MILF decries “massacre;” says 9 killed in Matalam were BIAF members, not drug personalities

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 May) —  The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) ceasefire committee will file a protest over what it called a “massacre” of nine members of its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) during a joint police-military operation in Matalam, North Cotabato near midnight of May 25, even as the BIAF members had allegedly identified themselves and turned over their weapons.

“Ito ay isang massacre” (This is a massacre), Butch Malang, chair of the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) told MindaNews Sunday night.

“Nagpakilala sila na MILF sila. After magpakilala, sinabihan sila ng raiding team na ibigay ang mga armas nla. After maibigay, doon sila pinagbabaril na walang kalaban-laban” (They introduced themselves as MILF. After that, they were told by the raiding team to turn over their firearms. After they gave their firearms, that’s when they were killed), MILF spokesperson Von al Haq told MindaNews, adding, “no encounter happened.”

Sr. Supt. Maximo Layugan, North Cotabato police chief on Saturday said ninesuspected drug personalities were killed in an hour-long firefight with government troops in Sitio Biao, Barangay Kilada, Matalam, North Cotabato at around 11:30 p.m. Friday. Several firearms were seized but no drugs were found.

Armed with a search warrant, Layugan said his men engaged the group of Dadting Kasan and Intan Aban.

Layugan said they recovered assorted high-powered firearms and ammunition, including a homemade 50 sniper rifle and a rocket-propelled grenade.

Malang said they will file a protest before their government counterparts in the CCCH on Monday. The CCCH of both parties and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMF) are expected to conduct a joint investigation.

“The question is bakit hindi dumaan sa protocol ng AHJAG ang PNP (Philippine National Police)?  Bakit sumuko na ang mga tao, hindi na nila hawak ang mga baril nila ay pinagpapatay pa? … Ito ay isang massacre” (why didn’t the PNP follow the protocol of the AHJAG. Why were they killed when they already surrendered, they were not armed? .. This is a massacre), Malang added.

Under the ceasefire agreement with the government, the MILF and government peace panels created an Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) which provides for coordination should government operatives operate against suspected criminals in MILF areas.

Malang said the slain victims were BIAF members, not drug personalities.

But if the operations on Friday were indeed against illegal drugs as the police and military claimed it was, there is a specific agreement on the conduct of operations against illegal drugs in MILF-controlled areas.

As early as July 12, 2016, the 12th day of the Duterte administration, government and MILF peace panels had signed an Agreement of Cooperation and Coordination in the campaign against illegal drugs in MILF areas.

On June 30, 2017, the government and MILF signed a 15-page “Protocol of Cooperation on Anti-Illegal Drug Operations and related Activities in MILF Areas / Communities.”

Atty. Abdul Dataya (2nd from L), chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel’s counterpart in the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (MILF-AHJAG), and Chief Supt. Pierre Bucsit (3rd from r), chair of the GPH-AHJAG, exchange copies of the final “Protocol of Cooperation on Anti-Illegal Drugs Operations and Related Activities in MILF Areas/Communities” on Friday, 30 June 2017 in Hotel Elena, Davao City. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

The protocol, which adopts the ceasefire mechanisms of the government and MILF, states that government agencies that will conduct anti-illegal drug operations in MILF areas “shall inform not less than 24 hours prior to the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations, the GPH-AHJAG (government-Ad Hoc Joint Action Group)” which “shall then inform the GPH-MILF CCCH  in order to avoid misencounter between the GPH and MILF forces.”

Congress is expected to pass this week the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which, in accordance with the government-MILF’s 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, would pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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