[NEWS] Maguindanao standoff ends with 3-day “no movement” agreement

(Note: Alas, this should give us a breather, both space and time for our peaceworkers from all sides to help solve this problem and buy time to prevent another long and big war from erupting, which could possibly undermine all efforts and gains to peace in Mindanao. )

By Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews (Courtesy of MindaNews news service)
SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao (MindaNews/06 July) – Armed skirmishes in
Maguindanao towns have temporarily stopped as government and the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to a three-day “no movement on
all sides” policy requiring the CVOs (Civilian Volunteers
Organization), CAFGUs (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit
(CAFGUs), the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
not to launch “offensive movements” to allow for the Joint Ceasefire
Committees to verify the actual situation on the ground and “isolate”
those who are disturbing the peace.

At the same time, Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan also ordered the
pull-out of his armed CVOs from the contested area, Jesus Dureza,
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the President’s emissary
to the Ampatuans, said.

Retired general Ramon Santos, head of the government’s Coordinating
Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and undersecretary of
the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, explained
that it will not just be the Joint CCCH that will do the verification
on the ground and determine the area where they can assure civilians
no armed element can enter there without the permission of the Joint
CCCH and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) but the
expanded team – the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring and Assistance team –
to include the grassroots-based Bantay Ceasefire (Ceasefire Watch) and
humanitarian agencies.

Dureza said a buffer zone will be set up to ensure the CVOs and MILF
troops are “not within shouting match or sniffing match.”

He announced the agreement before the province’s 15 town mayors,
immediately after a 40-minute closed door conference with Maguindanao
Governor Ampatuan and his son, Datu Zaldy, the governor of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The briefing was held at
the “sub-office” of the province located inside the residential
compound of the Maguindanao governor.

Dureza said the President gave him two missions – to extend her
gratitude to both the government and MILF forces for exerting efforts
to prevent the escalation of the conflict and to express her
condolences to the governor who lost his security escorts to a bombing
on June 23 here; and to “find means to ensure the conflict ends.”

Dureza said that after three days, the two sides will again meet to
assess “how to complete the arrangement to stop skirmishes.”

He declined to call the three-day “no movement” agreement a ceasefire.
“We have an existing ceasefire (with the MILF),” he said.

Dureza also said a warrant of arrest had been issued against the
suspects of the June 23 bombing.

The warrant lists “Ameril Umbra Kato, Wahid Tundok, Sahid Pakiladatu,
Abu Nabrie Benito, Baguindali Abdullah, Kagui Macmod, et al” as
suspects.

“Under the law… they are just suspects. … they are still presumed
innocent,” Dureza said.

The Ampatuan camp says the suspects are MILF members.

Earlier reports noted that the armed clashes started on June 28 when
the CVOs and police of the Maguindanao governor reportedly set out to
serve the warrant of arrest on the suspects.

The government and MILF, however, had signed a Joint Communiqué on May
6, 2002, allowing for the creation of a Joint Action Group to allow
the MILF to help in pursuing after criminal elements in the so-called
MILF areas.

“We have handed over the warrant of arrest to the Joint Ceasefire
Committee because we already have that mechanism in an agreement with
the MILF,” Dureza said, explaining the May 6, 2002 Joint Communiqué.

“Let us give the committee the chance to do its work,” Dureza said.

Dureza, who told the mayors that he knows they “mobilized their CVOs,”
appealed to the mayors “to toe the line. Let’s allow the ceasefire
committee work it out. Later on, we will meet and assess, where are
we, what were the problems, where do we go from here?”

Dureza noted the formula “will not give miracles” and will not mean
the problem is immediately solved.

“Let’s take it one step at a time,” he said, adding “in the meantime,
we appeal to everyone not to launch offensive actions. Keep your boys
in your respective areas.”

Dureza also said displaced villagers will be attended to. At least
4,000 families have been displaced by the clashes. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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