De Lima empty-handed after meet with MILF chief

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – She asked about the Mamasapano tragedy that killed 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members. The MILF leader responded by saying he has no specific answers because they’re not done with their investigation. 

On Tuesday afternoon, March 10, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima met for an hour with MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim at Camp Darapanan to discuss what happened in the January 25 Special Action Force (SAF) raid of Mamasapano town, which killed 44 SAF commandos, 18 MILF fighters and 3 civilians.

“We asked questions and he answered,” De Lima told reporters after. “Most questions were answered by saying we cannot give you answers on that because [our] investigation is not yet finished,” she said.

The MILF signed a peace agreement with the Aquino government last year, a move that will pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro region that will be more powerful than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. This depends however on the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is now in peril in the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy. (READ: Top 2 trending lies on the BBL)

The MILF has described the January 25 incident as a "misencounter," noting that government forces broke ceasefire protocols when they entered the area without coordinating with the MILF. But the police and lawmakers said it was an overkill on the part of the rebels.

MILF chief negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal said Murad stressed during the meeting that only the executive summary of the MILF report will be provided to the DOJ (Department of Justice) through the International Monitoring Team, which is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire between the government and the rebel group.

“It’s a dialogue yesterday. They asked questions and we answered them,” Iqbal said Wednesday, March 11.

“As what we have said before, the full report is internal to us. If the DOJ wants the details or the executive summary, they can have it through the peace panels,” he said.

De Lima said the MILF’s full report is important for her department to have a complete picture of what happened. “We hope we can secure a copy. So we can see their own version on the incident,” De Lima said.

De Lima will visit the site of intense fighting in Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano before heading back to Manila.

Two other bodies are investigating the incident: the police Board of Inquiry and the Senate. 

Widows and relatives of the slain SAF commandos also asked the House of Representatives to resume its probe into the incident. –