AFP to utilize peace negotiation mechanism to surrender Asnawi PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 November 2011 16:43

The military said it will continue to utilize two mechanisms signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the surrender of MILF commander Dan Asnawi who was involved in the ambush slaying of 19 soldiers in Basilan last month.

Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said these two mechanisms are the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

The MILF has refused to surrender Asnawi to Philippine authorities but Burgos said the AFP will utilize all efforts regarding this matter.

Asnawi, the commander of the 14th Base Command of the MILF, is wanted for kidnappings and terrorism and has been tagged as behind the attack in Al-Barka, Basilan that resulted in the killing of 19 Special Forces soldiers and wounding of 14 others on Oct. 18.

Burgos said whatever comes first in the law enforcement, CCCH or AHJAG for the surrender of Aswani does not matter.

“It is very clear that those who will coddle criminals or lawless elements will become legitimate target of law enforcement operations by the military and Philippine National Police,” Burgos said.

He said the AFP has already lodged a complaint about the Basilan incident, adding “we will just follow the rules and regulations (because) we have a role to perform.”
Burgos assured that the AFP “will not be violating anything on the rules and regulations.”

The AHJAG is a joint effort of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that seeks to interdict and isolate lawless elements that take refuge in or near MILF communities.

It was initially formed during the May 2002 peace negotiations between the GPH and the MILF in Cyberjaya, Malaysia. It is composed of eight core members –- four from the GPH and four from the MILF.

In the GPH-MILF formal exploratory talks held on February 9-10 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, both parties agreed to renew AHJAG’s mandate for another 12 months beginning on March 1.

The government AHJAG operates with five teams in Mindanao conflict-affected areas: (1) Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, Bukidnon; (2) Lanao and Misamis provinces; (3) Zamboanga peninsula and ARMM island provinces; (4) South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City; and (5) Davao Provinces.

It has three secretariat offices situated in Davao, Zamboanga and Cotabato.

In a related development, Maj. Harold M. Cabunoc, acting Army spokesman, said that the AFP and the PNP will carry out their mandates, such as enforcing the law, by going after those criminal elements, including Long Malat and Dan Laksaw Asnawi despite the pronouncement of the MILF that they will not turn over these fugitives of the law.

Cabunoc said that if the MILF rebels offer safe sanctuary for these hardened criminals, they will become criminals themselves and therefore targets in the law enforcement operations.

He cited Article 19 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes, as accessories, those who, having knowledge of the commission of the crime, and without having participated therein, either as principals or accomplices, take part, subsequent to its commission, by harboring, concealing or assisting in the escape of the principal of the crime, provided the accessory acts with the abuse of his public functions or whenever the author of the crime is guilty of treason, parricide, or murder, or an attempt to take the life of the Chief Executive, or is known to be habitually guilty of some other crime.

Furthermore, Section 1 (c) of Presidential Decree 1829 (Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders) penalizes the act of harboring or concealing, or facilitating the escape of any person he knows or has reasonable ground to believe or suspect, has committed any offense under existing penal laws in order to prevent his arrest, prosecution and conviction.

Long Malat, a notorious criminal, facilitated the escape of Asnawi from the Basilan Provincial Jail in December 2009.

The AFP, through its representative to the CCCH, already lodged a complaint last week regarding ceasefire violations committed during the Al-Barka incident.
Included in the said violations is the allegation that the MILF rebels reinforced the group of Long Malat in that tragic encounter which occurred four kilometers away from the MILF-influenced communities.

Likewise, the AFP also complained about the gross violation of human rights committed by the group of Asnawi against the soldiers captured in that encounter. Six of the captured soldiers were murdered by the MILF rebels.

Also, the looting of personal belongings such as uniforms, wallets, cell phones; and mutilation of the bodies of the victims are included in the said complaint.
“We are now awaiting for the formal response of the MILF through its counterpart in the CCCH,” Cabunoc said.

It is important to note that according to the provisions of the ceasefire agreement, it is prohibited that criminals and lawless elements be allowed to stay inside the MILF communities.

Furthermore, it is very clear that no one should be above the law and that includes the MILF members.

“We are saddened by the pronouncement of Mr. Ghadzali Jaafar that they will never surrender one of the fugitives of the law, Dan Laksaw Asnawi. It is our fervent hope that this is not the position of the MILF organization as a whole,” said Cabunoc.

While the AFP continues to observe the primacy of the peace process, it will also seriously perform its mandates, including the protection of the civilian population against these lawless elements who have made kidnapping and banditry cottage industries in Mindanao.

The AFP will continuously help the PNP in carrying out their task of enforcing the law. — Ben Cal