AHJAG guidelines expire today

The May 6, 2002 Joint Communiqué provided for the creation of an AHJAG “for the isolation and interdiction of criminal and lawless elements operating in, or near, MILF communities and areas.”

The MILF website, www.luwaran.com, said today that the MILF has issued a memorandum to MILF AHJAG head, Atty. Abdul Dataya, that the mandate “has expired until the two Parties, the government and MILF peace panels, decide to renew the mandate to another year when they resume talks.”

The talks were supposed to resume in May but for the elections, then in July but that may not materialize owing to the sudden change in leadership following the weekend’s fast-paced developments – from the handing of government peace panel chair Silvestre Afable of his courtesy resignation to its immediate acceptance and immediate replacement with Fr. Eliseo Mercado whose appointment was greeted with objections from the MILF, to Malacañang’s flip-flopping and Fr. Mercado’s decision Wednesday noon not to accept the chairmanship in view of the MILF objections.

At present, government peace panel vice chair Rudy Rodil serves as acting chair.

Luwaran explained that the MILF Central Committee has given special authority to the MILF AHJAG to “continue the joint rescue operation with its counterpart in the government against the kidnappers of Father Giancarlo Bossi, but such authority lasts until the victim is freed and subject also to the concurrence of the government peace panel.”

The memorandum also authorized Dataya to “stay in office pending the termination of the joint rescue operation against Bossi's kidnappers.”

"The life of man is of paramount importance over procedural matter," he said, although he admitted the difficulty in making the unilateral decision with Afable out.

The memorandum also said all members of the MILFAHJAG should “stay put and continue to monitor activities of all individuals or groups classified as belonging to criminal syndicates and other similar criminal groups or lost commands in or near MILF areas on "unofficial capacity", saying the fight against criminal syndicates and saboteurs of the peace process is a continuing task or obligation.

Iqbal was quoted as saying that the activities of these groups are “inimical to the peace talks and the ceasefire between the MILF and the government” and can still be addressed though to a limited extent, through the “mechanism of the MILF and GRP Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.”

The AHJAG is composed of eight members – four each from the government and the MILF – as agreed upon and named by the panels.

It has four teams established in key areas with each team composed of at least four members (two each from government and the MILF), to be augmented by support staff from both sides.

AHJAG teams “shall be composed of field level members and operators who can immerse on the ground for the performance of their mission, and shall readily be available at short notice,” the guidelines read.

Under the AHJAG, the military and police are supposed to “convey to the MILF through the AHJAG an Order of Battle containing the names and identities of the criminal elements” that are purportedly in the latter’s areas.

The MILF through the AHJAG shall validate and act on information contained in the Order of Battle.

The MILF “shall also provide information, as available, on other suspected criminal elements in their areas/communities,” after which AHJAG “shall coordinate with AFP/PNP and MILF/BIAF to effect apprehension/arrest.”

“To avoid unnecessary armed confrontations, displacement of communities and damage to properties, the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) of the government operating forces and the MILF forces in the area shall work and coordinate closely with the AHJAG and vice versa,” the guidelines say.

This means the MILF “shall block the entry of suspected criminal elements into MILF areas/communities” and arrested/ apprehended personalities “shall be turned-over to the AHJAG.”

The implementing units of the GRP-MILF are urged to “ensure the safety of civilians and the protection of their property.”

The AHJAG is supposed to closely coordinate and work in tandem with the Joint CCCH. (MindaNews)

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