A legislator from Mindanao on Thursday urged the peace panels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government to investigate the reported gun battle between MILF gunmen and government forces in Sumisip, Basilan, on February 28.
Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman raised the call as he expressed disappointment over the clash that reportedly involved some 50 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces and government troops in a remote barangay.
At the same time, Hataman, who represents Basilan in the House of Representatives and the last governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, called on the MILF and government peace panels to immediately investigate the reports and,” if found to be true, quickly resolve the situation that has caused fear and panic among the local residents where the clash happened.
“I want to know why did the clash happen? Is this not a violation of the peace agreement? While no one has confirmed that these gunmen are members of the BIAF, no one has denied it either. What is the motive? Has the MILF leadership been informed? Is this a sanctioned operation or an act of a rogue group of MILF-BIAF members? These questions should be answered satisfactorily.”
The clash has reportedly prompted non-combatants to evacuate to safer areas.
News reports indicate that the clash left two soldiers and one BIAF gunman wounded and had forced 1,000 residents of barangay Sukaten to flee from their homes at night, seeking refuge in the nearby village of Tumahubong, and then returning to Sukaten only during the daytime to tend to their farms and work animals.
The same reports said that three smaller communities—Campo Tres, Punoh Kilale and Kahawaan—were also caught in the crossfire. Local executives of Basilan have reportedly asked the MILF fighters to withdraw from the Basilan towns, where they allegedly set up checkpoints.
“I think it is about time for us to be updated on the status of normalization in connection with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, particularly the decommissioning of the BIAF fighters. How many have been decommissioned? How many firearms have been surrendered?
“The 50 that engaged government forces in a gun battle, are they among the more than 12,000 who have been decommissioned? Is the decommissioning schedule followed? These are important questions that need to be answered.”