Tension high as MILF, BIFF add forces after Mamasapano clash!

Source: GMANetwork.com

Tension is still high in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters adding forces in the area.

In his live report on Unang Balita on Wednesday, GMA News’ Chino Gaston said the groups deployed additional forces should the government launch a pursuit operation related to the gun battle on Sunday, where 44 members of the police’s Special Action Force were killed.

But according to Brigadier General Carlito Galvez of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, military and police forces were pulled out of Barangay Tukanalipao, where the day-long clash happened. Checkpoints have also been removed.

The committee is also speaking with MILF commanders, asking them not to add reinforcement so fear would not spread to other parts of Maguindanao.

It also asked the group’s leaders to understand the situation and appease their members who may have lost loved ones in the battle.

In his report, Gaston also said, “Nakumpirma natin na walang ikinakasang operasyon laban sa BIFF o sa MILF dahil sa insidente.”

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday appealed for calm in the aftermath of the clash.

“We call for sobriety as we all await the full report on the investigation. During this time, we must ascertain facts to avoid confusion and acknowledge the complexities of the situation to allow for the rule of law to truly prevail,” Sereno said in her statement.

In voicing their condemnation of the incident, Senators JV Ejercito and Alan Peter Cayetano both withdrew as co-authors of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law currently being deliberated in Congress.

MILF probes clash

The MILF, meanwhile, has formed its own investigating body to look into Sunday’s deadly encounter, which occurred despite the peace agreement signed by the group with the government in March last year.

“Our concern is the truth,” MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said in an undated statement posted on the group’s official website. “There will be a lot of speculations as to what happened and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the said incident will weigh down our current efforts to bring peace to our homeland.”

The group also extended its condolences to the family of the 44 SAF members who were killed in the clash.

“In order to give meaning to their deaths, we must resolve not to let something like this happen again. To this end, the MILF is convening a Special Investigative Commission (SIC),” Murad said, adding the mandate of SIC “is to gather as much reliable information and interview witnesses to establish the truth.”

‘Secret’ mission

Meanwhile, relatives of the slain elite police officers were pained further by a report that the forces were tortured as they were dying. Their guns and other possessions were also reportedly taken.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama denied this, saying the injuries that killed the police officers were obtained during the clash.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the province said all police officers have been accounted for, with the number of fatalities at 44, the report said.

Some relatives said the elite police kept the operation a secret, even to those with family members in the police and military.

“Palaisipan pa sa kanila kung sino ang nagbigay ng utos,” Gaston said in his report.

Members of both military and the police are waiting for the national address that President Benigno Aquino III is expected to make on Wednesday night.

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