By Billy Begas
Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman on Thursday called for an investigation on the reported encounter between around 50 combatants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and government forces in Sukaten in Sumisip, Basilan last February 28.
BIAF is the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF).
“Ang gusto kong malaman ay kung bakit ito nangyari? Hindi ba ito violation ng peace agreement? While no one has confirmed that these gunmen are members of the BIAF, no one has denied it either. Ano ang motibo nito? Alam na ba ito ng leadership ng MILF? Is this a sanctioned operation or an act of a rogue group of MILF-BIAF members? This should be clear,” said Hataman, who is hailed from Sumisip.
Based on reports, Hataman said it appears that the peace agreement was violated when the BIAF went outside of the area were they are allowed.
“Bakit sila pumunta sa isang lugar sa labas ng kanilang area of temporary stay at nag-set up pa ng check points? This is a giant misstep in our road to peace. While we are trying to build confidence in the peace process, these kinds of occurrences do not help us,” added Hataman, a governor of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Based on news reports, the clash that left two soldiers and one BIAF guerrilla wounded had forced 1,000 residents of Sukaten village to flee from their homes, seeking refuge in the nearby village of Tumahubong.
The communities of 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 check points.