MANILA, Philippines-The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is obliged to submit the full result of its inquiry into the Jan. 25 Mamasapano massacre to the government first and foremost, former President Fidel V. Ramos said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Ramos also stressed that the government must be prudent in handling the criminal aspects of the participation of MILF fighters in the slaughter of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers.
"It is terribly wrong," he said of the MILF's reported plan to submit its findings on the Mamasapano incident to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) or the Malaysian government and later provide the government with a summarized report.
"Its obligation as MILF, Filipino citizens and partners in the peace process, is to submit their report to the Republic of the Philippines. There is no other government that they should submit their report (to)," Ramos pointed out.
"If they want, later on, they can submit (the report) to Malaysia or IMT or the media but their first obligation is to us and as citizens and taxpayers, we must voice our concern on this aspect," he said.
According to Ramos, another concern is whether the MILF will turn over its men who participated in the Mamasapano carnage for possible detention and criminal prosecution.
He said that the government should seek their turnover for criminal prosecution, "But if I am the government of the republic or the peace panel I will not say, 'Hey, MILF, surrender your men who killed the SAF.' It is not like that. We should be smarter."
Ramos suggested using a back channel by approaching relatives and local government officials in the Maguindanao area to get members of the MILF, who took part in killing and allegedly robbing the SAF combatants, and putting up a reward for their arrest.
"Put out a bounty on them from the government, make it a large sum and let us see how they react," he said. "There is not only one back channel as people think. There are hundreds of thousands of back channels. People have knowledge of the target or wanted person."
Ramos also voiced concern that the MILF negotiators, who are battle-hardened warriors and veterans, may be running circles around the government's peace panel. He described the MILF negotiators and advisers as "very savvy, wise and very tricky."
He suggested that the Philippine peace panel get advice from battle-hardened military commanders in Mindanao and legislators who may be organised as a "national unification committee."
"But the main thing is prepare for the worst-case scenario. The possible need for a peace commission or entity in the Philippine government. We only have 17 months left, the peace process might not be finished, so somebody should be planning something like this (peace commission) so that even if there is a new administration and the peace process is not completed we would have continuity," Ramos said.
"We must understand that in the words of the Opapp (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) itself, there are 15 steps in regard to the Mindanao peace process. We are now in Step 7 or Step 8, which is consideration by the House of Representatives of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. That will take quite a bit of time," he added.
"I am suggesting very humbly, already start planning for the worst-case scenario. You need a more permanent agency instead of just a negotiating panel under Opapp to do continuous peace process under the new administration next to this one."
A peace agreement does not end in its signing, he said. "You have to make sure it is implemented properly and that is where the continuous entity comes in," he said.