Leonen asks MILF not to act unilaterally in interdiction of lawless elements PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 February 2012 13:43

The chairman of the government peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has urged the MILF not to act unilaterally in the interdiction of lawless elements but to coordinate first with the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) as agreed upon to avoid panic in areas targeted for operation in southern Philippines.

The AHJAG is a joint effort of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF that seeks to interdict and isolate lawless elements that take refuge in or near MILF communities.

Marvic Leonen, head of the GPH peace panel, raised this issue during the 25th exploratory talks with the MILF in Kuala Lumpur which opened Monday. The talks end Wednesday.

According to Leonen, the government peace panel “received reports that on February 4, 2012, elements of the 102nd Base Command of the MILF have moved and conducted, without coordination through our AHJAG or CCCH (Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities) mechanisms, actions that appear to be law enforcement movements against cattle rustlers and drug traffickers.”?

He said this happened in Barangay Mamaan, Piagapo in the province of Lanao del Sur.?

Leonen said the MILF units that went to the area “met resistance from some members of the community, causing instability and evacuations from that area.”

“The following day, February 5, 2012, a group of about 200 fully armed MILF members under a certain Commander Topsider proceeded to Barangay Mamaan, burned the house of a certain Lanao Ariraya and indiscriminately fired their firearms, causing panic among residents in the barangay and causing also their evacuation to neighboring areas,” Leonen added.

Similar reports also came from residents of Munai, Poonah Piagapo, and Matungao in Lanao del Norte as well as Piagapo in Lanao del Sur where?“citizens are being arrested and processed in a manner causing fear and panic among the residents apparently, in the guise of ‘law enforcement,’” Leonen said.

“It is true that we have urged the MILF to assist in interdicting lawless elements as it had committed in our existing agreements.? However, we urge the MILF not to do so unilaterally.? We do have the AHJAG mechanisms that will enable us to work together to interdict these criminals that find sanctuary within various communities,” he said.

He pointed out that it is by “working together that we avoid needless panic and instability as we negotiate a final peace agreement” to end the long-drawn Mindanao armed conflict.

“We ask the MILF to withdraw its armed members from these barangays and coordinate — through our AHJAG — so we could do the right thing in the right way.? We know that this concern will be perused and considered by the MILF negotiating panel,” Leonen said.

“We should keep our ground peaceful and avoid provocation that might stir unnecessary violence.?Our mechanisms should constantly be reviewed but even in doing so, we should both abide by it.? We should do so even while we share in the desire to go against criminal elements within our communities,” he added.

He also said there were many other issues raised by some MILF leaders through the media, which will be the subject of negotiations in the talks.
“The sooner that we enter into an agreement, the sooner we can find viable solutions to these many issues,” he said.