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(UPDATE) MILF accuses Puno of ‘lying’ on Ilaga’s existence

Posted by Abi Kwok on September 10, 2008

DILG chief denies claim

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:41:00 09/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has accused Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno of “lying” by denying any presence of the armed group Ilaga in North Cotabato, insisting that the “resurrection of Ilaga is real and the government is tolerating if not funding or arming it.”

In a statement on its website Luwaran on Wednesday, Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, accused Puno of playing “deaf and blind” to the emergence of the Ilaga in North Cotabato.

But Puno denied this and insisted that reports from officials in North Cotabato disproved Musa’s claims.

“Walang reports [There are no reports from North Cotabato.] We have check points all over the place and hindi pa rin nagbabago ang mga sitwasyon dun [and the situation there has not changed],” he said.

In a separate statement, Brian Raymund Yamsuan, DILG assistant secretary for public affairs, called Musa’s statement a “figment of the imagination.”

“Bakit kailangan pang buhayin ng MILF ang isyu tungkol sa Ilaga gayong wala namang patunay sa muling pagbuo nito sa Mindanao? Panaginip lang nila ang muling pagbuhay sa Ilaga. Nililihis lamang ng MILF ang atensyon ng tao sa tunay na isyu, at ito ay ang pagpatay at iba pang krimeng isinagawa ng mga kumander nilang tulad nina Kato, Bravo at Pangalian sa mga inosenteng mamamayan ng Mindanao [Why does the MILF have to resurrect the issue of the Ilaga when there is no proof of its resurgence in Mindanao? They are just dreaming about the resurrected Ilaga. The MILF is diverting the people’s attention from the real issue, and this is the killings and other crimes committed by their commanders like Kato, Bravo and Pangalian on innocent citizens of Mindanao],” he said.

Yamsuan was referring to MILF commanders Ameril Ombra Kato, Abdullah Macapaar alias bravo, and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian, who are accused of leading attacks on civilian communities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte last month and are the targets of military offensives the government said will continue over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Musa, who claimed to have been a member of the Ilaga (Visayan term for “rat) during the 1970s, cited portions of an A-1 intelligence report to the MILF on the existence of the Ilagas, saying some politicians were supporting the group.

“North Cotabato Vice Governor [Emmanuel Pinol] is the main pillar of this group and Senator Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II, a presidential aspirant in 2010, actively supports the group,” Musa said.

But Puno denied this, saying the allegations have not been proven.

“In fact, I think the opposite is true in the case of some other and even for most of them. So we’re still verifying the involvement of anyone whether mentioned by the MILF or not,” he said.

Nevertheless, Puno said he would not allow the Ilaga group to mobilize. “The Ilaga will never get off the ground. We will never allow it to,” he added.

Violence attributed to the Ilaga reached its bloodiest in June 1971 with the massacre of 65 men, women and children inside a mosque at Barangay (village) Manili in Carmen, North Cotabato. The group was composed of untrained villagers used by the military to attack Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) communities.

Some members reportedly cut off the ears of dead Muslims and wore them around their necks as trophies. One senior member, Norberto Manero, also gained notoriety in the 1980s after he was convicted of murdering Italian priest Tullio Favali whom he had suspected of having links with communist insurgents.

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