Govt-MILF ceasefire reinforces ongoing AFP operation vs Abus PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 April 2016 15:07

The strict observance of the ceasefire protocol by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has prevented any misencounter between them and this is  facilitating the ongoing intense military operations against Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Basilan.

Philippine government chief peace negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer in a statement today (April 13) said “(The) military offensives fully observed coordination protocols of the 1997 GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement as well as the 2001 agreement relating to law enforcement operations and subsequent guidelines. These protocols have prevented mis-encounters between government and MILF troops and have provided the AFP and local governments with valuable support against hostile enemy action.”

The AFP has set loose as many as five army and marines battalions against over 100 Abu Sayyaf bandits in Tipo-Tipo municipality, Basilan Province after the terrorists massacred 18 infantries in a single battle there on Saturday, April 9. After five days of the ongoing operation, the AFP said over 20 terrorists have been killed in turn, including a Moroccan bomb-making trainer and international terrorism coordinator. The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) faction in Basilan is led by IspilonHapilon, one of the most senior bandits in the region with a multi-million dollar reward on his head. His son Ubaida, the military update said, was one of those killed during the Tipo-Tipo encounters.

”We thank the ceasefire mechanisms of the Government and the MILF, particularly the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, as well as the MILF leadership, for their strong and continuing cooperation in the ongoing law enforcement operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan”, Prof. Ferrer said.

The ceasefire agreement has been credited for effectively maintaining peace and security in most of Mindanao in the past so many years. Only the occasional skirmishes by the small renegade Bangsamoro Islamic Freedon Fighters (BIFF) and the atrocities by the ASG have disturbed security conditions in the region.

“The April 9 loss manifests the difficulty and gravity of the fight against lawlessness and terrorism”, Prof. Ferrer further said in her statement.“At the same time, it strengthens our resolve to continue with our fight for peace alongside our AFP and our valuable security partners in the peace process, believing that we must quell the spread of extremist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf that threaten the lives and security of our brothers and sisters in Muslim Mindanao and the country as a whole.”

Four of the 18 army casualties in Tipo-Tipo are integrees of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who joined the AFP under a rebel rehabilitation program of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement forged between front head NurMisuari and the government. They are Staff Sergeant Makin Jarani from Basilan; Sergeant AkmadUsman from ZamboangaSibugay; Corporal ReezviArchceloGandawali from Sulu; and Corporal Ibrahim Rajab Palaw, a Tausug. “Corporal Ibrahim Rajab Palaw is also a member of the GPH-MILF Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) assigned in ZamboangaSibugay”, Prof. Ferrer pointed out.

“The JPST is one of the security mechanisms under the GPH and MILF panels as outlined in the Annex on Normalization of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). Their responsibilities include: tracking and documenting of private armies and other armed groups, and the reduction and control of weapons; supporting the observance of the existing ceasefire agreement to address and prevent hostilities; working on security arrangements for activities related to and personalities involved in the peace process; and supporting dispute resolution initiatives on the ground,” Ferrer’s statement explained.

Under the same normalization annex of CAB, the MILF is mandated to assist the AFP and Philippine police to run after terrorists. However, the joint anti-terrorism program has been stalled by the failure of the Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is one of the conditions set by the 2014 general peace accord.

President Aquino today (April 13) flew to Zamboanga City to commiserate with the over 50 soldiers wounded in the same Tipo-Tipo encounter and with some the families of the 18 killed in action. He did not give any statement to the media during his trip.(PR/RLB)