GPH, MILF to probe alleged presence of terrorists in Central Mindanao PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 August 2013 14:00

Local officials have assured of their support to a joint verification mission meant to determine the veracity of allegations that there are foreign terrorists in Central Mindanao.

Governors Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and Lala Taliño-Mendoza, of Maguindanao and North Cotabato, respectively, pointed out in separate emailed statements that local government units in their provinces will cooperate with the initiative, a bilateral undertaking of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Because we in North Cotabato support the peace process, there are overwhelming reasons for us to support such a joint security initiative too,” Mendoza, chairperson of the North Cotabato provincial peace and order council, said in her statement emailed to the Zamboanga Times.

Representatives of the government, the MILF, and the International Monitoring (IMT) will launch Monday (Aug.26) a joint, on-site verification of the alleged presence of foreign terrorists in certain areas in Lanao del Sur and in the border of Maguindanao and North Cotabato..

The IMT, which is composed of soldiers and policemen from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, and Indonesia, and non-uniformed conflict-resolution and rehabilitation experts from Japan, Norway and the European Union, has been monitoring since 2003 the implementation of the July 1997 government-MILF Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

The initiative will begin with a symbolic kick off “kanduli,” or Moro thanksgiving rite, in a form of a traditional Philippine military “boodle fight” banquet at the headquarters of the Army’s 603rd Brigade in Camp Iranun in Tugaig area in Barira town in Maguindanao.

The joint verification supposedly started last week, but was reportedly deferred on the behest of the MILF’s ceasefire committee and the group’s Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

The joint GPH-MILF ceasefire committee and the joint AHJAG, comprised of representatives from the rebel group, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces, helps enforce the anti-crime thrusts of the ceasefire agreement covering potential flashpoint areas in Mindanao.

The commanding officer of the 603rd Brigade, Col. Noli Orense, and his staff will lead the sendoff rite in Camp Iranun for the joint verification team, which is to inspect hinterlands in Central Mindanao with the help of local government units, religious and traditional leaders.

Senior officials of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division told Daily Zamboanga Times Sunday they are optimistic that the joint verification of the alleged presence in Central Mindanao of foreign terrorists will clear out mounting public speculations and apprehensions on the issue.

“We in the 6th ID support the initiative of the government and the MILF towards that goal,” said Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of 6th ID.

Mangudadatu, whose province is host to dozens of MILF enclaves that are covered by the ceasefire, said the verification mission is a big boost to his administration’s effort to validate the alleged presence of foreign JI members in Maguindanao.