Military claims taking ‘aggressive defense’ posture vs MILF

“Aggressive defense” means securing the perimeter of the military bases set up in three villages in Midsayap, according to Col. Jeavy Resureccion, commanding officer of the 7th Infantry Battalion.

“We didn’t fire mortars even if we’re under attack. We have not used our mortars here so far,” said Resureccion.

Peace advocates said the military’s action was a clear violation of the Joint Resolution signed last Monday to defuse tension caused by sporadic clashes last week between soldiers and rebels in three barangays in Midsayap.

The fighting displaced some 6,000 residents from Barangays Mudseng, Rangeban
and Tugal.

The military meanwhile said the 105th Base Command of the MILF in Midsayap
executed on Thursday Cpl. Isidro Elas of the 38th Infantry Battalion and a
still unidentified barangay tanod (watchman).

The two were reportedly on patrol operations in Barangay Nabalawag, a village adjacent to Tugal, when they chanced upon Moro rebels.

The rebels allegedly took the soldier and the watchman hostage and killed them after a few hours, according to Lt. Regie Bernardino, spokesperson of the 602nd Brigade.

Resureccion said his troops would stay in the area for as long as attacks
from the MILF remain “imminent.”

Elements from the 7th, 40th, and 38th IB have been stationed in the area.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the hostilities in Midsayap town have spilled over to three more villages, including Barangay Nabalawag.

Despite the agreement reached last Monday after a joint meeting between the Coordinating Committees of the Cessation of Hostilities of both the government and the MILF, the exchange of fires continued in Midsayap, according to Suara Bangsamoro, a peace advocates’ group based in Cotabato City.

But the group blamed the military for intruding into the rebels’ position despite the ceasefire.

MILF CCCH chair Von Al-Haq, his government counterpart Brig. Gen. Edgardo
Gurrea, and Malaysian General Ismail Khan, signed last Monday a Joint Resolution  to prevent an escalation of hostilities in Midsayap.

The Joint Resolution provided for both government and MILF forces to “immediately cease and desist from firing (at) each other and strictly adhere to the General Ceasefire Agreement signed in Cagayan de Oro City in 1997.”

It also provided for the setting up of a Joint Monitoring and Assistance Team (JMAT) composed of representatives from the government CCCH, MILF CCCH, IMT and Bantay Ceasefire in the area “to maintain and monitor the ongoing Ceasefire Agreement as soon as possible.”

The Joint Resolution also provided for the moving or repositioning of forces of both government and MILF “in order to preclude repetition of armed clashes.”

It also provided for the conduct of a Tripartite Fact-Finding Committee to be composed of the IMT, government and MILF CCCH to “verify the proximate cause of the armed clashes and to come up with a viable solution to preclude repeated violations of the General Ceasefire Agreement.”

Al-Haq said the rebel forces complied with the January 28 agreement by moving away from the areas where soldiers and guerillas figured in running gunbattles from January 25 to 27.

The Army, however, said that instead of repositioning, the rebels converged in Tugal, as if bracing for an attack.

The Army cited in their reports statements reportedly coming from residents of Tugal, who said that the rebels massed up in this area. (Malu Cadeliña Manar/MindaNews)

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