Folks insist JI terrorists nowhere in Maguindanao PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 August 2013 13:40

Assertions that a Malaysian member of the Jemaah Islamiya is hiding in Maguindanao is just as worst as the oft-recurring flashfloods and armed conflicts in the province, local officials said.

Members of the business sector already called on the MILF’s peace panel to censure Von Al-Haq for having insinuated that Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, is being coddled by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which is led by Ameril Umrah Kato, somewhere in Maguindanao.

Al-Haq, who is spokesman of the MILF-styled Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, and National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia were both reported recently as having floated the idea that Marwan could be hiding somewhere in province, being provided sanctuary by the BIFF.

“We’re not protecting the BIFF. It’s an organization that deserves condemnation. It’s the immediate and deeper implications of an insinuation done by someone from the MILF to the local economy and to the (GPH-MILF) ceasefire agreement that makes us sad,” lamented a Moro engineer, who is involved in government projects in the second district of the province.

An ethnic Maguindanaon trader, who operates a hardware store in  Datu Odin Sinsuat town, said Al-Haq’s having been quoted in a recent published report saying he has information that Marwan could be in Maguindanao was a total violation of the communication protocols bilaterally set by the government-MILF joint ceasefire committee.

The government and the MILF, under the July 1997 agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, are to issue statements on security concerns and tactical activities of rebel and military forces in potential flashpoint only through the joint ceasefire committee, which is comprised of representatives from the rebel group, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces.

Members of the provincial board and other local officials were, however, virtually diplomatic and more cautious in their interpretations of the issue, confident it can be ironed out in the “proper forum” through peaceful dialogues.

Provincial board member Bobby Katambak, a practicing human rights lawyer, said barangay officials and the municipal peace and order councils in the 36 towns in Maguindanao “can best tell” if there are foreign terrorists in the province.

He said Maguindanao Gov Esmael Mangudadatu already directed local executives to validate insinuations by certain national officials that Marwan is in the province.

“It’s been two weeks now and there has not been any confirmation yet so far. There were also groups of farmers and community organizations asked to help and not one has ever confirmed that this Malaysian JI member is in the province,” Katambak said.

Katambak said the efforts to validate the reported presence of Marwan in the province is not to embarrass or belittle the sources that floated such idea, but to cushion its impact to the local economy and to allay apprehensions by the public on possible government offensive to flush him out, which is feared to cause dislocation of the local communities.

A mayor, who asked not to be identified, said pointing to Maguindanao as a possible sanctuary for foreign terrorists is just as worst as the flashfloods and the man-made calamities that often hit some areas in the province.

“We support the peace process, the peace talks between the government and the MILF just as we support the efforts of improving the economy of the province. Our people were devastated with the reports that there is a Malaysian JI member in their midst. It’s just as devastating as abandoning their homes either due to a man-made, or natural calamity,” seconded a Moro cleric, Ustadz Ameerodin Alih of Datu Blah town.

Muslim traders in Maguindanao’s adjoining Datu Piang and Shariff Aguak towns were saddened by the report that Marwan is in the province, something for them so “unrealistic” and detrimental to what they describe as now “improving economy” in their municipalities.

“The spokesman of the MILF seemed to have forgotten that under their ceasefire agreement with the government, they are to help find criminals and terrorists and pluck them out of the areas covered by the ceasefire accord,” said a Moro rice and corn grains trader.

The trader who asked not to be identified said the Visayan buyers of his merchandise in General Santos City have stopped providing him with cash advances for the procurement of grains after reading the report on the alleged presence in Maguindanao of Marwan.

Marwan was said to have trained in fabrication of home-made bombs in Peshawar, Pakistan and in Kandahar Afganistan.

A senior official of the League of Mayors in Maguindanao said such scenario is not just preposterous, but unfounded as well.

“It is impossible for our constituent-barangay officials not to detect the presence of any foreign terrorist in any part of the province. No one from them will ever allow the peace process to be derailed by any presence of foreign terrorists in their communities,” the league official said.

The spokesman of BIFF, Abu Misry Mama, told reporters that coddling a terrorist like Marwan, is against the revolutionary policies of their organization.

“We in the BIFF only bomb military positions. We don’t do bombings to kill innocent people,” Mama said in halting Filipino.

Intelligence units of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police command could not confirm the presence of the Malaysian bomb-maker in the province.