From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 28): Ceasefire mechanism assists return of re-positioned MILF forces to communities
Around 2,300 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members reunited with their families as they returned to their respective communities on April 15.
This, according to a press statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) after the 38-day law enforcement operations (LEO) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao through the help of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), the ceasefire mechanism of the Government of the Philippines and the MILF.
Last February 5, the AFP’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade initiated a LEO against the BIFF that traversed through barangays Gawang and Madia in Datu Saudi Ampatuan and barangays Tee and Andavit in Datu Salibo, both in Maguindanao province.
Prior to the LEO, the MILF repositioned thousands of its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members to give way to the AFP’s pursuit operations against the BIFF.
“The CCCH assisted in repositioning more than 2,300 BIAF members into different barangays during the military operations in Datu Salibo to prevent any mis-encounter between the MILF and the government military forces,” said Director Carlos Sol, Jr., head of the GPH-CCCH Secretariat. “And just last week, we also assisted these same BIAF forces into returning to their respective communities and families after the successful clearing operations of the AFP in the area.”
Through the assistance of the CCCH, these 2,300 BIAF members returned to seven different barangays, namely: Sitio Badak, Brgy. Madia, Brgy. Gawang, Brgy. Andavit, Brgy. Butiren, Brgy. Sambolawan, Brgy. Ilian, then Sitio Tatapan, and Brgy. Kitango.
Director Sol disclosed that the CCCH team with the International Monitoring Team (IMT) accompanied the repositioned BIAF during their actual return to their respective communities until they were secured in their homes.
Sol emphasized that the operation was successfully undertaken after prior coordination with the government military.
Recognizing the importance of prior coordination, AFP spokesperson Capt. Joan Petinglay of the 6th Infantry Division explained, in another venue, that the coordination with the CCCH is structured and has been well-entrenched in the AFP’s operations.
She noted that “the ceasefire mechanisms have been a significant help to the military operations of the 6ID, particularly in the LEO against the BIFF in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.”
“The MILF counterpart has been cooperative. Sometimes, they [MILF-CCCH] would be the one to directly give us the heads up that they have already informed their ground commanders of our operations,” added Petinglay.
The GPH-MILF ceasefire mechanisms have been instituted since year 1997 and have since been effective in its mandate to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF and to maintaining peace and order in communities with members of the MILF.
Preventing mis-encounters between GPH and MILF forces
According to Sol, “lessons learned from the past in conducting law enforcement operations against lawless armed groups” contributed in the effective prevention of mis-encounters between the government and MILF troops in recent clashes between the military and other armed groups.
Sol explained that the purpose of the coordination protocol is for the government forces to implement its mandate to conduct law enforcement and military operations in MILF areas without igniting unwarranted skirmishes between the two. “Prior coordination is a must because the military forces are not targeting the BIAF but the lawless elements that are hiding in their areas,” he stressed.
He cited the recent military operations in Butig, Lanao del Sur against the Maute Group and in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan against the Abu Sayyaf wherein there were zero skirmishes between the government military and the MILF in these areas due to an established prior coordination through the ceasefire mechanisms.
“So the Law Enforcement Operations in these areas were successful. In short, the lawless elements failed to use the MILF communities as shield to the Law Enforcement Operations against them because the military and the MILF implemented the protocols through the intervention of the ceasefire mechanisms – the CCCH, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group and the International Monitoring Team,” said Sol.
“This kind of active and structured coordination has preserved the ceasefire agreement and has prevented several mis-encounters between the MILF and the government forces in the past and until today,” he added.