Keeping the peace, AFP role during negotiations with MILF

February 18, 2014 10:18 pm 

MANILA, Feb. 18 — Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Tuesday said that keeping the peace was the primarily role of the AFP as government negotiations were taking place with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"As part of our Internal Peace and Security Plan 'Bayanihan' one of our main objectives is to support the peace process, to have a negotiated political settlement with the MILF and that's one of the intent of 'Bayanihan' and what we did was to support the peace process, to maintain the agreed upon ceasefire and to see to it that we present a credible defense posture so that our negotiating panel will have their confidence and their ability to discuss from a position of strength with the MILF," he added.

Bautista also pointed out that during the sensitive negotiations, a ceasefire was announced with the MILF and nothing untoward happened during that period.

"There was ceasefire and nothing untoward happened to disturb that ceasefire except for issues with 'ridos' as a motivation and some criminal activities," he added.

Bautista also took this opportunity to state that he believes that the MILF will agree to the decommissioning of their firearms and other weapons.

"That's part of the agreement and as long as they see that their security is ensured and there are no threats to their personal safety I guess they will agree with the decommissioning," the AFP chief stressed.

The MILF is estimated to have a fighting force of 11,000 men and these individuals are armed with 7,500 types of assorted firearms.

And despite the declaration that the MILF will be allowed to have their police force in their controlled areas, the military will still have a presence in these places, Bautista added.

"First of all, the police is separate from the miltiary, it comes under the Department of Interior and Local Government. The AFP will maintain forces for purposes of national defense, we still have a responsibility, a mandate to defend our country, our territory to protect the people and the state and that is going to be a continuing mandate of the Armed Forces and we will deploy forces nationwide including in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao for purposes of national defense," he pointed out.

Bautista added that the AFP is more than willing to ensure that the peace process is carried out to its rightful conclusion.

"We will defend the peace that we have won, we will address spoilers that threaten the peace process and we have demonstrated that (during the Zamboanga City siege last September)," he added.

Bautista also pledged to address the "Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters" who have a habit of conducting harassment attacks and atrocities whenever some landmark is reached in the negotiations. (PNA)

FPV/PFN

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