MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday appealed for cooperation from the country’s rebel groups while Mindanao is under martial law.
AFP spokesperson Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said it would be better for members of both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to stay where they are as government troops deal with local terrorists in Marawi City.
“[Keeping] them where they are right now is enough for us,” Padilla said in a news briefing in Davao City, adding that the two groups have been cooperative so far.
“There is no conflict here. We are in peace talks with the MILF and all the mechanisms are still in place,” he said.
Duterte last Tuesday placed Mindanao under martial law after local terrorist groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf laid siege to Marawi City.
The clashes between government troops and domestic terrorists, who were apparently aided by foreign fighters, erupted as authorities were on their way to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
The United States government has raised a $5-million bounty for any information that will lead to Hapilon’s arrest.
A similar attempt by the military in January 2015 to arrest a high-profile terrorist, Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkfili bin Hir alias Marwan, scuttled the peace process between the MILF and the government after it was learned that MILF fighters shot at elite policemen who were conducting the sensitive mission.
Marwan was killed in the raid, but it cost the lives of 44 policemen.
While the Moro groups have not objected to the martial law declaration, the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is also in talks with the government, slammed the president’s move.
The CPP even called on the New People’s Army to accelerate its recruitment of fighters and ramp up its operations against the military.
Padilla said the communists must respect the president’s decision, as well as ongoing peace negotiations.
“[If] the NPA continues to violate our laws and with impunity attack our forces, then we will deal with that accordingly,” he said.
“[They] should reconsider that announcement since we are in formal talks with them. And we have set some preconditions that had been mentioned by the president, that they should cooperate with.”