Lanao military offensives hit MILF men but stakeholders turn mum for peace sake

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – The recent military offensives in Maguing, Lanao del Sur had hit Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and areas, but peace stakeholders would remain silent on the issue for the preservation of feats and potentials of existing peace accords on the gainful autonomy for the Bangsamoro community in general.


The offensives, which the military described as “surgical” in scope against terrorists, began on Monday, Feb. 28, with Air Force jets bombing alleged positions of ISIS-allied Dawalah Islamia fighters, and soldiers engaging the enemies in ground operation the next day, March 1, were the first major violent action since the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in 2019.

Latest military reports said the offensives had left seven suspected followers of new Dawlah Islamia leader Faharudin Hadji Satar alias Abu Bakr or Abu Zacaria holding out at Barangay Ilalag in Maguing town. Abu Zacaria reportedly survived in the offensives, even as the military admitted losing one soldier with four other troops wounded.

The Western Mindanao Command (WMC) said 45 high-powered firearms, including crew-served weapons as well as shoulder-fired rockets and bombs, some five kilos of shabu in packs and ISIS black flags were recovered at the terrorists’ lair overran by the military in Barangay Ilalag.

“We have watched this band of terrorists for a long time,” WMC chief Lieutenant General Alfredo Romero Jr. had said earlier to mean a prior planning for the “surgical” offensives.

MILF not targeted

Media reports have quoted Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Cuerpo II, head of the Marawi City-based 103rd Infantry Brigade, as denying reports that MILF members or areas were targeted in the offensives.

“Our partners from the MILF are with us in this fight against the Dawlah Islamia in Lanao del Sur,” Gen. Cuerpo was quoted as saying.

Silent civilians’ reactions

But civilian community leaders in Maguing town said the airstrikes had hit a local zone of the MILF called Akram and killed three “legitimate” members of the front.

Akram is a “special field area” of the Maguing-based MILF’s 103rd Brigade camp, a local community leader told the Philippine Muslim Today news by phone Friday, on condition that he would not be named.

“The slain MILF members were close relatives of an elected official, who like me and other stakeholders would rather keep the reality under wraps to avoid an undue disturbance in the existing MILF-Government peace accords,” said the source.

On Wednesday, Katipunan Party presidential candidate Faisal Mangondato issued a statement calling on the military to suspend the airstrikes to allow the smooth evacuation of over 1,000 families trapped in the offensives, and avoid a spillover of the attacks on the MILF’s 103rd Brigade camp.

One the same day, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim also issued a statement, allaying fears for an escalation of military offensives.

“Over the past 24 hours, our dear constituents in Maguing, Lanao del Sur have been troubled from military airstrikes and most recently, firefight (involving) members of the military and forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” said Ebrahim, who is incumbent MILF central committee chairman.

He said the BARMM government has already deployed emergency workers to serve the displaced residents, even as he assured that proper coordination was underway to ensure that “no further (violent) confrontation will take place” in Maguing town and elsewhere in the autonomous region.

Ebrahim assured the full observance of existing ceasefire mechanisms between MILF and the government, through the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), the International Monitoring Team (IMT), and Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).

Generally, civilian and military authorities seemed to be sitting aside any inadvertent consequence of the anti-terror government offensives on MILF members or areas in the greater interest of the majority now enjoying the initial gains of the new autonomy created under two major peace deals between the front and the government.

According to Islamic scholars citing hadiths (written acts and words of Prophet Mohammad), covering up truth for the greater welfare of communities is permissible.   

The government and MILF panels had signed the Framework of Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in 2013 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014.

Both peace accords are the main basis in the enactment in 2018 of R.A. 11054, also known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which created the BARMM and its bureaucracy. (AGM)

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