GRP, MILF ceasefire committees sign guidelines for election period

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 April) – The ceasefire committees of the  Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  have signed a four-page “Guidelines for Mutual Understanding”  of  ceasefire-related functions during the election period from May 3 to 13.

The Guidelines were signed  by both parties on April 23  “with the concurrence of the 5th International Monitoring Team (IMT)” led by Malaysia. Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Sealana, chair of the governments Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of  Hostilities (CCCH) signed along with his counterpart in the MILF, Toks Ebrahim, at the IMT headquarters in Cotabato City in the presence of  Maj. Gen. Datuk Baharom bin Hamzah, IMT head of Mission.

But both parties emphasized that the undertaking is “purely a GRP-MILF ceasefire and peace process related function and not a Philippine elections-related function.”

“This is not to be interpreted as MILF’s inconsistency to its standing policy not to take part or meddle in whatever capacity on the government electoral processes,” the Guidelines said.

Under the agreement, the government’s ceasefire committee will provide its counterpart in the MILF  a copy of the “official list of polling centers located within MILF communities.”

The number of Army and police security personnel to be deployed to MILF communities “shall be coordinated so as not to create unnecessary alarms and apprehension for the MILF forces and civilian communities that might jeopardize the ceasefire and the peace process.”

Safeguard power towers

The MILF “shall endeavor to safeguard all power transmission towers and lines, and other power-related facilities situated within MILF communities in order to help ensure continuous supply of power during the election period.”

During the period, the IMT will still be monitoring the Agreement on Peace between the government and MILF of June 22, 2001 and its implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of 7 Augsut 2001 and Implementing Guidelines on the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Aspects of 7 May 2002 (Tripoli Agreement on Peace), and Agreement of the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) of the IMT of 27 October 2009 and the adherence of GRP and MILF to the SOMO and SOMA on 23 July 2009 and 25 July 2009, respectively.

“The above-mentioned undertaking is to safeguard the GRP-MILF ceasefire and support the ongoing peace process without prejudice to the IMT mandate,” it said.

The ceasefire committees of both parties “shall ensure and warrant, and the IMT shall coordinate and monitor” the “unhindered movements and deployment of election personnel, equipment/paraphernalia,documents, voters, AFP/PNP election security personnel, as deputized by the Comelec, to and from all the polling centers within the MILF communities.”

The deputized military and police personnel will be deployed only “upon withdrawal of the Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines from the main hubs designated by the Comelec to the municipalities then to the polling centers on May 3 to 6… testing of PCOS machines on 7-8 May, election day on 10 May.. and until the recovery/pull-out of PCOS machines  and other election paraphernalia after the elections on 13 May 2010.”

MILF should not

Under the Guidelines, the MILF “should not conduct consolidation of its troops for any purpose including peace gatherings from May 3 to 13, 2010 except fat Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao; Camp Bushra in Lanao del Sur and in urban centers when necessary, in coordination with the GRP-CCCH.”

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the MILF are also barred from going near polling centers “and avoid displaying firearms along routes leading to the  areas where electoral activities are ongoing.”

The MILF is also tasked to “maintain peace and order in their areas and prevent occurrence of hostilities therein in order to avoid disturbance and disruption during the elections.”

In case of any reported untoward incident, the deputized police and military personnel “shall take appropriate action in coordination with the GRP CCCH and MILF CCCH and the IMT.”

The Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post (JCMP) in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao composed of personnel from the government and MILF ceasefire committees and the IMT “shall be designated as the advance monitoring and response group for this endeavor in the Province of Maguindanao and set up similar mechanism in other areas, when necessary.”

The water and land routes usually used by the BIAF-MILF during movements and activities shall be left opened provided that “movements are properly coordinated earlier wih the GP-CCCH and the existing ceasefire mechanisms.”

Both government and MILF shall “find ways to provide assistance to the MLIF members and families who are temporarily displaced as we implement these guidelines.”

The MILF, through its CCCH shall provide the necessary data/information on the affected MILF members and families. “If necessary, the displaced MILF members and families shall move to areas mutually agreed upon by the MILF CCH and GRP CCCH for this purpose “before 03 May 2010 until the pull out of the election personnel, equipment and paraphernalia, and the deputized AFP/PNP election security personnel from the areas of deployment.”

The government assured that all deputized police and military election security personnel deployed in MILF communities “shall be withdrawn immediately after the conduct of elections and withdrawal of PCOS machines and election paraphernalia and personnel not lter than May 13, 2010. (MindaNews)

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