RP Panel sees MILF/MNLF disunity as hurdle to Peace Agreement with MILF

FROM BUSINESSWORLD ONLINE

Reuniting both Moro fronts seen as key

in addressing Mindanao security instability

GPH and MILF panel chairs with Malaysian facilitator

REUNITING the Moro fronts in southern Philippines is seen as a crucial step to address the decades-old problems of instability and violence in the region and pave the way for Bangsamoro self-determination.

This was cited in the exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur last week between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Working with other leaders representing constituents within the Bangsamoro requires sitting down to define goals, articulate interests and agree on common courses of action… but we think we both need to do more than this,” government chief negotiator Mario Victor F. Leonen said in his opening statement during the recent talks.

“For example, we hope that the MILF can go beyond its initial meetings with leaders of various groups within the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) as it had reported during the last round of talks. We hope that it can actually see the current proposals of the MNLF and find common grounds with them,” he added.

For its part, the MILF expressed continuing initiatives in reaching out to members of the MNLF particularly to its founding chairman Nur Misuari, who has been lukewarm in the ongoing peace talks between the government and the MILF.

“We want to converse and seek their views on important matters that affect our people,” the MILF said in its weekly editorial posted at its Web site www.luwaran.com.

“For the MILF, there is no substitute for coming to terms with a brother not only in the struggle but more importantly also in faith. This is the reason why the MILF follows the consultative and collective system of leadership,” the group added.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF after disagreements in the ideology and following the flaws of the 1996 peace agreement between the Ramos administration and MNLF. Since then, the two fronts have been at odds despite several attempts by leaders from Muslim countries to reunite them.

In November, Mr. Misuari visited Ameril Umbra Kato, a former commander of the MILF, and hailed the Moro commander for splitting with the MILF.

During the meeting, Mr. Misuari declared that the MILF has no strength claiming that many of its members have defected and accused the organization for engaging in “bogus peace talks” with the government. Kato died of heart illness several weeks after the meeting.

The MILF advised Mr. Misuari to work for general interests and welfare of the Moros.

“[Mr.] Misuari should hear our pleas and appeals, the sooner the better. It is not good that he continues to ignore us,” the MILF said in a statement.

“The Moros have suffered a lot for centuries and their conditions are not getting any better daily. They deserve immediate bailout from this hellish condition,” the MILF added.

Experts in the Mindanao peace process look at the faction as detrimental to the peace process in Mindanao.

Central parts of Mindanao are known to be the stronghold of the MILF forces, while areas in western Mindanao such as the Sulu archipelago have remained the bailiwick of the MNLF.

On Wednesday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Q. Deles said that the Aquino administration is committed “to find ways to reach a mutually acceptable solution on remaining issues” in the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF.

“We will take up difficult issues but we are committed to arrive at a resolution,” Ms. Deles said during a dinner to welcome Indonesian Ambassador Rezlan I. Jenie and members of the Organization of Islamic Conference-Peace Committee for southern Philippines.

The government and the MNLF are expected to meet for the second Ad Hoc High Level Group in Bandung, Indonesia next month. — Darwin T. Wee

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US-led AFP bombs jungle camp, but no proof of JI leaders claimed to have been killed presented

Looks like another US-Philippine terrorism spin. With Obama desperately needing a war to divert Americans’ attention from the elections and the drab economy, the US is saber-rattling everywhere – Iran, Syria, China, North Korea, etc. And now, even Mindanao is not spared. It is, after all, part of USA’s “War on Terror” (the endless, borderless, leaderless, faceless war).

So, in the dead of night when everybody’s asleep, the US led the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in bombing an alleged camp in the middle of a jungle in Sulu. And then, the AFP triumphantly announced that they killed some 30 outlaws of the Abu Sayyaf Group including leading terrorists of the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyyah (JI) – a Malaysian named Zulkifli bin Hir, or Marwan that carries a price of US$ 5 million on his head (courtesy of FBI) and a Singaporean named Abdullah Ali alias Muawiyah, who has a bounty of US$ 50,000 (courtesy of US govt again) .

WANTED by FBI with US$5 Million bounty

But then, where are the bodies of these so-called JI terrorists wanted by the US government? Well, you see, the bodies of these Muslim terrorists have the supernatural ability of changing appearances when they die. That is why they have to be buried immediately or thrown into the sea immediately (like Osama bin Laden). If these bodies are not disposed of immediately, people might mistakenly identify these bodies.

In law, for murder to have been committed, there must be a body that has been murdered. But it seems that the US and Philippine military units have managed to extricate themselves from such burdens of proof. Time and again, terrorists are claimed to have been killed by these troops, yet bodies had not been presented for a variety of reasons (excuses).

So, the media shouldn’t waste time thinking they could ever get to shoot (a photo) of the body. Like in Osama Bin Laden’s case, they could expect a photoshopped image instead.

Incidentally, the latest sequel of The Bourne Legacy film series is now being filmed in the Philippines. I wonder if the military got any tips from the filmmakers on creating their script or even constructing some props in the middle of the jungle, if any

Filipino troops still search for terrorist 
(philstar.com) Updated February 03, 2012 03:11 PM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The remains of a top leader of the regional Jemaah Islamiyah terror network have not been found, the Philippine military said Friday, a day after announcing that he had been killed in a US-backed airstrike.

Troops on the ground were still combing the jungle camp that was hit Thursday for the body of Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, said regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang.

Military officials said at least 15 people were killed in the dawn strike on a militant camp on remote southern Jolo Island, including two other high-level leaders. A military spokesman in Manila, Col. Marcelo Burgos, initially reported that Marwan was among them.

Marwan’s death would mark a major success in disrupting a militant network blamed for some of the most spectacular bombing attacks in Southeast Asia in recent years. But if the initial report proves incorrect, it would turn a largely successful strike into at least a partial embarrassment for the Philippine military, while burnishing the reputation of the elusive terrorist.

The US has offered a $5 million reward for the capture of Marwan, a US-trained engineer accused of involvement in deadly bombings in the Philippines and in training militants.

Cabangbang, who is based in southern Zamboanga city, from where the bomber planes in Thursday’s strike took off, said that the military’s announcement of Marwan’s killing was based on information provided by informants. He refused to elaborate, saying it would compromise their intelligence assets.

“We are still searching. Our troops are still there,” Cabangbang said.

He suggested that the blast could have obliterated Marwan’s body, saying the process of verification linked to the possible disbursement of the reward money to informants will be “more tedious” and could include DNA testing.

Two Philippine security officials with knowledge of the airstrike who spoke to The Associated Press also said Marwan’s body was not found, though bombs shattered the house where he was believed to have been.

One of the officials confirmed the deaths of the other two other high-level leaders: Umbra Jumdail, who led the Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf militant group, and a Singaporean leader in Jemaah Islamiyah, Abdullah Ali, who used the guerrilla name Muawiyah. The other official confirmed only the death of Jumdail, also known as Dr. Abu Pula, and his son.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Cabangbang said the decision to announce the killings, including that of Marwan, was made by the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Gen. Jessie Dellosa, after he was briefed by commanders.

“There are details that we cannot divulge because of operational security,” he said when pressed for details.

A US official in Washington confirmed the strike on Jolo Island, an impoverished region 600 miles (950 kilometers) south of Manila, and said the Pentagon provided assistance in one of the region’s most successful anti-terror operations in years. The strike debilitated a regional militant network that has relied on the restive southern Philippines — sometimes called Southeast Asia’s Afghanistan — as a headquarters for planning bombings and a base for training and recruitment.

About 30 militants were at the camp near Parang town on Jolo, the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf and their allies from the mostly Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah, when it was bombarded by two OV10 aircraft dropping 500-pound (227-kilogram) bombs at 3 a.m., regional military commander Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes said.

“Our report is there were at least 15 killed, including their three leadership,” he said. “This is a deliberate, fully planned attack coming from our forces.”

The rest of the militants escaped and no one was captured, Coballes said.

American counterterrorism troops have helped ill-equipped Filipino troops track Marwan for years using satellite and drone surveillance. About 600 US special forces troops have been deployed in the southern Philippines since 2002, providing crucial support for the Philippines’ counterterrorism operations. US-backed Philippine offensives have been credited for the capture and killing of hundreds of Abu Sayyaf fighters and most top leaders since the 1990s.

In Washington, a US official, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record about the operation, confirmed the Pentagon had aided the strike. He was not specific about the contribution and did not know how many people had been killed in the operation.

Marwan’s death would represent the most important success against Jemaah Islamiyah since the January 2011 arrest of Indonesian suspect Umar Patek in Pakistan’s garrison town of Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was killed in a US commando attack four months later.

Patek and Marwan allegedly collaborated with the Abu Sayyaf in training militants in bomb-making skills, seeking funding locally and abroad and plotting attacks, including against American troops in the southern Philippines.

Patek is believed to have returned to Indonesia then gone to Pakistan, leaving Marwan to take charge in the southern Philippines, military officials say.

The attack in Jolo also represents a huge blow to the Abu Sayyaf’s ability to recover from years of setbacks through fund raising and training of militants.

The Philippine air force dropped four bombs from two planes, said Maj. Gen. Jose Villarete, head of the 3rd Air Division based at an air force base in Zamboanga city.

Abu Sayyaf is behind numerous ransom kidnappings, bomb attacks and beheadings that have terrorized the Philippines for more than two decades.

Jumdail had eluded troops in numerous offensives and emerged as a key figure in the radical movement.

Most recently, all three of the militant leaders were among the prime suspects in the kidnappings of three Red Cross workers from Switzerland, Italy and the Philippines in 2009. The hostages regained their freedom months later.

Abu Sayyaf militants, numbering about 400 by military estimates, are still considered a key threat to regional security and are suspected in the kidnapping of a former Australian soldier, as well as a Malaysian, a Japanese and an Indian.

On Wednesday, gunmen in nearby Tawi-Tawi island province seized Dutch and Swiss tourists. Officials said they were trying to move the hostages to Jolo.