QUESTION: Sir John, tell us abou the MNLF Operations in Patikul Sulu. I have heard there is an MNLF Anti-Kidnapping Operations now in the grounds under MNLF Cmdr. Malik.
ANSWER: MNLF is not a deputized law enforcement organization. We don't get ourselves involved in a government deputized combat against criminals such as kidnappers, robbers, terrorists, etc.
Many MNLFs are gun-owners. We use our guns for self-defense only, and of course to defend our families, properties, and community. We don't use our guns to achieve political ends.
Nevertheless, there are MNLF-populated zones in Mindanao. There was an MNLF-GPH Ceasefire Ground Rules Agreement in 1994 that obligates the government to coordinate with the MNLF whenever they conduct a large troops movement to pursue bandits and kidnappers in and around MNLF zones. The purpose of the coordination is to prevent community panic that could endanger the lives of the soldiers. When government troops passes though MNLF zones in the conduct of law enforcement patrols, the MNLF have hospitality duty to provide them with necessary local escorts.
In photograph of Cmdr. Malik marching with his men in full combat gear in Patikul, that was just a routine escort hospitality duty. It was not a deputized law enforcement function. It is the government troops that pursues the kidnappers.
In case the government troops come in contact with kidnappers that would end up in a standoff, negotiations on the release of hostages normally happens. Sometimes, government would ask the MNLF for "extra favor" to help in the negotiations.
The MNLF is not a vigilante.
You want the MNLF to help law enforcement catch NPA? Did you see anything in the signboard that says we are in the business of bounty-hunting? The only thing we catch are fish in the sea, snails in the field, and wild ducks --- FOOD for our family. When NPAs quit, they join us to avail of Hijra, we give them a new life.
Bounty hunting is mercenary job -- a work that is exclusive only for government troops. Besides, we don't have access to government's secret information, so we don't know who they are looking for. You want to hire our men for bounty hunting? They would love to march in the forests to look for faces that match the cartographic sketch. Many MNLFs need off-farm jobs. If government can afford to pay for deputized law-enforcement with proper documents, why not?
Between years 1996-2000, around 5,000 MNLFs were absorbed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police. If they want to add more, we still have plenty.
In the photo below, you see a red (NPA) who surrendered to MNLF (not to government). In this particular batch of surrenderee, there were actually three of them if I remember it right. Through the years, the MNLF have received quite many NPA surrenderees. There is no room for quitting in the reds. When a red quits, he will most likely be assassinated by his own comrades. That is why in Mindanao, when reds quit, they join the MNLF in order to survive and give more meaning to their struggle to support the Mindanao Independence Movement. The reds don't harm their previous comrades who join the MNLFs.
QUESTION by Nadzmi L. Jimlok: Everyday we seen Robbery, Holdup & Killing in the Philippines, How can we help to install peace & order ? What govt agencies in particular the military agencies doing now, some of them involved in those crimes ! Thanks.
ANSWER: The problem of MNLF members and officers now is not the robbery, hold-up, and killings. In those unfortunate events, lives are taken in a random manner. Our problem is POVERTY -- it systematically kills the future of everyone. When MNLFs are poor, many rich corrupt politicians will come to take advantage to use our people as private armies on a pretext of deputized law enforcement. If we bite the bait, our freedom fighters will evolve into elements of private armies, we will have a widespread of private commandos that we cannot control, and our own people might be used against us in the future.
Amidst any of these exaggeratedly published robberies, hold-ups, and killings, our policy and doctrine in MNLF is the same and consistent as ever. We, the MNLF, are neither private armies, nor mercenaries, nor bounty-hunters, nor assassins, nor vigilantes. We are gun-owners and we keep our guns at home to protect ourselves, family, and property in any event crime comes to us in a random or systematic manner. If they want MNLF to get involved in law enforcement, then implement the provision in FPA that allows government to recruit and integrate MNLFs into the regular forces of the AFP or PNP. We don't want our members and officers to get armed work that is of lesser value than regular force of the AFP or PNP.
QUESTION: Sir John, is it possible for government to deputize the MNLFs to man checkpoints alongside with regular AFP or PNP troops during elections?
ANSWER: I am not sure, but I think so. That is not something new. MNLFs are the most disciplined and very reliable. There are many checkpoints in Mindanao that is manned by men in AFP or PNP uniform and alongside with them are men with MNLF patches. In Davao provinces I have even seen MNLF detachments and checkpoints with permanent MNLF signboards along the highway, and after I looked closely I see three PNP personnel sleeping on a duyan under the trees in the MNLF detachment premises. Although you will notice the GPH and MNLF are having a hard time reconciling their differences during negotiations in relation to implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, the MNLF and AFP/PNP have a good relationship in the grounds. I just hope that MNLFs will not be taken advantaged of. If MNLFs help in checkpoint manning, they must be paid as casuals by the AFP or PNP or COMELEC because they have families to feed too.