Probe of clash between military, MILF rebels pushed

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    DEPUTY Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman has urged the government peace panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to conduct an inquiry into the February 28 clash between the military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the MILF.

    The lawmaker, a former regional governor of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), expressed disappointment over reports that a group of around 50 members of the BIAF clashed with government forces and reportedly occupied a section of Sukaten, a remote village in the municipality of Sumisip, Basilan.

    “We want to be clarified if this amounts to a violation of the peace agreement. While no one has confirmed that these gunmen are members of the BIAF, no one has denied it either,” Hataman said.

    He also said there must be a determination if the mobilization of the armed group was a sanctioned operation or an act of a rogue group of MILF-BIAF members.

    He said if the group is part of the MILF, then their presence in Sumisip is a violation of the peace agreement since the armed men have set up checkpoints along public roads.

    Hataman said many residents of the municipality were scared of the renewed clashes and have decided to seek refuge elsewhere.

    Based on news reports, the clash that left two soldiers and one BIAF guerrilla wounded had forced 1,000 residents of Sukaten village to flee from their homes.

    Because of the outbreak of the armed conflict, Hataman said there is now an urgency to provide updates regarding the normalization status under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

    The Basilan lawmaker said the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), created by the government and the MILF to oversee the decommissioning phases under the CAB, should report publicly on the status of the normalization process.

    Most recent reports indicate that Phase 2 of the decommissioning efforts of the government and MILF has been achieved, with over 12,000 (30 percent) of the 40,000-strong BIAF already decommissioned as of March last year. Currently, it is on the third phase, which involves decommissioning 35 percent more.