MILF admits lapse in uncoordinated movement of troops in Maguindanao

MILF combatants standing in military formation at the MILF’s sprawling Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 4 November) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) admitted that their platoon-size members, who were recently apprehended along with their high-powered weapons at a checkpoint in Maguindanao, violated the ceasefire agreement, a top official said Thursday.

Von Alhaq, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the MILF’s armed-wing, said they are willing to face the investigation to be conducted by the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

The Malaysian-led IMT is an international body that monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF.

“There’s a lapse on the part of the MILF commander. He forgot to coordinate their movement with the CCCH. We are admitting that it’s a purely ceasefire violation,” Alhaq said in Filipino.

CCCH stands for the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

Under the implementing guidelines of the 1997 GPH-MILF agreement on the general cessation of hostilities, it prohibits the massive deployment and / or movement of state and MILF forces which are not normal administrative functions and activities.

The movement of MILF forces outside their identified areas, as jointly determined by the joint GPH-MILF CCCH, shall be coordinated by concerned MILF commanders to the GPH forces’ commanders for clearance prior to the said movement, it stated.

In a phone interview, Alhaq assured that the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF is still holding firmly on the ground despite the recent incident involving their members.

Alhaq said the Maguindanao provincial police office is filing a complaint regarding the apprehension of at least 35 heavily-armed MILF members and their firearms in Datu Odin Sinsuat town last Monday night, 1 November.

According to Alhaq, the ceasefire violation complaint will be investigated by the IMT, an independent, international body also composed of representatives from Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Libya and Norway.

If the issue can’t be threshed out at the level of the IMT, it will be elevated to the peace implementing panels of the government and the MILF, he added.

Alhaq said they would respect whatever the decision of the IMT, or the peace implementing panels if the matter is elevated to such body.

He said the MILF members apprehended by state forces belong to the 105th Base Command were on their way home in a convoy to Talitay town from Sultan Kudarat, via Kabuntalan.

Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the apprehended MILF members have been released from custody.

Their high-powered firearms, however, remained in the custody of the military, he added.

Baldomar said the heavily-armed MILF members were apprehended at a checkpoint along the national highway in Datu Odin Sinsuat town. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)