Philippines senator demands explanation from MILF

ZAMBOANGA CITY - A Philippines senator is demanding that a top official from a rebel group involved in a peace process with the government explain comments that the group remains a "revolutionary organization" despite its commitment to peace.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr said Wednesday that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal should explain a letter he sent to the country's highest legislative body in which he states that the group is still active despite signing the landmark deal being signed March 27 last year. 

Marcos is the chairman of a Philippine Senate committee that suspended a hearing on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) -- legislation tied to the peace process that paves the way for a new authority to replace the much-criticized Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao -- following the MILF's involvement in the death of 44 police commandos in a bloody Jan. 25 battle.

Iqbal did not appear at Tuesday's senate hearing into the deaths, instead submitting a letter to Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, implying that the MILF could not be compelled to attend because it is still "revolutionary."

"The provocative statement was totally unnecessary, it doesn't help the peace process at all," Marcos told GMA News Online on Wednesday.

"It would have been better if the chairman [Iqbal] had explained why he cannot appear in the hearing. That would have been sufficient. This is extremely provocative."

In Tuesday's letter, Iqbal asked the senate to bear with his organization, as it was the first time it had engaged with the government body.

"The MILF is a revolutionary organization. While we may have signed a peace agreement with the Philippine Government after 18 years of intermittent war and negotiations, that peace agreement has yet to be implemented," said Iqbal in the letter read by Rashid Ladiasan, the MILF chair of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

"Until the peace agreement is fully implemented, we will remain to be a revolutionary organization."

Marcos had initially called the letter "really alarming."

"It entirely contradicts the testimony of both sides that signed the framework agreement pushing for the BBL. It is in direct contradiction to the conditions described to us in hearings in Mindanao and here in Manila,” Marcos said during Tuesday's hearing.

He said that both the government and MILF had said that while the peace process was ongoing, there will be a cessation of hostilities and revolutionary actions, and MILF would begin to decommission its weapons.

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