Chief peace negotiator to MILF: Stop kidnappings

Posted at 04/21/2014 9:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Stop the kidnappings.

That’s the message of chief government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday.

In a statement, Ferrer said the MILF and all stakeholders must join hands in freeing the captives of the Abu Sayyaf.

“Let us give kidnap victims their best Easter gift ever - freedom from captivity,” she said.

“As an organization that signed the peace agreement, the MILF must not tolerate the criminal acts of any of their individual members. They must do their part in arresting the impunity long enjoyed by these unscrupulous individuals.”

However, Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the MILF is not involved as the kidnappers are acting on their own volition.

Ferrer said the MILF must ask its supporters allied with the Abu Sayyaf to choose between war and peace.

“They should expel from their ranks those who reject peace and are directly or indirectly abetting the hostage-taking and preventing development to set in,” she said.

“The peace process should not be used to shield criminals from their accountability for their crimes against innocent civilians.”

Ferrer said this year alone at least 23 kidnapping cases were reported in Basilan, Sulu, Zamboanga and Lanao provinces.

In the last three years, nearly 100 cases of kidnapping of children, students, businessmen, foreigners, journalists and even barangay officials and teachers took place, she added.

The ceasefire body met during the Lenten season to ensure coordination between government security forces and the MILF to help interdict criminals taking refuge within the MILF.

Ferrer said: “We expect both parties to renew their commitment and to come up with concrete operational guidelines that would allow them to effectively work together in securing the people’s safety and well-being in Basilan and elsewhere in Mindanao.”

Ferrer said MILF members linked to kidnappings were related by affinity to Abu Sayyaf commander Puruji Indaman, one of the most wanted men in the country.

The other week, two soldiers were killed and 29 others were wounded when troops clashed with the Abu Sayyaf in Barangay Silangkum, Tipo-Tipo town, Basilan.

The military said among those killed was a certain Nur Espital, who has been identified as a member of the MILF.

Three other alleged MILF members, including a certain Imamul Mande, were wounded.

The soldiers were trying to locate a 27-year-old woman that the Abu Sayyaf group had seized when the fighting broke out.