The Western Command (WESCOM) claimed the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has been recruiting new members in violation of its peace agreement with the Philippine government and has warned the group against the activity.
“We have received intelligence (reports) that some MNLF frontrunners are recruiting in southern Palawan. To convince new recruits, they are exploiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s bid for a shift to federalism, and they are also pledging to give them money, identification cards, and firearms,” WESCOM spokesperson Capt. Cherryl Tindog said Monday.
Tindog said the recruits are being promised monthly compensation ranging from P20 to P30 thousand for each new recruit.
“They (recruits) are supposed to get this after paying a required registration fee,” she said.
She added that the recruitment activities were active mainly in the southern towns of Aborlan, Quezon, Rizal, and Bataraza and in at least two barangays in Puerto Princesa City. Similar recruitment activities were reported in Taytay and El Nido in northern Palawan.
“They even had their selfies taken with local officials in one event in a southern Palawan municipality to show that their recruitment is legal. They wore uniforms bearing the name MNLF,” Tindog stated.
Tindog said the MNLF group had attempted to organize a camp in Bataraza town but it was opposed by Mayor Abraham Ibba.
“Aside from the fact that the recruitments all have the trimmings of being a scam, what really raises our concern is the declaration of issuance of firearms, which is an outright violation of the peace process,” she said.
Earlier, lawyer Teodoro Jose Matta, legal adviser of the Palawan government and vice-chair of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), also confirmed reports about the recruitment sightings.
“Yes, we are monitoring it. These acts are not allowed under the peace agreement. We have been monitoring this with WESCOM,” said Matta.
In Palawan, there are two factions of the Moro separatist group – the MNLF under Prof. Nur Misuari, and the MNLF Mainstream (Central Committee) that takes command from Yusop Jikiri, the former governor of Sulu province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
MNLF Mainstream high-ranking leader Estino Jairie Ayyobie, whose group is allied with Jikiri, denied they were involve in recruitment activities.
“We have heard about it, but we are not the ones recruiting new members. It is not allowed for us to recruit under the peace process. What is allowed is only to reactivate our old MNLF members,” Ayyobie said.
Ayyobie said their group is not hostile to President Duterte’s leadership and supports the peace process. He urged authorities to raise its concerns with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
“This matter can be brought to the attention of the OPAPP so it can help resolve the problem because you know, this is not allowed under the peace agreement,” Ayyobie said.
Tindog urged the public to contact the WESCOM Emergency Hotline 09178960014, to report suspicious activities.