PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte met Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Davao City on Monday to seek possible cooperation of Moro combatants to end the continuing armed conflict in Marawi City.
In a joint statement of government and MILF, Murad reportedly welcomed the President's intent for the MILF fighters to help the government in extending necessary humanitarian assistance in Marawi City, where sporadic fighting persists.
“Modalities of cooperation would be established between the government of the Philippines and MILF,” the statement read.
“The peace mechanisms such as the coordinating committees on the cessation of hostilities of both the government and MILF would be utilized for planning and implementing the ways on how to immediately and safely extend the humanitarian assistance,” it added.
The meeting was held two days after Duterte sought the help of Moro leaders by encouraging them to join the government forces in fighting Maute group that continues to sow terror in Marawi City.
As of press time, Malacañang said 104 individuals have reportedly been killed, including 19 civilians, 65 terrorists, 17 soldiers, and three policemen.
Duterte, in his visit to a military camp in Jolo, Sulu over the weekend, said the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are welcomed to join the government troops in its military offensives against remaining members of Maute.
“I am announcing to all army of MI[LF], MN[LF], if it [the military operations] will take long and you want to join, I am offering them to have them as my soldiers, same pay, same privileges. And I will build houses for you in some areas,” the President said.
During his meeting with Murad, Duterte reportedly reiterated his commitment to pursue peaceful negotiations with Moro combatants and assured that martial law in Mindanao is meant to "quell the rebellion of the Maute group and other ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)- inspired terrorists."
The joint statement said the President urged the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC) to fast track the crafting of enabling Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The BTC, which is composed of 21 members, is expected to submit the draft law for Bangsamoro until July. The provisions that are not yet implemented in the 1996 agreement with the MNLF and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF will be consolidated into one enabling law.
Duterte's meeting with Murad lasted for about two hours. They were joined by Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff and Martial law administrator General Eduardo Año and peace panel chair Irene Santiago, several military commanders and Cabinet officials.
Other participants in the meeting included MILF first vice chair Ghazali Jaafar, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces chief Sammy Al-Mansour, MILF peace chief negotiator Mohagber Iqbal, Supreme Shari’ah Court head Ustadz Khalifa Nando and Ad Hoc Joint Action group chair Abdul Dataya. (SunStar Philippines)