Keep your guns at home, ex-Moro rebels told
KORONADAL CITY—Former Moro fighters who belong to the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), armed wing of the erstwhile rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), were urged to keep their weapons at home in order not to create tensions with government troops in Basilan province.
This was among the measures forged between officials of the government and the MILF on Thursday, ending hostilities that broke out on Tuesday that killed three soldiers, three BIAF members and a civilian. The skirmishes at Barangay Ulitan in Ungkaya Pukan town also displaced villagers.
The ceasefire was reached in a meeting between the military and the peace mechanisms that include contingents from both the government and the MILF, namely, the joint coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities (CCCH) and the ad hoc joint action group (AHJAG). Representatives from the international peace monitoring group Nonviolent Peaceforce were also present in the talks inside the camp of Joint Task Force Basilan at Barangay Bohe Pahu in Ungkaya Pukan.
“We are happy to announce that a ceasefire agreement has been signed by the government and MILF, which brings to an end the armed encounter between government troops and MILF forces,” David Diciano, head of the Bangsamoro Transformation Program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, said in a statement.
The agreement allowed the return into Ulitan of BIAF members, under Cmdr. Huram Malangka of the 114 Base Command, who are residents of the village.
However, “their firearms should be kept within their respective houses as they wait for their decommissioning,” the government and MILF ceasefire officials agreed.
They also agreed to properly identify and register BIAF and MILF members in the village.
The BIAF is undergoing the decommissioning process in which its combat personnel as well as their weapons are “put beyond use” as part of the 2014 peace deal that signals the end of the Moro rebellion. The process is being overseen by the Independent Decommissioning Body led by Turkey.
To further de-escalate tensions, the parties agreed on the pullout from Ulitan of BIAF members who are nonresidents and who were believed to have reinforced their colleagues at the height of the fighting with government troops.
Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, acting chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, earlier said the skirmishes were due to “miscommunication.”
The incident in Ulitan, according to him, “tested the CCCH and AHJAG.”
To address issues of law enforcement, the parties agreed to establish a composite detachment comprising of soldiers, police and BIAF members “who will jointly cooperate to address the lawless elements and help in the maintenance of peace and order in the said barangay.”
Earlier, Brig. Gen. Domingo Gobway, commander of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade, said suspected makers of improvised bombs used in terrorist plots had taken sanctuary in the village, complicating the government’s pursuit operations.
Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the ceasefire “demonstrates the desire of both parties to put an end to the armed conflict,” adding that the peace mechanisms “are effective in de-escalating situations of conflict and are working.” —WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE S. ALIPALA AND RYAN D. ROSAURO INQ
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