MILF urges PNoy: Free Moro rebel detainees

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2011 03:19 PM | Updated as of Jan 08 2011 11:19 PM

MANILA, Philippines - It's now the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) turn to ask the government to release their arrested comrades.

Jun Mantawil, chairman of the separatist group's peace panel secretariat, urged President Benigno "Noyoy" Aquino III to release Muslim rebels Edward Guerra and Aguilar Saligan.

Guerra and Saligan are being tagged as suspects in the series of bombings in Sarangani Province and General Santos City.

"This is the best time to make the release while there is impasse in talks," Mantawil said in a statement published on the MILF's website, www.luwaran.com.

On Friday, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) reiterated its demand for the release of top rebel commander Tirso "Ka Bart" Alcantara, who was arrested recently in Lucena City.

The NDFP, which is supposed to hold preliminary talks with the government this month, said Alcantara should be released in accordance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

Mantawil said that there are at least 13 MILF regulars in detention.

He highlighted the case of Guerra, who was nabbed in September last year at the Davao International Airport on his way to Switzerland to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council Meeting.

He said Guerra, a member of the MILF's central committee, is currently detained at Fort Bonifacio "in a small cell" and suffering from various ailments.

"Releasing these detainees can help jump-start the ailing GRP-MILF peace talks.

The Aquino administration is also trying to revive the peace negotiations which faltered during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The present administration is hoping to start talks this month.

Talks bogged down after the Supreme Court ruled as illegal a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that was pre-agreed by the government and MILF peace panels.

Attacks in Northern Cotabato and nearby provinces ensued, displacing hundreds of people. The attacks were carried out by a number of MILF commanders disgruntled over the bungled signing of the agreement.