Only 8 AFP-MILF skirmishes in 2011, down from 14 in 2010 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 13:39

Only eight skirmishes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were recorded in 2011,  down from 14 in 2010, officials in the government’s ceasefire monitoring committee said.

“It should have been zero.. or at least two”  last year if the incidents in Al-barka, Basilan and Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay did not happen, Brig. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, chair of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) told the Roundtable on the GPH-MILF Ceasefire Mechanisms held at Lispher Inn Monday.

Bernardo said there were only two skirmishes recorded up to September but in October, it  “suddenly shoot up from two to eight” because of the Al-barka and Payao incidents. In Al-barka, 19 soldiers and five MILF guerillas were killed, twelve soldiers and three MILF members were injured and some 8,000 residents displaced during the October 18 clash.

A graph on the AFP-MILF skirmishes from 2002 to 2011 presented at the roundtable, showed  698 incidents recorded in 2002; 569 in 2003; 16 in 2004; 10 in 2005; 13 in 2006; 8 in 2007; 218 in 2008; 115 in 2009; 14 in 2010 and 8 in 2011.

The skirmishes dropped to 16 in 2004, the year the International Monitoring Team led by Malaysia, arrived. From only eight in 2007, it went up to 218 in 2008 following the aborted August 5 signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) and 115 in 2009.

The government  issued a suspension of military operations (SOMO) on July 23, 2009  and the MILF responded with a suspension of military action (SOMA) two days later.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Peace Process Office, cited several significant changes in the peace and security situation  from ten years ago, among them that “warlord is no longer in the conflict equation.”

Hermoso, who was head of the secretariat of the CCCH from 2000 to 2005 and commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion from 2007 to 2009, said that during the turbulent years in Maguindanao, “more often than not,” rido or clan vendetta was the trigger for skirmishes and “nasa picture lagi ang matandang Ampatuan” (the Ampatuan patriarch was always in the picture).

He said the situation on the ground has changed and that part of the assessment is that “the powerful warlord in Central Mindano is gone.”

Captain Carlos Sol, the present  head of secretariat of  the government’s CCCH, said they referred to Ampatuan’s CVOs (civilian volunteers organization) as “spoilers” of the peace roces. :He said 95% of the fightings in Maguindanao during the Ampatuan administration were triggered by his CVOs.

The former Maguindanao governor, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., is presently detained in Bicutan along with sons Andal, Jr., former mayor of Datu Unsay town; Zaldy, the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Anwar, the former mayor of Shariff Aguak and Sajid, the former vice governor and later acting governor of Maguindanao, for the murder of 58 persons, including 32 media workers, in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.

Since the massacre, Maguindanao has remained under a state of emergency. Governor Esmael Mangudadatu  has repeatedly said they are not recommending that the declaration be lifted because “there are still many remnants” of the private armed groups.

He added that lifting the state of emergency could trigger a return to pre-2009 massacre when firearms proliferated in the area.

Retired Brig. Gen. Edgardo Gurrea, chair of the government’s CCCH in 2006-2007 said he is  “very happy when I talked with the current (CCCH) chief because marami nang pagbabago especially after the MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008.

He said he is glad there is now a Senior Military Adviser in the government peace panel and the military establishment now have an AFP Peace Process Office.

Brig. Gen. Leo Ferrer, Senior Military Adviser to the government peace panel and a brigade commander based in Tacurong City until December last year, said, local chief executives should be the “campaign manager” in keeping the peace in their respective areas.

He added that there should be a continuing education for all. In his earlier assignment as brigade commander in Lanao del Sur, he linked up with civil society organizations like Pakigdait Foundation, to teach his troops cultural sensitivity and conflict management.

He said having culturally sensitive soldiers helps in sustaining the ceasefire.

A similar roundtable was conducted in December involving members of the MILF’s ceasefire monitoring mechanism.

Monday’s roundtable was the seventh in a series organized by the Mindanao Peoples Caucus and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. — MindaNews