ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/29 Oct) — A brigade commander in Lanao del Norte has warned that an advisory spread through text messages allegedly coming from him and warning the public to “refrain from traveling” along the Iligan-Zamboanga highway this week “because the MILF is agitated” is not true.
“This is false information. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has no right to issue travel advisories prohibiting people to undertake their normal business operations and to travel along the Iligan-Lanao-Zamboanga highways,” Col. Alfred Limoso, commanding officer of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said.
Limoso was named in the text message as the source of the advisory and that he allegedly said that if the travel cannot be re-scheduled, it should be done only between 8 and 10 a.m. The text message also alleged that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is “agitated (by) the campaign for all-out war against them.”
MILF spokesperson Von al Haq told MindaNew they reaffirm their “commitment to the ongoing peace talks between the GPH-MILF and further strengthen it by ordering our troops to respect the ceasefire agreement by not initiating offensive moves…We remain in defensive position.”
Limoso said the text message may have come from civilians traumatized by past skirmishes or “from people who thought that military men are not updated on threats. It could have been sent to alert everyone,” he said.
He acknowledged that the message caused apprehension and disturbed people’s activities, especially since it purportedly came from a brigade commander.
Limoso assured the public that Lanao del Norte has sufficient number of troops and has 60 APCs (armored personnel carriers) and anti-terror team with K9 dogs. “All sites are controlled and I can assure everyone that we can sleep well as we hope that nothing untoward would happen in civilian communities,” he said.
Some elements of the MILF described by the military as “lawless MILF group” attacked some villages in the towns of Kolambugan, Maigo and Kauswagan on August 18, 2008 following the aborted signing of the GPH-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. Thirty civilians were killed, some 30,000 villagers fled their homes, according to the report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (Joint CCCH) of the government and MILF peace panels and the two panels’ Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) visited Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur on October 17 to 19 to look into reports of alleged massing of the MILF and alleged troop movement of the government.
The visit defused the tension and members of the CCCH and AHJAG from both sides discussed ways to further strengthen their coordination to avoid untoward incidents, sources from both panels said. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)