Marines warn vs campaigning by armed MILF rebs in Maguindanao PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 May 2013 10:45

The 1st Marine Brigade on Sunday called on the joint ceasefire committee to investigate on the reported wanton roaming by Moro rebels forcing villagers to vote for candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance for local positions in Maguindanao.

The ceasefire committees of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  signed last April 22 in Davao City an interim election security agreement restraining Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerillas from moving around in their uniforms and with guns until May 20, 2013 to prevent security problems that could derail the conduct of the May 13 elections.

Brig. Gen., Alexander Balutan, commanding officer of the 1st MBDE in Kalamansig town in Sultan Kudarat, said he has been receiving persistent feedback, from barangay folks in several Maguindanao villages under their jurisdiction, purporting that rebels in combat attires have been forcing voters to vote for candidates of UNA for local positions.

Intelligence operatives are now verifying the reports, Balutan said.

“For the moment, we can only report this to the government’s ceasefire committee and request for an immediate investigation because we abide by the communication protocols bilaterally set by the government and the MILF,” Balutan said.

Balutan said the Marines want to avoid direct confrontations with armed rebels violating the Comelec’s election gun ban as long as they can.

The 1st MBDE covers coastal towns in Sultan Kudarat, and the adjoining South Upi and Datu Blah Sinsuat municipalities in the first district of Maguindanao.

Balutan said there are also villagers asking for confirmation from Marine units on the assertions by certain MILF commanders that they are to help, as “Comelec deputies,” the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police in securing polling sites on May 13.

“As far as we know, the MOU (memorandum of understanding) signed in Davao City last month by the chairmen of the government and MILF’s ceasefire committees clearly says that only the AFP and PNP, under the guidance of Comelec, are to secure poll personnel, voters and voting precincts in all areas where the MILF operates,” Balutan said.

The MOU was also signed by Malaysian Major Gen. Fadzil Mokhtar of the IMT, which is comprised of soldiers and policemen from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Indonesia, and non-uniformed peace and development experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.

The IMT has been helping enforce since late 2003 the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF.

The MILF’s chief negotiator, Muhaquer Iqbal, said they have “four rules” for guerrillas that are to participate in the May 13, 2013 electoral exercise and infractions can boot members out.

Iqbal, chairman of the Transition Commission, told reporters in a press conference in Cotabato City last week that guerillas and their commanders cannot lend their vehicles to politicians, cannot join campaign convoys, cannot receive campaign funds; and cannot endorse candidates during political rallies.

“Many have been punished, removed from the MILF’s roster, for violating our revolutionary laws meant to keep the MILF’s apolitical stature in past elections,” Iqbal said.

The MILF’s former spokesman, Eid Kabalu, was booted out after the rebel group’s central leadership core discovered he forged alliances with candidates for local and national elections during the May 13, 2010 synchronized local and presidential electoral process.

MILF chieftain Al-Haj Murad earlier told reporters that Camp Darapanan, its largest enclave located in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao, will remain opened to politicians until next week’s termination of all political engagements as set by Comelec.

Murad said the MILF’s central committee is apolitical and cannot endorse any candidate for local, provincial or national elective positions.

Murad, however, said their guerillas can freely decide on whom to vote for on May 13.