MILF to Civilian Protection Component: come up with ‘internal terms of reference

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/18 January) — The Civilian Protection Component (CPC) of the International Monitoring Team should meet to agree on an “internal terms of reference” which will be presented to the peace panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) in a meeting with the group at Camp Darapanan here over the weekend.

Iqbal’s statement came amid preparations done by both panels for the arrival of the IMT contingents.
Meanwhile, government chief negotiator Ambassador Rafael Seguis briefed other officials of the MPC and Non-Violent Peace Force in Manila about the IMT’s Terms of Reference which he and Iqbal signed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last December 9.

The applications for membership with the IMT’s CPC by five other non-government organizations have yet to be approved by the peace negotiators of both camps.

Among the five applications that were referred to the Advocacy Committees of the government and the MILF are those of the Davao City-based Initiatives for International Dialogue and the Cotabato City-based Consortium of Bangasamoro Civil Society.

Along with the MPC, the International Committee on the Red Cross was also invited by both panels to join the CPC of the IMT. But while MPC has accepted the invitation, the ICRC, which strictly adheres to the principles of neutrality and independence, has yet to respond.

While the IMT’s term and mandate is only good for a year, the peace negotiators agreed that the CPC “shall remain and continue to perform its function should the IMT cease to operate.”

The IMT, which had been monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement forged by government and the MILF, had to suspend sending its contingents at the height of the controversy on the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional.

With the resumption of the peace talks, the government and the MILF agreed that the IMT’s role would not only be limited to ceasefire. Its new functions include: 1) security, 2) humanitarian, rehabilitation and development, 3) socio-economic assistance, and, 4) civilian protection.

Major Carlos Sol Jr., chief of the secretariat of the Cotabato City-based Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH), said they were already preparing for the coming of a 60-man contingent of the IMT in February.

“A survey team will come earlier to look at our preparations,” he said, adding the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Sibugay and del Sur, Maguindanao, North and South Cotabato, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte and Sur, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao del Sur and Oriental, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan are the IMT’s area of coverage.

Sol said the 60-man contingent will be divided into five Mobile Teams to be stationed in the cities of Cotabato (Mobile Team 1), Iligan (Mobile Team 2), Zamboanga (Mobile Team 3), General Santos (Mobile Team 4), and Davao (Mobile Team 5).

Part of the JCCCH’s task is to scout headquarters for each of the Mobile Teams and equip them with logistics for their operation.

MPC secretary-general Mary Ann Arnado pointed out however that while the IMT’s TOR specifies that the government should finance its operation, the document was silent on the funding for the CPC.

Iqbal said Arnado’s concern was overlooked by the peace negotiators and he suggested that a joint meeting will all parties involved must be called in Malaysia “to answer and settle all questions that are being raised now.”

Meanwhile, Ernesto Anarias, executive director of the Manila-based Balay Rehabilitation Center and one of those who represented the MPC in the meeting Sequis called last Thursday, said that “there are a number of things that we have to discuss at MPC regarding this matter. The IMT’s TOR needs operational guidelines and framework which are necessary for the CPC to be effective.”

Canarias specifically referred to the criteria and process of selecting CPC contingents, its structure, mandate and operational protocols, area of assignments, security guarantees and accountability, and trainings required for the contingents.
Among his suggestions is the “need to look into how the overall CPC mechanism will work and how it will relate with local and national institutions.” (Romy Elusfa is a freelance journalist, Bantay Ceasefire volunteer and ComStrat secretary).

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