RP asks international monitors to probe Basilan clash
MANILA, Philippines — The government has formally asked the International Monitoring Team (IMT), through Malaysia, to investigate last week’s clash in Basilan incident in which 10 of the 14 Marines killed were beheaded and mutilated.
Acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said he met with his Malaysian counterpart and asked that the IMT be called in to probe the incident and identify those responsible for attacking the Marines, who were on their way back to their base after a mission to look for kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi when they were ambushed.
Malaysia heads the 60-man IMT, which monitors the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The MILF has admitted engaging the Marines, claiming the soldiers entered their territory without coordination. But it has denied responsibility for beheading the Marines.
Although President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the Marines’ attackers hunted down, she also said she has no intention of giving up on peace talks with the MILF.
She also said the government will allow the existing mechanisms of the peace process, such as the IMT and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), to handle the situation.
Gonzales sad it was important for an independent body like the IMT to look into the incident even he stressed that the government will allow the beheadings to go unpunished.
Gonzales also said he is confident the investigation will not affect the peace process with the MILF.