MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Saturday vowed to get the armed band that killed 14 Marines, beheading 10 of them, in Basilan Tuesday but also said she was not abandoning peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“We will run after those who killed our Marines, but we will not run away from the peace talks,” Arroyo said in a statement forwarded by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye,
“Our desire to see the killers punished is matched only by our determination to forge peace,” she added.
The Marines died after their unit, which was on an operation to check reported sightings of kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi, was ambushed and then locked in a daylong battle with their attackers in Tipo-Tipo town.
The MILF has said its forces engaged the Marines because the government troops allegedly entered their territory without prior coordination as required under a ceasefire agreement. However, the secessionist rebels denied beheading the slain soldiers.
The military, on the other hand, claims the Marines were attacked by combined MILF and Abu Sayyaf fighters and other “lawless elements.”
Arroyo hinted that the Marine’s attackers would not be covered by the talks with the MILF, which are expected to resume soon after being stalled on the issue of territory.
“We will not allow those who committed barbaric acts to hide under the negotiating table. Only principled warriors deserve a seat on it,” Arroyo said.