (PDI, July 13, 2007)
• So who did the decapitation and mutilation?
5. Are the MILF fighters then responsible for this horrible crime of beheading and mutilating the dead Marines? Could they have done this when they returned to the scene of battle at 5:30 am on Wednesday, July 11?
• Definitely NO. The dead bodies of the Marines were already ‘beheaded’ and ‘mutilated’ as per testimony of Governor Akbar who said that her team brought in the four (4) beheaded and mutilated bodies of the Marines at 3:00 am on Wednesday, July 11. (PDI, July 15, 2007 issue). By the time the MILF fighters returned to scene of battle at 5:30 am of July 11, the Marines were therefore already ‘beheaded’ and ‘mutilated’.
6. The MILF has no record or history of committing atrocities on Prisoners of War and mutilating dead bodies of enemy casualties killed in combat
• The MILF, which strictly follows the Islamic conduct of war and the Geneva conventions, does not have a record of desecrating the bodies of dead enemies. On the contrary, the MILF has always fought the war in Mindanao in a civilized manner befitting that of an Islamic revolutionary organization and a legitimate liberation movement. Let the record speak for itself:
Ø At the height of the Estrada all-out war on May 5, 2000, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, then the MILF Vice-Chairman for Military Affairs and concurrent BIAF Chief of Staff, declared a unilateral ceasefire as a humanitarian concession to the clamor for peace by civil society and the heads of Christian Churches. The unilateral ceasefire was also intended to allow the AFP to retrieve the decaying corpses of government soldiers and Marines who were killed in combat in the siege on Camp Abubakr. The AFP refused to retrieve the bodies of its soldiers so the MILF requested the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to do the retrieval so the soldiers can be given a decent burial by their families.
Ø On March 6, 2003, during the Arroyo all-out war, MILF forces captured six (6) Filipino soldiers and militiamen in Lanao del Norte. Pursuant to the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of POWs, then MILF Vice Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim ordered the release of the POWs to the ICRC. Consequently, the POWs were turned over by the MILF safely to the ICRC on March 29, 2003.
• On March 11, 2007 MILF forces in Lanao del Sur captured twenty-six (26) soldiers of the AFP’s 51st Infantry Battalion, Tabak Division, which earlier intruded into MILF areas and apprehended three (3) MILF fighters taking part in the MILF’s operation against a notorious criminal and drug dealer known as “Delta Force”. The MILF released all the 26 soldiers unharmed to the IMT and the AHJAG after the 3 MILF fighters were also released by the AFP. Not only that, the MILF even returned through the IMT and the AHJAG all the remaining captured firearms of the soldiers in a formal ceremony in Marawi City on March 15, 2007.
• In the light of these facts surrounding the Basilan Encounter, the compelling questions that have to be asked are:
1. Why did the Marines deliberately violate the MILF-GRP Cessation of Hostilities Agreement?
2. Why did the Marines feign ignorance of the fact that, despite prior warnings and information, Ginanta is an MILF territory covered by the Ceasefire agreement? Or, if they knew, why did they choose not to recognize this which is again a violation of the letter and spirit of the peace agreement?
3. Why did the Marines ignore the information given by government officials that Father Gossi, the kidnapped priest, was never sighted in Basilan, let alone in the MILF territory? The information given by the officials of Basilan proved to be true: Fr. Gossi was released by his kidnappers on July 19, 2007 at the Municipality of Sultan Naga Dimaporo (Karomatan), Lanao del Norte.
4. Why did the Marines have to hold captive an innocent 69-year old imam of the mosque, hogtie, torture, murder and subsequently behead and mutilate him? Was this purposely done to provoke a fight with the people in the area or with the MILF?
5. Why did it take so long after the battle ended at 6 pm of July 10 for the Marines to recover and discover the 10 decapitated Marine casualties? They had all the time during the night after the MILF had withdrawn to retrieve them. It was only at 3 am of July 11 that Gov. Akbar’s retrieval team recovered four beheaded Marines. Why did the Marine recovery effort fail to retrieve them. Or did it really fail?
6. Why did the Marines, and the AFP for that matter, take pains to make it appear that the Basilan battle, which is a legitimate encounter, was a “treacherous ambush” by the MILF? The military vehicles used by the Marines were not yet burned when Marine reinforcements entered the battle area at about 7 pm, an hour after the MILF had withdrawn from the scene of battle in response to a re- imposed ceasefire by the CCCH and the LMT. It was at dawn on Wednesday, the following day, July 11, that the vehicles were set on fire according to Gov. Akbar.
7. Why did the AFP immediately conclude that the MILF was responsible for the beheading and mutilation even before an official probe could be made? Is this part of the planned demonization of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people? But for what sinister purpose?
8. Why were Marine Col. Almadrones and Major Marcelino, the Marine officers directly responsible for the Marine operations in Tipo-Tipo, suddenly relieved from their posts? Is it because of “incompetence” or is it because their relief would bring them out of reach of any international investigation of the Basilan encounter?
9. Why were the Marines in the Presidential Security Group (PSG) taken out of the PSG and sent to Basilan at a time when President Arroyo is set to deliver her State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23, 2007? (PDI, July 21, 2007 issue). Is it really because the PSG Marines want to join the impending war in Basilan to avenge the death of their fellow Marines or is it because the regime has finally realized that they are a threat to President Arroyo and that Arroyo’s people are embarrassed to admit it in public?
10. Why, of all times, did the Basilan encounter take place when news of the likely resumption of MILF-GRP exploratory talks is in the air? Is it to prevent such talks from resuming and to preempt any agreement that would bring the parties to the conflict nearer to the political resolution of the Mindanao Problem?
• These are only some of the questions that have to be asked and answered. But perhaps the next slides will provide the background and the answers.
7. Fomenting a Big War in Mindanao: the Secret Agenda
• In 2004, MILF Intelligence was in receipt of highly top secret information from an unimpeachable source which revealed the existence of a clandestine cabal of retired and active top AFP officers and political leaders who are well entrenched in government and whose power and influence reached down to the men of the Philippine military in the field, specially those in Mindanao.
• This highly secretive group wants to grab political power through a regime change. But to achieve this objective they believe that a big war in Mindanao has to take place. Their assumption is that based on experience a big war in Mindanao will weaken the regime in power in Manila, thus, making it easy for a military-civilian revolt a la EDSA to succeed in bringing it down. A direct military coup d’etat, according to this group’s thinking, is bound to fail as in the case of the unsuccessful seven coup attempts against the Cory government in the 80s. What is needed, according to this group, is to weaken economically the ruling regime which would result in mass disenchantment leading to political instability and even anarchy.
• These results will only materialize if the sitting regime is driven to wage a colossal and debilitating war in Mindanao. The Marcos regime and the Estrada regime were easily overthrown after these regimes had already been economically bankrupted by the wars against the Moro liberation fronts in Mindanao and Sulu. The Arroyo regime almost met the same fate in 2003 but was saved by its timely act to shorten the duration of its war against the MILF.
• The implementation of the grand plan comes in three (3) major stages:
Ø First is the creation of situations in Mindanao that would demonize the Moro liberation fronts, in this case the MILF, and the Bangsamoro people. Intensify acts of terrorism and attribute these to the Moro fronts or “terrorist groups” in the secret payroll of some people in the military establishment. This would generate public outcry that would in turn shape public opinion in favor of an all-out war against the Moro liberation movement in Mindanao-Sulu. This would also force the hands of the sitting regime to declare all-out war.
Ø Second, provoke the Moro fronts, notably the MILF, into a war that would practically embroil the whole of Mindanao into conflict. Consign the peace process and the ceasefire agreement to the back-burner. The war should last until it has siphoned off the last economic life-blood of the ruling regime.
Ø Finally, the ensuing political instability and pervasive country-wide dissatisfaction bordering on mass uprising will open the opportunity for the group to launch a ‘popular’ revolt that would topple down the ruling regime after which a new ‘national government of reconciliation’ controlled by this military-civilian cabal will now come into being.
• In pursuit of this grand conspiracy in which the Bangsamoro people and the MILF, not to mention the Mindanao peace process, will be the sacrificial lambs, a series of provocation which blatantly and deliberately violate the peace agreements have invariably been put into play. The fighting in Cotabato and Maguindanao and the mysterious bomb explosions, among others, may have been designed to achieve the tactical objectives of these national conspirators. The Oakwood military mutineers had admitted that the military was behind the Mindanao bombings.
• It must be noted, however, that what prevented the armed clashes in these areas of conflict from developing into a big war was the maximum restraint being exercised by the MILF leadership and the effectiveness of the ceasefire mechanisms, such as the CCCH, as well as the presence of the IMT.
• The events on February 21-23, 2006 are worth mentioning. A large contingent of Marines in full battle gear and armed with heavy mortars under a Col. Salamat was about to attack the island of Nusa on Lake Lanao where the MILF leadership in Lanao was temporarily encamped. There was no rhyme or reason to this big military operation. The MILF was peacefully abiding by the MILF-GRP agreements and there were no other clashes in Lanao del Sur. This Marine operation, senseless as it would have seemed, was intended to provoke a big war between the MILF and the AFP.
• The operation, however, was prevented by the IMT which responded immediately to our call to diffuse the tension that almost reached the breaking point and would have caused another war in Mindanao. Later on, it turned out that this operation was ordered by Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin, who was the head of the Marines then stationed in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Immediately after the aborted military operation against the MILF in Nusa Island, Col. Querubin and other top Marine officers were implicated and arrested for taking part in another failed coup against the regime which was supposed to take place during the EDSA celebration. Frustrated by their failure to instigate a war in Mindanao, the anonymous conspirators decided to deviate from their plan and to strike directly at the regime in Manila. But they failed.
• It is significant to note, too, that the Marines who were planning to start a big war in Lanao Del Sur in February 2006 belong to the same outfit that figured in the recent Basilan encounter.
• In our analysis, there are several factors why Basilan has been chosen this time as the fuse that would spark another war in Mindanao. Two of these are determining factors:
Ø Basilan is the ‘home province’ of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Therefore, it is not difficult to spread the propaganda lie that the MILF and the ASG are linked and/or that the MILF provides sanctuary and protection to the ASG. This is already being harped on in the recent Basilan encounter. And to the gullible public ignorant of the MILF’s staunch aversion to anarchist groups that do not follow the rules of war, this is believable.
Ø On top of that, the IMT, which has proven itself to be very effective in preventing, controlling or managing armed clashes in mainland Mindanao, has no presence in Basilan. The IMT has yet no jurisdiction over the island-province; as such, Basilan is the ideal place to start a war calculated to spread to other islands and ultimately the mainland.
Ø As a result of the provoked war in Basilan, Philippine military authorities are now on the verge of unleashing an all-out war against the Bangsamoro people and the MILF .