A Philippine flag flown at half-mast at Fernando Air Base Tuesday as soldiers mourn the death of 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force killed during an encounter with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. The MILF claims the clash Sunday erupted due to lack of coordination, when the elite cops tried to capture Malaysian bomb expert Marwan. (MNS photo)

A Philippine flag flown at half-mast at Fernando Air Base Tuesday as soldiers mourn the death of 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force killed during an encounter with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. The MILF claims the clash Sunday erupted due to lack of coordination, when the elite cops tried to capture Malaysian bomb expert Marwan. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — A group of retired military officers on Wednesday called on the government to demand from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to surrender its men involved in a “misencounter” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Sunday, which resulted to the death of at least 44 elite police officers.

“The government should demand the return of all firearms stolen from the dead policemen and for the MILF leadership to surrender the perpetrators within their ranks,” Association of General and Flag Officers Inc. (AGFO) chairman and President retired Army Lt. Gen Edilberto Adan said in a statement on Wednesday.

The group, composed of retired officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), released the statement days after the deadly clash in Maguindanao involving members of the PNP-Special Action Force and the MILF which left at least 44 government forces dead.

Earlier, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the PNP-SAF launched the operation in order to serve an arrest warrant against international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Commander Marwan, whose presence had been confirmed in the area.

Citing initial information they received on Monday, Roxas said a misencounter with the MILF occurred after some SAF members tried to avert the attack of the BIFF.

Mayroon umanong BIFF na umatake doon sa ating mga tropa, at iniwasan ito ng isang (SAF) unit. Pumasok sila sa lugar kung saan may MILF, kaya nagkaroon ng misencounter on that side,” he said, stressing that this would still be verified by a board of inquiry.

Following the clash, the Senate committee on local government on Monday suspended the hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will embody the peace agreement signed by the Philippine government with the MILF in March 2014.

At the House of Representatives, the ad hoc committee on the BBL has also decided to suspend the discussions on the measure’s provisions pertaining to national defense and public order following the clash.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law will embody the peace agreement signed by the Philippine goverment and the MILF last March, which aims to end the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.

For its part, the group said the tragedy highlights the “need to examine closely the security implications of any final agreement with any armed rebel group like the MILF.”

The group said the final agreement should remove all capabilities of the MILF to wage war against the government.

Also, AGFO said it opposes the creation of any security force “not under the total command and control of the AFP or the PNP whose authority emanates from the powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief.”

Meanwhile, the group also warned the government on the “limited control” of the MILF of its forces, and has “rogue commanders over whom they have no real authority.”

“When the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) under Commander Kato broke away from its ranks, the MILF leadership failed to take disciplinary action against it. Now their forces are living together in the same area. The MILF leadership must prove that it exercises authority and discipline over its commanders. Since the objective is peace, the Government should be talking with the entity that has control of elements who can wage war,” the statement said, quoting Adan. (MNS)