Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal during the continuation of the hearing for SAF 44.(MNS photo)

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal during the continuation of the hearing for SAF 44.(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on Thursday admitted that the MILF leadership does not have complete control of the areas in Mindanao identified as MILF territories.

“Hindi po namin sinasabi that the MILF is in total control of Moro areas. We have control in certain areas but total control po ay hindi,” Iqbal said at the continuation of the Senate probe on the January 25 Mamasapano incident.

Kahit na ‘yung government of the Republic of the Philippines ay wala din naman pong total control of its area. May mga lawless groups pa rin na gumagala. So ganun din po yung sa MILF territories, hindi total control,” he added.

Iqbal was responding to the query of Sen. Teofisto Guingona about the presence of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups in the area of Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, where the firefight between the PNP-Special Action Force and the MILF occurred on January 25.

The site of the incident was identified as an MILF-controlled area.

Earlier at the hearing, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman admitted that there was confirmed presence of private armed groups in the encounter site during the January 25 incident.

Guingona then questioned Iqbal on the matters of security if the MILF will be given authority to establish and run its own police force.

Bangsamoro police

Under the proposed Bangasamoro Basic Law (BBL), a Bangsamoro Autonomous Police shall be established in the Bangsamoro region, though it will still be under the general supervision of the PNP.

Inamin ninyo na merong ibang armadong grupo sa areas ninyo. Sa usaping BBL, magkakaroon kayo ng sariling police force. Ang tanong ngayon ng mga tao, sa ngayon merong mga troops na pwedeng umikot-ikot lang sa areas na kontrolado ninyo, at gumawa ng karahasan. How much more when the Bangsamoro Autonomous Police is implemented?” Guingona asked.

Iqbal then insisted that the presence of lawless elements in the MILF territory is another pressing reason why the BBL must be passed by Congress.

Sakaling maitatag po natin ang Bangsamoro government, magkakaroon po ng legal authority ang MILF. Sa ngayon kasi, wala po kaming legal authority na gawin ang trabaho ng kapulisan. So pag na-establish na po ang Bangsamoro government, at kung manalo po sa seats of government ay yung party-list ng MILF ay mas maganda, mas mabilis at mas effective ang pamamaraan natin para masugpo ang karahasan,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal, meanwhile, insisted that the Mamasapano incident was a “misencounter,” saying that the injuries sustained by the slain SAF troopers were from heavy artillery fire and not caused by mutilation as alleged by some government authorities.

“Sa initial report namin, it was admitted that the encounter in Barangay Tukanalipao was between the MILF and SAF commandos, so, on the basis of that admission, I can say to you that some of the SAF commandos had a misencounter with the MILF,” Iqbal said.

As what we have said, high-powered firearms ang gamit ng magkabilang grupo. Dahil matataas po ang kalibre ng armas, sa tinging ko nung tinamaan sila ay talagang malakas,” he added. (MNS)