IMT and GPH, MILF ceasefire committees meet to set date for Al-barka probe

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/07 November) —  The ceasefire committees of the government peace panel (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are meeting with the International Monitoring Team (IMT) here on Wednesday, November 9, to finalize the schedule of the joint probe on the October 18 clash in Al-barka, Basilan.

Admiral Adib of Malaysia, Deputy Head of Mission of the IMT told MindaNews in a text message that an advance team from the IMT will be sent to Al-barka this week as part of the preparations. . .

The heads of the GPH and MILF CCCH secretariat – Major Carlos Sol of the GPH and Rashid Lidasan of the MILF –  told MindaNews  the November 9 meeting with the IMT will discuss the date of the probe, the preparations and the team composition.

The Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of both GPH and MILF peace panels had earlier filed their respective protests over alleged ceasefire violations by the other in the Al-barka tragedy that left 25 persons dead (19 soldiers and five MILF guerillas) 17 injured (14 soldiers and three from the MILF) and 8,000 villagers displaced.

Brig. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, chair of the GPH CCCH, filed government’s protest on October 20 while Said Shiek, chair of the MILF CCCH, filed their protest on October 30.

The government protested the “terroristic acts”  of the 114th Base Command of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) while the MILF protested the “attack” of the Special Forces of the Philippine Army against the 114th Base Command.

The GPH CCCH based its protest on the complaint letter of Col. Ukol Paglala, Command Judge Advocate of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) against the MILF in Basilan, “particularly the group of 114th BC, BIAF- MILF led by Dan Laksaw Asnawi, Deputy Base Commander; Comdr. Hud Limaya, Brigade Commander, 3rd Bde, and other unit leaders for the ceasefire violations committed against government forces.”

According to the protest letter,  combined elements of the Army’s 4th Special Forces Battalion, were conducting “law enforcement operations” at around 6 a.m. on October 18 in Barangays Kailih, and Cambug both of Al-Barka Municipality, Basilan Province to “arrest /apprehend Dan Laksaw Asnawi, one of the escapees of the December 31, 2009 jail break at the Basilan Provincial Jail and to verify the reported presence in the area of armed men believed to be kidnappers or members of the Abu Sayaf Group” but were fired upon by the MILF “who were apparently in ambush position.”

It added that in the course of the gunbattle,  “MILF troops from their Area of Temporary Stay at Barangay Guinanta, Municipality of Al-Barka, Basilan Province  kilometers away from the scene of the encounter reinforced and joined the MILF positioned in Barangays Kailih and Cambug in a gun battle with government troops.” It said the firefight lasted ten hours.

The MILF CCCH on the other hand based its protest on the BIAF_General Staff Report dated October 27.

The MILF alleged that the Army’s Special Forces attacked the forces of the 114th Base Command, at around 5:15 a.m. and that the target of the attack, which it described as a “test mission for the fresh graduates of schooling from the Army’s Special Forces, was Commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi, deputy base commander.”

The protest letter noted, among others, that the government should have coordinated with the MILF on the operations in what it claimed to be an MILF area, through the peace process mechanisms agreed upon by both parties

Meanwhile, the MILF CCCH has coordinated with the GPH CCCH on the assembly of its civil, political and military leaders this week in Maguindanao to explain the MILF Central Committee’s resolution on Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato’s ouster, the “positive result” of the peace talks in Kuala Lumpur on November 3 and the “priority initiatives of the MILF Central Committee to resolve rido” cases.

The MILF Central Committee on September 22 declared Kato, who resigned as 105th Base Command chief in December 2009 and formed his Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in March 2010, as ‘no longer members of the MILF.”

Kato and his group are no longer members of the MILF “after they formed another separate and distinct organization and army which they named Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFM), respectively,” said the resolution, announced in the MILF’s website on October 3.

The resolution stated that the door of the MILF is still open to Kato’s group “if they make amends and be repentant,” its website, luwaran.com said.

The resolution also provided that if Kato and his group “continue their defiance and insubordination to MILF policies,” they would “no longer be covered by the ongoing peace process and the cessation of hostilities or ceasefire between the MILF and the GPH,”  luwaran.com said.

On the peace process, the GPH and MILF peace panels agreed in Kuala Lumpur on November 3 to “move forward on the substantive agenda” of the talks and meet again “very soon for this purpose.” At the same time they agreed to await recommendations relating to the review of the ceasefire mechanisms that may result from investigations that the International Monitoring Team and other ceasefire mechanisms, will conduct in Al-barka, Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay.

The third reason for the assembly is to discuss the “priority initiatives of the MILF Central Committee to resolve rido” cases.

Rido as defined in the study on the “Management of Clan Conflict and Rido among the Tausug, Magindanao, Maranao, Sama and Yakan Tribes,” is a “blood feud or a chain of killings provoked by an affront and disgrace to the honor of a family or its members.”

“ A rido may erupt any time this honor or ‘maratabat’ is besmirched. Taking the form of tribal conflict or clan warfare, the killings are often carried on for generations,” the study explained.
Rido cases involving commanders of the MILF  have been recorded since the start of the Aquino administration. No major skirmishs between the government and the MILF has been recorded until the clash in Al-barka on October 18. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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