(emphasis is mine)
Puno also said the occupying forces had been involved in the burning of houses, destruction of plantations, looting, and cattle rustling, and had forced civilians to leave area. MILF attacks have also been recently reported in the towns of Pigkawayan and Northern Kabuntalan, he said.
More than 1,500 families or over 6,500 individuals have been displaced in the towns of Midsayap and Aliosan alone as a result of atrocities committed by forces illegally occupying these areas.
In the press briefing, Puno said that after the 24-hour period, the government will exhaust all peaceful means to address the situation, but stressed “we feel entitled and authorized to undertake whatever action is necessary.”
(candidate for understatement of the news cycle)
Puno said a joint police-military task force had been formed to lead the clearing of several barangays in North Cotabato forcibly occupied by alleged members of the MILF and to strictly enforce the law against the unauthorized carrying of firearms in these areas.
(A denial that is expected, but is lacking in believability, damn where are the citizen reporters when we need news, not press releases)
On the other hand, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied reports that its troops have forcibly occupied areas in North Cotabato. “Hindi nag-aagaw ang MILF ng lupain (The MILF does not occupy lands),” kabalu said in an interview on dzBB radio.
In the press briefing, Puno stressed that the order for the MILF to vacate the areas is not a declaration of war but “a declaration of the enforcement of the rule of law.”
For his part, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr said the actions are meant to stabilize the situation and put the rightful owners back to those lands. Esperon said the CCCHs will relay the NSC directives to the MILF side.
Defense Sec. Gilbert Teodoro Jr said the incident is not likely to impact the peace process with the MILF, saying the situation in North Cotabato is a “plain lawless incident.”
“It’s like syndicated squatting,” Teodoro said.
( Part of me understand why Teodoro released these statements but there must be a sense of accountability, tell us who they are, If they aren’t really part of your group.)
Also, Puno ordered the Philippine National Police to disarm civilian volunteer organizations particularly in Aleosan town moving openly with firearms.