MILF open to help resolve Marawi crisis

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OZAMIZ CITY (MindaNews/27 June) — A top official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the group is open to play a role in resolving the Marawi crisis if called upon “in the greater regard of civilian interests.”

“It is not impossible, especially if the civilian interest is at stake. If there is a request, the MILF leadership will probably consider the idea,” Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace implementing panel, said in a phone interview.

But Iqbal said they are yet to receive a formal request for their involvement in finding a solution to the siege by Islamic State-inspired Maute group which is now on its fifth week.

On Sunday, Abdullah Maute reportedly told emissaries, who took advantage of an Eid’l Fitr ceasefire to see the militants’ leaders, that they will only leave Marawi if the MILF intervenes.

Maute also offered to swap their hostages, in particular Fr. Teresito Suganob, with the freedom of their parents, Cayamora and Ominta who were arrested on separate occasions.

The militants are said to be unwilling to deal with government on laying down the terms of disengagement.

But Iqbal clarified that the MILF has never been involved in efforts to resolve the siege of Marawi, although there have been informal overtures like those relayed through the news media.

Early in the crisis, the MILF condemned the militants’ occupation of Marawi and the alleged atrocities they committed.

The MILF and government have been cooperating in maintaining a humanitarian and peace corridor to ferret out civilians trapped in the fighting. This effort has so far rescued close to 200 individuals.

In the past, the parties have a long history of cooperating alongside negotiations for a political settlement to end the Moro rebellion. The parties forged a peace pact in 2014.

Chief among these cooperative efforts was driving out in 2005 scores of suspected terrorists lurking in various rebel strongholds in Southwestern Mindanao using the Ad-hoc Joint Action Group mechanism.

The same mechanism was used to rescue high profile kidnap victims like Irish missionary priest Michael Sinnot who was abducted from the Missionary Society of Saint Columban house in Pagadian City in 2009.

Iqbal acknowledged the “sensitivity of the issue” which could give the MILF some difficulties in mapping out an action should the group be tapped.

“We know the stand of the government regarding the Maute group. We also know how the group regards the government,” Iqbal explained. (Ryan D. Rosauro/for MindaNews)

 

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