IMT: PH gov't, MILF violated ceasefire

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2015 06:28 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2015 03:26 AM

MANILA - The Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) has found ceasefire violations from both the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during the January 25 Mamasapano incident.

Among its findings presented during a press conference where government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer was present, the IMT said the Mamasapano operation was a valid law enforcement operation by the Philippine National Police, but “ceasefire protocols [were] not observed during the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus.”

It said that after the raid against international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, police Special Action Force (SAF) troopers engaged the MILF but “the status of deliberately uncoordinated movements [ended in a] disastrous firefight.”

Four sleeping rebels were also summarily executed, Ferrer said, citing the IMT report.

The rebels had violated the truce when they pursued the police and for endangering civilian lives, she said.

NO EVIDENCE MILF PROVIDED SANCTUARY

The IMT, however, noted there is no evidence showing the MILF provided sanctuary for Marwan.

“However, this does not dispel claims that some members of the MILF might have had knowledge of the whereabouts of Marwan and Usman,” it said.

The IMT said the different stakeholders should “uphold and observe the laws of war, international humanitarian law, and their respective rules of engagement and codes of conduct.”

It also said combatants from both camps found to have committed crimes should be penalized under Republic Act 9851, the law that penalizes “Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.”

COORDINATION IS KEY

Brig. Gen. Manolito Orense, chair of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), stressed the importance of coordination and communication within the ceasefire mechanisms for law enforcement operations.

Orense noted there have been successful coordinated operations in the past, with as little as two hours of coordination before the actual operation.

Ferrer, for her part, said former SAF chief Getulio Napenas, former PNP chief Alan Purisima, and President Aquino all knew about coordinated operations of the past.

"These are continuing law enforcement operations they know, ‘yung familiarity. If you look at Oplan Exodus, there was mention of coordination, but the implementation is the judgment call of the implementor,” she said.

Orense added, "Si Napenas, masabi lang natin he's just being very cautious. Being with the SAF for a number of years, naging very cautious lang siya. I don't want to judge the guy, he's my friend. (It's a) matter of judgment call. Iyun siguro natanim sa isip niya."

"If Napenas coordinated with us, ang ginagawa namin, we will have to inform the counterpart the possible areas but not the exact area. I don't think ibibigay din ang exact location ng target. I have to inform the counterpart kasi pwede mahagip ang target nila," he said.

IMT IS NEUTRAL

In presenting the IMT findings, Ferrer said the IMT is a neutral body tasked to monitor the ceasefire agreement.

Ferrer said IMT members were not granted access to the site where Marwan was killed.

She said the report will stand side by side with other reports, particularly those made by the PNP Board of Inquiry and the Senate.

Ferrer warned that failing to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law now may lead to more radical groups splintering from the MILF to form ISIS-like groups pursuing a different agenda.

NO IMMEDIATE COMMENT

Forty-four police commandos, 17 rebels, and at least four civilians were killed in the January 25 clash that has put at risk the peace process with the MILF.

The bungled police operation has also become President Benigno Aquino's biggest political crisis with opinion polls showing sliding popularity ratings over his handling of the affair.

The government had said the clash was a mistake which occurred as police hunted for two wanted Islamist militants.

The rebels said they acted in self-defense when police entered their zone.

Both the police and guerrilla leaders had no immediate comment on the IMT report.

Malaysia has brokered peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF to end a 45-year conflict that has killed 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in one of the poor and resource-rich regions in the Philippines.

Aquino has called for the peace process to go ahead and has urged legislators to push on with the law granting Muslims autonomy in part of the south of the largely Christian country.

"The peace deal remains, it is still in effect despite the incident," Ferrer said. - with a report by Manuel Mogato, Reuters