Gov't to seek roster of MILF fighters

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 19 2014 04:12 AM | Updated as of Feb 19 2014 12:12 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The government will seek a full listing of all Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters prior to the decommissioning of its forces, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles said Tuesday.

Deles told the House peace and reconciliation committee chaired by Basilan Rep. Hajiman Hataman-Saliman that a third party that would include foreign observers would verify the roster of fighters of the MILF and the dismantling of its armed groups.

“We don’t want this to be an issue between the government and the MILF,” she said.

Deles said the listing would be needed in the eventual grant of amnesty to MILF members.

“We have learned our lesson from the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). We did not have a full accounting of their members. There were those who were integrated into our security services, but we don’t know what happened to those who were not covered by the integration,” she said.

Deles reiterated that the dismantling of MILF armed forces could start as early as May, when a commission drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law would be ready with its draft.

“We intend to submit the proposed law to Congress in May,” she said.

“There will be decommissioning of certain forces once the draft law is submitted. There will be decommissioning of some forces once Congress approves the law. Every step of the way, decommissioning will happen until the agreement is fully implemented,” she said.

During the hearing, representatives of the Misuari and Sema factions of the MNLF said they would join the new peace process if invited by the government.

Rep. Ashley Acedillo of party-list group Magdalo, a former rebel soldier, said his organization would oppose the lifting of the warrant of arrest for MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari if that is one of the conditions for his group’s participation in the peace effort.

“Appeasement with Misuari has not worked in the past. A new approach should be tried,” Acedillo said.

He said he was still a soldier when the Misuari group used to attack some towns in Mindanao.

Misuari is facing criminal charges in connection with the occupation of his loyalists of several coastal villages in Zamboanga City last September.

“Appeasing Misuari this time would dishonor the 25 soldiers and policemen and scores of civilians who died during his men’s siege of Zamboanga City,” Acedillo said.