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PIA Press Release
2008/08/13

AFP operation in Mindanao only against MILF's disobedient members - Dureza

Manila (13 August) -- Malacanang said yesterday that the military in Mindanao should not be misconstrued as being against the entire Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but only against one wayward member who has been going against the mainstream MILF line.

In an interview over DZRH yesterday morning Press Secretary Jesus G. Dureza belied critics' claims that the temporarily shelving of memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the Bangsa Moro Juridical Entity is the root cause of the ongoing Mindanao conflict.

"Well, malayo ho. Although puwede nilang sabihin iyan, ang problema naman talaga dito, merong isang commander ng MILF na ayaw sumunod doon sa proseso na naayos na -- iyong proseso ng ceasefire at iyong orderly withdrawal," Dureza said.

"So, iyong operation na ito ay really against somebody - si Umbra Kato," Dureza said, adding that the MILF leader has long been violating the MILF line.

"Matagal na iyan (Kato)… na sumusuway sa MILF leadership," explained Dureza, the Arroyo administration's Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP) for five years.

Dureza said Kato had gone against the MILF's decisions and agreements with government several times: "Opo, napakarami ng beses, kaya nga ako, alam ko din na even (if) magkakaroon tayo ng final signing niyan (MOA), kung magkakaroon man, maging problema natin si Umbra Kato dahil nag-o-operate na parang sarili lang niya, hindi sumusunod sa liderato ng MILF.

"At kung meron man tayong gagawing magandang settlement, he will be one who will be breaking it or disrupting it. Kaya mabuti na rin, although hindi natin hinihingi, mabuti na rin na talagang may law-enforcement operation tayo against him now.

"Para ma-i-isolate natin iyong mainstream MILF na tumutulong sa atin in the peace process," Dureza added.

The Press Secretary said the government is checking on the plight of the residents in North Cotabato who were earlier forced out of their homes and farms by Kato's group.

"… Dahil kailangan gawin natin ang karapat-dapat doon dahil sa tingin ko nga iyong isang tao doon, si Umbra Kato, hindi sumusunod sa kanilang MILF leadership.

"Kailangan gawan ng paraan para maibalik na ang objective dito, maibalik natin ang taong-bayan na pinaalis ng by force ng mga armado na iyan several weeks ago. Naka-preposisyon - matagal na bago pa umalis si Pangulo sa Beijing parang na-anticipate na natin na baka merong kaguluhan, kaya merong operational law enforcement.

"Alam naman natin na ang taong-bayan ang immediately naaapektuhan. So, there is now a determined effort to minimize the sufferings of those who are suffering from these operations," said Dureza.

He pointed out that, in time, the affected populace will understand and welcome government's moves: "Nagsa-suffer man sila… pero I'm sure iyong mga civilians na nagsa-suffer na iyon will welcome the end game of this -- na pabalikin natin sila doon sa mga lugar nila kung saan pinaalis sila ng mga armado."

"There are about 12 barangays now that have been occupied by them (MILF group of Kato). Originally kasi, ang sabi 22. Actually, na-verify, only 15.

"Na-i-clear na rin as of today iyong dalawang barangay ng mga armado na iyan. So, there are 13 more on-going right now. Iki-clear pa. So ngayon, siguro, bumababa na iyong area. Baka magle-level off na rin iyong number of evacuees natin," Dureza added.

The Press Secretary, who comes from Mindanao, added that the National Disaster Coordinating Councuil (NDCC) has established command posts to help the residents.

"Meron na ngang in-establish na parang command post ng NDCC-RDCC doon sa Libungan ngayon dahil parang malapit iyon sa delivery of basic services. May problema lang tayo on the areas kung saan may bakbakan.

"May mga residente kasi na pumunta sa evacuation centers, walang problema iyan, they can be attended to. Pero karamihan kasi, 70 percent of the total evacuees, are not in the evacuation centers. Pakalat-kalat sila kung saan-saan. So, hinahanap sila ngayon, kasama na natin ang local government officials natin."

The former PAPP assured that the government and the mainstream MILF leadership are in touch. "Well, our peace panel, of course, sina Secretary Jun Esperon, I know, are still in touch with their counterpart somehow, dahil mahalaga na itong ating operation ngayon is viewed and is received by the MILF na hindi against sa MILF organization as a whole.

"This is only against… Umbra Kato at makakatulong din ito because eventually… pag nasa pirmahan na tayo ng agreement later on, at may mga maraming klaseng Umbra Kato na nandiyan pa, ay maski magkapirmahan tayo, guguluhin pa rin, eh. Mabuti na rin ngayong maaga pa naiayos na natin ito." (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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