MILF urged to honor truce as peace process in final stretch

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Monday, December 9, 2013


GOVERNMENT senior military adviser Major General Leo Cresente Ferrer appealed to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to follow the rule of law and strictly adhere to the ceasefire agreement now that the peace process is in the final stretch.

“We ask the MILF leadership to rein in their forces in the spirit of the positive strides of the peace process both sides [GPH and MILF] have steadfastly worked on for so many years. A fruitful conclusion would benefit not just the Bangsamoro people but the rest of the people in Mindanao,” he said.

Ferrer made the appeal as reports came out that MILF members were involved in abducting 12 persons in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte on December 5.

Eight of the civilians were released Friday night, a military report read.

An estimated 100 armed MILF members on board five vehicles under Abdul Macalunto of the MILF’s 102nd base command seized the 12 civilians in eastern Poblacion in Balo-i town as part of the group’s anti-drug and anti-gambling campaigns in the area, the report said.

The 12 captives were brought to 102nd base command under Asadullah Macapaar alias Kumander Bravo in the hinterland village of Balindong town in Lanao del Sur. Eight of the 12 captives were released later after relatives fetched the captives and paid P75,000 through the Sharia'h Court in the area for the eight civilians.

The military said that four are still withheld inside the MILF camp. They are identified as Panny Patar, Fahad "coloh" Lope, Moliya Apgay and Ansawi Manti Cayan Lope.

Police Senior Superintendent Madid Paitao, Philippine National Police director of Lanao del Norte told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that he only received a report from PNP Balo-i of six civilians abducted and not 12.

“Two are still in the MILF camp while I also received reports earlier that the MILF have apprehended Maranao civilians involved in illegal gambling or 'swertres' and 'pataya' or hack fight. They also seized drug users and traffickers long past,” he said.

Paitao added, “Though the intention is good, but the MILF should adhere to the rule of law and due process including the recent abduction of Marawi City Police Chief Christopher Wilian Panapan on December 6 who was released 12 hours later.”

No child soldiers

When asked on the alleged report that some of the armed MILF involved in seizing those abducted are child soldiers, Paitao admitted the MILF has child soldiers, but it is not certain whether they participated in the latest abduction.

In an interview with Kumander Bravo during the visit of a joint inspection with the military, MILF peace panel representative and non-violent peace group at the 102nd base command in Barangay Barit in Balindong town in Lanao Sur on September 9, 2013, Kumander Bravo confirmed to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro they apprehended several Maranaos involved in illegal gambling and drug-use. "Labag yan sa Islam religion," Kumander Bravo said.

Lawyer James Macaraya, MILF spokesperson for Kumander Bravo, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone that the MILF, since last year has been disseminating public information especially to the Muslim communities to warn suspected individuals allegedly involved in illegal gambling, drug trafficking, kidnapping, theft, murder and carnapping to stop doing those acts that go against Islam religion.

Macaraya said: "The MILF operations are in accordance with Sharia'h law with corresponding fees as penalties and bail if released after apprehension."

The report came out as the GPH and MILF peace panels are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the conduct of the 42nd exploratory talks.

Ferrer stressed that prospects are now brighter than ever for the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“With the peace talks in the end stage, let us not allow any untoward incidents, isolated they may be, to obstruct the momentum gained so far by the peace process,” he said.

He essentially echoed the sentiments of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, who on Friday issued a statement after MILF members abducted and later freed the police chief of Marawi City.

Deles had credited the peace process mechanisms—the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, the AdHoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) – for the crucial role they played in securing the safe release of Panapan, and prevented possible escalation of hostilities that might have compromised the existing ceasefire between the Government and the MILF.

“At this point in time, when we are in the last stage of the negotiations toward the completion of a comprehensive agreement, the MILF must be able to prove that they have control over their forces, so that together we can protect our communities and achieve the much deserved peace and development in the region,” Deles said after the Marawi incident was resolved peacefully.

As of Saturday, the GPH and MILF peace panels remained locked on the negotiations on the two remaining annexes (Power Sharing and Normalization) of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which envisions the creation of a Bangsamoro government that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2016.

The two sides earlier this year signed the Annexes on Transitional Arrangement and Modalities, and Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing.

In her opening statement on December 5 for the 42nd Exploratory Talks, GPH peace panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer expressed optimism that both sides could finally complete the comprehensive agreement to bring the desired just and lasting peace and development for the Bangsamoro.

“Now, we are at the brink of completing the Power Sharing and Normalization Annexes,” she revealed.

Coronel-Ferrer stressed: “In all, we have the elements of a promising, just, and principled agreement that will stand scrutiny of informed and concerned students and practitioners of negotiated political settlements.”

“We know that there are details that we still need to come to terms with. But none are so great as to throw away everything that has been achieved,” she said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 09, 2013.

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