MILF violated ceasefire pact in Zambo Norte, Army says

Brig. Gen. Jovencio Magalso, commanding officer of the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade based here, said the school was located near an MILF satellite camp in Barangay Lakiki. Situated within the 3rd Congressional District of Zamboanga del Norte, Sibuco is under the 102IB’s area of responsibility.

In a text message, he said a “written complaint” will be filed before the CCCH.

Police and military officials last week reported that 17 MILF rebels occupied the abandoned school 9 a.m. of Jan. 9 although they left the following morning.

Col. William Abao, commander of the 44th Infantry Battalion, said the rebels left peacefully after village officials protested the armed men’s presence. He said in a text message that the situation in Lakiki is now “normal and under control.”

“Still, we view the act as a violation of the existing ceasefire agreement between the government and the rebel group,” Magalso asserted, adding that “we are bringing the incident to the attention of the CCCH”.

The ceasefire committees of the government and MILF panels are the ones overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

When asked if the same incident will have spill-over effect in neighboring areas like Zamboanga Sibugay, Magalso said: “Definitely not. That’s why we were telling the group that time to leave the area in order not to create fear and undue panic among the residents”.

Earlier, Magalso, who was one of the four senior military officers under the Western Mindanao Command promoted to one rank higher effective January 1, dismissed the incident as “mere show of force.”

“It is more about massing up of forces but there is nothing to fear because if they wanted something bad, these people will not be going to mass in an open area,” he said.

Magalso said the military could not move against the rebels because they were not threatening the safety of the civilians.

“What we can do is to file a written complaint before the proper body,” he said.

The peace talks between the government and the MILF was stalled again last month when the MILF refused to meet the government panel after the latter submitted a draft agreement that did not follow the consensus points reached by the panels in earlier talks.

The MILF said government negotiators headed by Gen. Rodolfo Garcia completely disregarded the agreement on the ancestral domain and insisted again that areas joining the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity go through the Constitutional process such as the plebiscite, a proposal the MILF had earlier rejected.

An  MILF official in Zamboanga Sibugay who requested not to be named said the Sibuco incident is most likely to happen in situations where the peace talks failed.

“At the moment, the peace talk is stalled and its resumption is not yet certain so it is very normal that things like these will happen,” the MILF official said. (Antonio M. Manaytay / MindaNews)

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