A needed clarification on peace accord with MILF

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AS the nation has grappled with its shock and horror over the Mamasapano massacre, it has seemed at times as though the national conversation and debate were only happening here in the national capital.

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All the happenings and all the talking were taking place in Metro Manila. And only rarely did voices from across the archipelago join the conversation and were heard in the media.

That is indubitably a shame. We believe the larger perspective from the rest of the country is needed for two reasons.

First, nearly every region in the country lost atleast one of their youngmen.

An incomplete map of the SAF 44 shows us the following:
PROVENANCE20150206
The total number is only 39, incomplete, so we’re having everything cross-checked.

Second, we need the larger perspective for what it can uniquely contribute to the search for solutions and the quest for lasting peace and stability in Mindanao.

We’ve discovered this in the writings of our columnist from Mindanao, Manny Piñol. Yesterday, he gifted us with a significant revelation from another eminent citizen of Mindanao, former press secretary and chief peace negotiator Jess Dureza.

What Jess gave was so good, we used it as our headline yesterday “ SAF did not have to inform MILF” (Times, February 5).

SAF coordination with MILF not required
Jess Dureza is the former press secretary and former chairman of the government panel (under then president Arroyo) who signed the agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the handling of wanted criminals hiding in identified MILF enclaves. By this agreement, he disclosed on his Facebook page and through the Times, that “coordination” was not required when government security forces were after “high value targets” like Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”

In the article posted on Facebook early Tuesday night, Jess wrote, “In fairness to the SAF operations (against Marwan), the ceasefire agreement and the implementing guidelines between the GRP & MILF clearly never required prior coordination in operations against high value, priority targets.

“Truth to tell, I had to go back to my records as I clearly remember that I signed as GRP panel chair in Oct 2001 with my counterpart, then panel (now MILF) chair Kagi Murad the Manual of Instructions for CCCH (ceasefire) and LMT (monitors) in Malaysia.”

He added: “subsequently, the implementing guidelines and even the recent AFP/PNP operational guidelines clearly excluded operations against high value targets like Marwan & Basit Usman.”

And then comes this zinger:
“What I cannot understand is why up to now, Malacanang or the PNP higher headquarters have not released this vital information in fairness to our fallen SAF commandos.”

Jess posted images of the documents he signed with Al Haj Murad in Malaysia, one of which includes a page with this clear stipulation: “Except in operations against high priority targets, a list of which shall be provided by the GPH Panel to the MILF Panel, the AHJAG shall inform the GPH and MILF CCCH at least 24 hours prior to the conduct of the AFP/PNP operations in order to allow sufficient time for the evacuation of civilians and to avoid an armed confrontation between the GPH and MILF forces.”

Dureza’s revelation shatters the administration’s narrative that the tragic developments in Mamasapano arose from a failure by SAF to coordinate with MILF on its operation.

When president Aquino emerged from seclusion to finally talk about the tragedy in a televised address to the nation, he laid the cause entirely on “lack of coordination.” This in turn was echoed by the MILF chair and spokesman in their statements on the tragic encounter.

Dureza is totally correct that this portrayal of events disrespecrts the SAF and dishonors the memory of the fallen SAF 64. It is a distressing example of blaming victims for their deaths.

When it is our president no less who impugns their memory, it is doubly offensive.

Our current peace negotiators, who were instrumental in forging the peace agreement with the MILF, should come out of their foxholes and shed light on this important point.

Yesterday, in an interview on ANC, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano lent support to Dureza’s point. He underscored lines in the accord that say coordination with the MILF is not required.

Clarifications, and perhaps apologies, are in order, so that the concerns of the SAF can be set to rest. And the families of the fallen 64 will know that their loved ones did not plunge mindlessly to their death. This will help us in securing justice for them.

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2 Comments

  1. This simply proves once again that Aquino and his beloved negotiators with his even more beloved MILF have been TREASONOUSLY giving parts of Philippine sovereignty to this murderous rebel separatist band.
    Aquino RESIGN now!!
    CBCP president Soc Villegas, quite being a general of the Yellow Army, your Grace, and join your more rational and Godly fellow bishops in calling for the PCOS-created President Aquino to resign.