Gov’t, MILF to observe “maximum restraint” and start joint probe

Teams from the Joint CCCH are rushing to Basilan tomorrow as contingents of Philippine Marines took up positions in the towns of Sumisip, Tuburan and Tipo-tipo  Sunday, the deadline set by the Philippine government for the MILF to surrender those who beheaded the 14 Marines last July 10.

The civilian monitoring group, Bantay Ceasefire, will accompany the government and MILF CCCH teams in conducting a fact-finding mission and the setting up of a mobile Joint Monitoring Assistance Team (JMAT).

The Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) will follow the CCCH teams but its chief, Maj. Gen. Dato Ismael Bin Ahmad Khan, said they will monitor events in Basilan from nearby Zamboanga City.

He said international ceasefire monitors from Indonesia, Brunei and Libya will join the Malaysians in Zamboanga City.

“The Malaysian government has not allowed the IMT to go to Basilan since the island is not part of our area of responsibility in the Terms of Reference,” Khan said referring to the September 8, 2004 TOR signed by the Philippine government and the MILF.

Khan said they will exert pressure that any possible confrontation between the Philippine Marines and the MILF will be contained in Basilan Island only and not spread to mainland Mindanao.

“We are really hoping that the Philippine government will limit their operation to get the perpetrators in Basilan Island,” he said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines issued an ultimatum on July 15, giving the MILF up to Sunday night, July 22, to surrender those behind the beheading of 14 Marines in Barangay Guinanta, Al-barka town (carved out of Tipo-tipo in 2006) in Basilan.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews last Saturday, “we abide by the terms of the ceasefire and it never said that we are obliged to do so. The beheading must be investigated first. We did not do it.”

“We will not be firing the first shot but we will not give in to this unjust demand,”  Iqbal said on Sunday.

Both the government and the MILF CCCH urged their leaders to exercise “maximum restraint while the incident is being resolved peacefully in accordance to the General Ceasefire Agreement and its implementing mechanisms.”

The two panels also agreed to form a six-member “Joint Independent Fact-Finding Committee” composed of the three each from the government and MILF and an eight-person secretariat composed of four per panel, “to determine the proximate cause of the July 10 incident; pinpoint the persons responsible; and any possible ceasefire violations” to prevent future incidents like this from occurring.

A mobile JMAT will also be organized to help and support local monitoring teams in Basilan. The mobile JMAT will be composed of  10 members – two each from the GRP CCCH, MILF CCCH, two from the Bantay Ceasefire, two from other civil society groups and two from the Local Government Unit.

“We want to look into the deeper issue behind the July 10 incident. Who are the perpetrators who was behind the beheading of the Marines,” Brig. Gen. Edgardo Gurrea, chief of the government peace panel’s CCCH, said.

Gurrea appealed to the people in Mindanao and the country to wait for the results of their investigation before jumping into conclusions and blaming the MILF.

“We should not target the entire organization for this,” Gurrea said.

The MILF peace panel’s CCCH chair, Von Al Haq also made the appeal for both the GRP and the MILF to exhaust all peaceful means to resolve and defuse the ongoing crisis.

“We should not be pressured by inflammatory speeches. We should not sacrifice the gains of the peace process,” he said.

The resolution and agreements on JIFFC and the mobile JMAT were signed by Gurrea and Iqbal in the presence of the IMT chief,  at the IMT headquarters here. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)

Comments

comments