Press Release
September 10, 2008

Loren hits P25-M gov't offer to MILF

Senator Loren Legarda said today that the government is showing "utter helplessness" in bringing before the bar of justice three renegade commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Legarda said this conclusion can be drawn from the government offer to give the MILF P25 million in "development fund" in exchange for its turning in MILF commanders Umbra Kato, Abdulrahman Macapaar and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian.

The "rogue" MILF commanders were tagged as the leaders of the bloody attacks last month in Mindanao that killed scores of civilians and displaced entire communities.

The senator said the government must impress on the MILF leadership that justice has to be served thus the need to arrest the three, and not because the MILF will be paid P25 million.

"The government is undermining itself with this offer. It's a veritable admission of its helplessness to enforce the rule of law," she said. "It also betrayed the government's tendency to take short cuts like through the offer of this bounty."

Legarda added that the people of Mindanao may take offense because "helping the poor of the region should be an end unto itself" and not as a pre-condition to achieve other goals like the arrest of the MILF commanders.

Likewise, Legarda said P25 million can hardly be called a "development fund" considering the gravity of the poverty and hunger problems in Mindanao. She said Mindanao needs

massive financial, technical and livelihood assistance to develop economically.

On reports that American forces may have been involved in military operations in Mindanao, Legarda said the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States doesn't allow that.

Legarda, one of only five senators who in 1999 voted against the Senate ratification of the VFA, said that the joint military training by American and Filipino soldiers should not be blurred as to include aspects that may be construed as direct military intervention by a foreign nation on Philippine sovereign affairs.

Those who voted with Legarda in opposing the VFA were the late Raul Roco, and Senators Teofisto Guingona, Sergio Osmena III and Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

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