Tension on the ground eases as Gov’t, MILF resume talks

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews)—A military official with operational control over Lanao del Norte province heaved a sigh of relief as peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended on a positive note last week, easing the tension on the ground.

“Maybe we could play golf sometimes if the situation is a lot better,” said Col. Leo Cresente Ferrer, commanding officer of the 601st Infantry Brigade based in Ditucalan.

He said he has conveyed to his classmate, Brig. Gen. Allan Luga, head of the government peace panel in the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), that he will extend his assistance to the group.

Ferrer said he chaired the secretariat of AHJAG when it was organized and institutionalized in 2004.

AHJAG is a mechanism to help monitor, isolate and interdict all criminal syndicates and kidnap for ransom groups, including ‘lost commands’ operating in Mindanao that may interrupt the peace process.

The AHJAG was agreed upon by both government and the MILF on May 6, 2002 but operational guidelines were issued only on December 21, 2004.

It is a joint team “against criminal elements operating in MILF areas/communities, in order to pursue and apprehend such criminal elements.”

It is tasked to establish a quick coordination system “to enhance their communications and working relations for the successful apprehension or capture of criminal elements in accordance with the agreement, provided that criminals operating outside MILF areas/communities are considered beyond the purview of the peace process.”

Previous experiences noted that through AHJAG,  several kidnapping incidents had been solved with the assistance of the MILF guerrillas in areas where suspects hide their victims in Lanao.

Ferrer said his soldiers, including the visiting American forces in his brigade,  graduated from a three-day Culture of Peace for Civil Military Officers initiated by Pakigdait Inc., a non-government organization, in partnership with the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD).

The training which  ended February 10 with a “candle lighting for peace” was also graced by members of interfaith groups and foreign volunteers of NonViolent Peace Force and police officers of the province. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)

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