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Priest stands by claim gov’t paid MILF for SAF weapons

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Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI (CBCPNews File)

MANILA, Feb. 23, 2015–A Catholic priest said he stands with his comment accusing the government of paying the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the return of the weapons taken from slain Special Action Force troopers (SAF) last month.

And Fr Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI, charged the Aquino administration of being subservient to the interests of the United States.

Mercado was responding to the pronouncement of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) that it is looking at legal options in the face of what it considers the “malicious misinformation” being directed to the agency.

Luisito Montalbo, OPAPP Director, criticized the priest, a known peace advocate, for coming out publicly with claims that are “unsubstantiated and unverified”.

But Mercado said he trusts his informant from the Moro National Liberation Front “who has close ties” with the field commander of the 105th MILF Base Command in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which told him about the “transaction”.

“It’s a privileged information. I believe my informant. He is reliable,” Mercado said.

‘Not the culture’

At least 16 high-powered firearms of slain police commandos that MILF fighters took from the SAF during the Mamasapano clash were presented to the government by the rebel group’s peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on February 18.

Forty-four SAF fighters, who were then on a mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan of Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf member Basit Usman, died during the hours-long gunfight with the MILF and its splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) last Jan. 25.

Mercado claimed that surrendering weapons for love of country “is not the culture” in the region especially after sustaining 18 MILF and 7 civilian casualties. “But there’s always a price tag for them because they can buy better ones,” he said.

“The SAF weapons are first class,” he said. “They may surrender their wives and never their firearms. But they can sell them of course.”

Aquino, US role

Mercado also said that Aquino has role in the Mamasapano operation because as early as Jan. 24, he was asked if he would join to welcome the President in Sharif Aguak on Jan. 25.

“I did not believe and there was no occasion for a visit. And PNoy was in Zamboanga. Only an afterthought and after the fact… that he would go there to be presented the terrorists Marwan and Basit–dead or alive,” Mercado said.

He, however, refused to identify who invited him to meet with Aquino but said it’s somebody from Sharif Aguak. “He thought I was still close to PNoy,” he added.

The priest also claimed that the US had direct involvement and partly to blame in the botched mission.

According to him, US forces with Gen. Getulio Napeñas at the command post of SAF in Sharif Aguak showed clearly the hands of the US in the operation with the use of drones.

“This is not only direct intervention of the US but also reveals that our security forces are actually adjunct to the US interest,” Mercado said.

Resign

Amid growing calls for Aquino’s resignation, Mercado is also convinced that the President must vacate his post not only because of the failed operation but of his direct hand in a US war against Marwan and Usman.

He said Aquino’s incompetence in leadership in what he “actively participate to” has also culminated in the terrible Mamasapano bloodbath.

“And his moral turpitude to hide or obliterate his and US connections to the said operation are reason more than enough to show his incompetence and sense to hold on to the presidency,” Mercado said. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)


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