Press Release
October 25, 2011

Trillanes presses for inquiry on MILF encounters

Senator Antonio "Sonny" F. Trillanes IV has called for a Senate inquiry into alleged "operational and tactical lapses" of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the recent bloody encounters with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which resulted to the death of 34 persons, including 29 soldiers.

"Someone has to be made accountable for the deaths of our troops in Mindanao. Possible operational and tactical lapses on the part of the AFP might have led to the gruesome death of our soldiers, which to my count has reached at least 29 soldiers in the recent clashes," said Trillanes, a former Navy officer.

Trillanes said senators must also look into possible "accountability and culpability on the part of the MILF leadership for the bloodbath which transpired amidst ongoing peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the separatist group."

On Monday, Trillanes filed a resolution directing the Senate Committees on National Defense and Security; and Peace, Unification and Reconciliation to probe the circumstances surrounding the clashes between the MILF and government troops against the backdrop of ongoing peace talks.

Trillanes noted in particular the October 18 encounter in the village of Cambug in Al- Barka town, Basilan, a known bailiwick of the MILF. Troops from the Army's 13th and 19th Special Forces Company were reportedly sent to the area to verify reports that armed men headed by Dan Lakaw Asnawi were holding kidnap victims.

According to the military, Asnawi's group was among the MILF rebels involved in the beheading of 14 Marines in Ginanta village, also in Al-Barka, in 2007.

"We also need to confirm the reports that many of the soldiers involved were allegedly undergoing scuba diving training for the Special Forces when they were hastily ordered to pursue - on behalf of the police - MILF Commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi," Trillanes pointed out.

The MILF claimed that government troops provoked the fighting by attacking the Muslim rebel group in their Al-Barka stronghold, which it said a violation of the existing ceasefire.

But Western Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer denied this, saying the military did not intrude into the MILF's stronghold as the incident took place four kilometers away from the separatist group's "area of temporary stay."

Under ceasefire agreement, government troops should first notify and coordinate with the MILF when they are going to operate in the latter's strongholds in search of criminals to prevent accidental clashes.

"There is an urgent and imperative need to inquire into and investigate the foregoing incidents in order to put into place the appropriate mechanisms and policies relating to the ongoing peace negotiations with the MILF with the end in view of preventing similar incidents in the future," Trillanes said.

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