THE government and Moro rebels Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) ordered a stop on the firefight that could have violated the existing ceasefire agreement between the two parties.

In a report by, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said patrolling troops of the Army’s 601st Brigade fired at sighted Moro rebels positioned at Barangay Tapikan, Shariff Aguak, around 3 p.m. of December 31, 2009.

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“MILF fighters were told to reposition away from the swooping army troops which were told to cease fire as the engaged forces belong to MILF. No casualty was reported on both sides. Government soldiers employed defensive gunfire while troops were repositioning. MILF forces set aside tactical engagements in preference of strategic interests and international legitimacy,” the report said.

Army troops allegedly suspected the MILF forces as the private armies and armed civilian volunteer organizations of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao.

Army troops conducted patrol in the villages of Shariff Aguak, Mamasapano and Ampatuan as early as 8 a.m. last December 31 as part of its continuing manhunt for the suspects in the Maguindanao massacre.

The Army troops went back to barracks that evening with no untoward incident happening between government and MILF forces since then.

The immediate resolution to what could have been an explosive firefight between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and MILF was credited to the GRP-MILF CCCH, the main ceasefire pillar, “who effectively defused the skirmish which could have blown into bigger clash with dire effects to civilian communities and the resumption of the formal peace negotiations between the government and MILF,” the report said.

Both CCCH asserted their mandate on respective troops on the ground to adhere to ceasefire accord, thus prevented the escalation of fighting.

A suspension of military operations (Somo) against the MILF was declared by the government on July 23, 2009 in a bid to resume the stalled negotiations with the MILF. To reciprocate, the MILF issued a suspension of military actions (Soma) against the government on July 25, 2009.

Peace talks resumed recently between the two parties after more than a year of impasse. Historic agreements were signed by the government and MILF negotiating peace panels during this resumption of talks, to include the formation of the International Contact Group (ICG) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) with strengthened mandate on civilian protection.

ICG composed of governments of Japan, United Kingdom, Turkey and international non-government organizations provides proper leverage in order to push the peace negotiation towards its desired success.

On the other hand, IMT is composed of the governments of Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Japan, Qatar, Norway, Indonesia and international non-government organizations principally looks into the aspects of ceasefire, humanitarian, development and civilian protection. (BOT)