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PIA Press Release

Press Statement of Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita

Malacanang, Manila, 20 Aug 2008

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is angered and deeply frustrated by the treacherous acts committed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that has now clouded the prospects of an early positive conclusion of the peace process between government and the MILF.

The President detests the MILF leadership's lack of control over its so-called base commands, particularly on the actions in Lanao del Norte of its field commanders, namely Ombra Kato and Bravo, which resulted in the death of innocent civilians and the displacement of thousands from their communities.

The President is deeply saddened by the fate that has befallen the people of Lanao del Norte - the people whose houses were razed and who were fired upon indiscriminately, those who fled their villages and are now in evacuation centers, and those still by the roadsides. These people who have dreamed all their lives of a peaceful Mindanao and a future of opportunities to make their lives a little better do not deserve this tragedy.

The President, being a mother and a wife, deeply feels for our people - especially the parents who are with their suffering children in evacuation centers and in need of continuing medical intervention and food assistance, and for the grieving husbands and wives who stand helpless as they see their loved ones in extreme pain or in the throes of death.

The President regrets that the MILF's failure to restrain its field commanders reflects the organization's lack of sincerity to push for a successful conclusion of the peace process. In the past, the Philippine government tolerated and let pass minor skirmishes between its forces and the MILF on the latter's excuse that these were perpetrated by rouge elements in their fold. This excuse has been abused for too long and the President now draws the line.

At the National Security Cluster-Cabinet Meeting last night, the President directed the military and police forces to conduct full, vigorous, and unrelenting pursuit operations against rogue elements of the MILF. This instruction bolsters an earlier directive from the President for government forces to take back every inch of territory from these marauders at all cost, prevent their re-occupation at will, and to ensure that peace, order and security are restored.

The President only sees a suspension in these operations if and only when MILF commanders Ombra Kato and Bravo, as well as other commanders with them, are neutralized and their hostages are released. We trust that the P5-million bounty each for Ombra Kato and Bravo will facilitate their early neutralization even as the appropriate criminal charges against them are now being prepared. Members of Ombra Kato's and Bravo's units shall likewise be brought to justice for their actions. To attain these objectives, every arsenal at the disposal of the armed forces and the police will be utilized without let-up.

Related to this, the President welcomes the call made by Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila de Lima for the MILF to surrender the two field commanders on account of command responsibility. The President also looks favorably at the move of the CHR to file formal complaints against the MILF leadership.

Likewise, Chairperson De Lima's reminder to our men-in-uniform to be continually conscious of their responsibilities insofar as ensuring that human rights are observed amid this on-going conflict have been relayed to our forces on the ground.

Other armed groups are warned by the President not to take advantage of the situation in Mindanao by undertaking their own destabilization efforts. In such occurrences, government armed forces will not hesitate to act in a manner that is most appropriate and swift to contain these groups.

The President has also instructed the DSWD, DOH, DepEd, DND, and DILG and other agencies to undertake, as warranted, relief and rehabilitation activities and to assist the local government units concerned to facilitate normalcy in the affected areas. Likewise, key urban centers are being secured by police authorities to prevent potential spill-overs of the conflict, as well as disruptive and destructive activities by terrorists aimed to exacerbate the tense situation.

The President vows and is confident that with the right purpose, frame of mind, and the continuing guidance from the Almighty, we shall prevail. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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