Inside out

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Puno: ‘Give MILF the benefit of the doubt’

Posted by Abi Kwok on September 10, 2008

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:17:00 09/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should be given the benefit of the doubt it will not use the P25-million bounty on its renegade commanders to buy arms, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said on Wednesday.

In an interview, Puno also called on critics to “respect the MILF’s desire for peace.”

“I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt. They will not surrender their criminal military commanders just to buy arms with the reward that they will get,” he said.

On Tuesday, Senator Rodolfo Biazon questioned Puno’s offer of P25 million to the MILF in exchange for the surrender of rebel commanders Ameril Ombra Kato, Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian, saying the money will just be used by the secessionist group to buy more arms.

The rebel commanders led attacks in several Central Mindanao towns shortly after the Supreme Court temporarily stopped the signing of an expanded Moro homeland accord on August 4.

Puno said he believed many in the MILF leadership want peace achieved in the restive Mindanao region.

“I think there are Central Committee members who are considerate and are yearning for peace” he said.

“If they don’t want to assist the law-abiding citizens in Mindanao by turning over these criminals, I’m sure there are others who will,” Puno said.

Biazon also said that if the MILF leaders have decency, they would surrender the three wanted leaders without a cash reward.

But Puno said the offer of bounty was open to any “peace-loving” people in Mindanao.

“It is not just an offer to them. It is an offer to anybody who will be interested in the restoration of peace and order in Mindanao” Puno said.

“So if they’re interested in the restoration of peace and order in Mindanao and they are able to turn over the three, they will get the money for whatever development programs they want to do for their community,” he added.

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