MNLF move vs Abu Sayyaf not sanctioned by government - Aquino

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III said Tuesday that the firefight between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Patikul, Sulu, "has no clearance" from the government.

In an interview in Davao City, the President said the MNLF did not inform them about the attack that they conducted against the Abu Sayyaf bandits, who kidnapped Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani and his two Filipino crewmen in June last year.

The MNLF reportedly was negotiating with the ASG regarding the release of Atyani and his team but no agreement was reached that led to the clash, killing eight guerrillas and 18 bandits.

Atyani's crewmen, Roland Letriro and Ramel Vela, were already released by the bandits last Saturday night. The journalist, however, remains missing and believed to be still in the hands of the ASG.

"Walang clearance. They didn't tell us that they're going to attack the Abu Sayyaf," President Aquino said in an interview after attending the Philippine Development Forum in Davao City.

The government and MNLF forged a peace agreement in 1996 under the administration of then President Fidel Ramos.

Aquino said no sanction is imposed on MNLF following the clash.

Upon learning the incident last Sunday, he said he immediately ordered security forces to ensure the safety of civilians who were caught in conflict areas.

"We directed both the security services - meaning, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) - and also Secretary (Dinky) Soliman as the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) to ensure that the civilians who might be caught up in the areas are evacuated to safe areas and are taken care of," he said.

About 300 families, he said, are currently being assisted by the local government unit of Sulu with help from national government agencies.

Malacanang earlier allayed fears of spillover of gun battles between the two groups to other areas in Mindanao.

The Chief Executive said the government continues to pursue peace process to prevent skirmishes and achieve lasting peace in the region.

He, meanwhile, denied reports that he has a scheduled meeting with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in Davao.

"No. I'm going to Zamboanga (del) Norte after this," he said.

The President is set to inaugurate a school building and hold a dialogue with local leaders in Dipolog City after his engagements in Davao. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)

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