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Philippine lawmakers demand handover of wanted militant.

Manila: Philippine lawmakers have set conditions for the passage of a bill that will help implement provisions of a peace settlement forged last year by the government and a formerly separatist Filipino-Muslim rebel group based in the south.

The two houses of Congress will pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) assists government security forces in capturing Filipino-Muslim bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman, Congressman Rufus Rodriguez said.

"The MILF must surrender all the weapons, equipment, and personal belongings of the Philippine National Police -- Special Action Forces, 44 of whom perished in their operation to get Jemaah Islamiyah bomb maker Zulkifli Bin Hir (Abdhir) alias Marwan in Pidsawan village, Mamasapano, central Mindanao last January 25," Rodriguez said.

Usman escaped the firefight.

"The MILF should also surrender MILF members who participated in the mis-encounter with police forces at the MILF-controlled Pidsawan village on January 25," said Rodriguez.

But the MILF might not meet the lawmakers' demands. A splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) which participated in the mis-encounter has refused, up to now, to surrender the arms and equipment that were taken from the police, a MILF source who requested anonymity told Gulf News.

Earlier, the MILF returned 16 of 63 missing high powered firearms used by the police special forces in the ill-fated operation.

At the same time, the BIFF is protecting Usman, the same source said.

The BIFF is the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) which became a faction of the MILF in 2008. It was against the continuation of the Philippine government-MILF peace talks that began in 1997.

Meanwhile, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos said the upper house of Congress will pass the BBL in June, instead of May.

The Senate will approve a modified version of the BBL which was drafted by the government and MILF negotiators last year, Marcos said. He did not give details.

President Benigno Aquino sent the proposed BBL to the two houses of Congress last September 2014.

He controls majority of Congress. But lawmakers allied to him had misgivings about BBL's passage because of the January 25 incident, which also claimed the lives of 18 MILF members and three civilians in the south.

Last year, the Philippine government and the MILF forged an agreement for enhanced self-rule for Filipino-Muslims in a wider autonomous area in the south.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 4, 2015
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