Ceasefire monitors avert CVO-MILF clash in Mamasapano

“They are not shooting at each other,” said Peace Process Undersecretary Ramon Santos, chair of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).

Santos said both forces were merely making each other’s presence felt.

Von Al Haq, chair of the MILF’s CCCH,  said initial reports reaching him indicated an exchange of gunfire between the CVOs (Civilian Volunteers’ Organizaton)  of Mamasapano town and the MILF,  allegedly because the CVOs were advancing towards the “MILF area.”

“Medyo humupa na (it has calmed down now) but we are closely monitoring it,” Al Haq said.

Bantay Ceasefire volunteers reported in the afernoon that two Simba tanks and one six-by-six truck from the Army’s 604th Infantry Brigade advanced towards Barangay Manggapang in Mamasapano, reportedly beyond the delineated buffer zone as these were getting closer to the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

For nearly a month now, Bantay Ceasefire volunteers have been staying in the ceasefire monitoring outposts in the  buffer zone between the CVOs and the MILF.

Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said he would have the matter verified.  At 9:08 p.m. Tuesday, he sent MindaNews a copy of Santos’ report to him.

In his report to Dureza, Santos said the Simba and Army troops are guarding the Mamasapano mnicipal hall because of reports of an alleged MILF attack. “We are assured by MILF there is no such plan,” Santos said, adding he and Al Haq and the International Monitoring Team (IMT0 were proceeding to the area Wednesday.

At 10:55 p.m. Tuesday, Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division narrated to MindaNews what transpired today in Mamasapano, based on reports reaching him.

Ando said a firefight occurred between the CVOs and the MILF “that lasted for 30 minutes at Sitio  Manggapang, Barangay Banungkaling, Mamasapano.”

Ando said that on August 7, three armed men reportedly came near the CVO post in the sitio. They were approached by the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post members comprising both government and MILF elements.  The MILF, he said, denied the armed men were theirs.

At 9:20 a.m. Tuesday, the CVO was scouring the area when suddenly they were fired upon by a group of a certain commander Alimodin Zacaria under Commander Abdul Salman of the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

Ando added that at 2 pm, the Army’s 64th IB with the International Monitoring Team under (Brunei) Col. (Jul) Jublee and CVO and MILF representatives mediated for a  ceasefire. “The CVO started to move away when the MILF suddenly started to fire again. Firefight ensued for about 15 minutes before the mediating team was able to bring the firefight to stop,” Ando said.

Ando explained that “because the firefight happened inside the CVO territory as stipulated in GRP-MILF agreement and operationalized by ‘Oplan Magalaw,’ dated 10 July 06 specifying the boundaries of CVOs and MILF, in which the latter violated the terms, 64th IB was prompted to take appropriate action by  deploying near buffer zone as deterrent force strong enough to drive away the MILF from CVO territory and to send a signal that they violated the agreement and must leave at once.”

Earlier, the armed CVOs and MILF figured in several clashes from June 28 to July 5 following the June 23 bombing in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao just as Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan’s convoy was passing. Four of the governor’s aides were killed. Clashes started on June 28 when the police and CVOs reportedly crossed over to an “MILF area” to serve the warrant of arrest.

Dureza, who went to Shariff Aguak to meet with Governor Ampatuan on July 6, emerged from his 40-minute closed door meeting with an announcement of a three-day “no movement on all sides” agreement. Dureza also said the governor had ordered the pull-out of his CVOs.  A day earlier, Ampatuan’s spokesperson, Engr. Norie Unas, warned the conflict could escalate beyond Maguindanao and that 16 of 28 Maguindanao mayors had “sent their troops.”

On July 10 and 11, the government and the MILF ceasefire committees signed an agreement to “put an end to the hostilities”  in four of 28 Maguindanao towns and to work towards the “normalization of the situation” which killed at least two civilians and a still undetermined number of combatants, displaced some 4,000 families and razed to the ground 192 houses, including a ceasefire monitoring post.

The government and MILF agreed on naming the operations “Oplan Magalaw,” (accent on the second syllable, a Maguindanaon term that means ‘happy’), noting that its “ultimate intention is to provide happiness at the end of the day, to all parties concerned and stakeholders for that matter.”

The agreement provides that the joint ceasefire committee will install ceasefire monitoring posts and buffer zones in the key areas within the affected villages in the towns of Sharif Aguak, Datu Unsay, Mamasapano and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, to prevent clashes between the CVOs of Governor Ampatuan and MILF forces under the 105th Base Command.

The governor signed his concurrence. (MindaNews)

 

 

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