Peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may be “delayed” following the clash that left 19 soldiers dead, Defense Department spokesman Zosimo Jesus Paredes said.

“In spite of this, the peace process shall continue, but when exactly that has yet to be decided. This could provide a lag,” Paredes said in a briefing Thursday afternoon.

The Armed Forces, as well as former military officers, are “demoralized” with the death of the soldiers, he said.

“When demoralization sets in, all encompassing ‘yan, all the elements of negative feelings of a person comes out, may nalulungkot, kasama na diyan ‘yung galit, of course kabaro mo ‘yan eh, it can be anyone of them,” Paredes told reporters.

“Everybody is practically demoralized… myself included,” said Paredes, a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1971 who served at the now defunct Philippine Constabulary.

Suspend ceasefire, Army officer says

Army spokesman Col. Antonio Parlade, for his part, said he personally wants the ceasefire with the MILF suspended.

“Kung ako po ang tatanungin, maliwanag po na dapat gawin dito ay i-pursue ang mga MILF na ito, temporarily i-suspend ‘yung cessation of hostilities specificially sa Basilan… I’m sure hindi po ito ang huling pagkakataon o huling insidente na mangyayari,” Parlade said in an interview over DZRH radio early yesterday.

“I think this is the 8th or 9th time na ginawa nila (MILF) ito everytime na meron kaming ma-engage na Abu Sayyaf, suddenly nagkakaroon ng MILF dun sa lugar,” he said.

“Sana makinig ang mga nakakataas pagbigyan natin na ma-impose ang ating mga batas sa lugar na ‘yan,” added Parlade, a former battalion commander of the Army Special Forces, the unit where the slain soldiers belonged to.

“When are we going to learn?” Parlade said in a television interview. Six of those killed were found with “hack wounds all over their bodies,” he added.

Paredes, however, said a suspension of the ceasefire only depends on the President.

President Benigno Aquino is set to meet with military officials on Friday in Camp Aguinaldo to be briefed on what transpired in Basilan.

Last soldier found alive

Meanwhile, the last soldier who was declared missing after Tuesday’s clash in Al Barkah was found alive yesterday (Thursday).

Private first class Michael Natividad was found floating in the sea near the Special Forces detachment in Brgy. Bohelebong around 8:30 a.m., Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said.

“He is confined at the Westmincom hospital and in stable condition… he suffered only shrapnel wounds on his feet, arms, and face,” Ortiz said. (John Roson)

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