MILF accuses military of ceasefire violation

Rappler.com
The accusation comes after a 'provocative' deployment of Marines even as peace negotiators wrap up crucial talks in Kuala Lumpur

Marvic Leonen (L), chair of the Philippine government panel, and Mohagher Iqbal (R), chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), shake hands at the end of the 31st round of Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 8, 2012. Looking on is Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed (C). Photo courtesy of the OPAPP

MANILA, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Friday, October 5 the military had provocatively violated a ceasefire as peace negotiators held crucial talks.

The MILF issued the accusation amid talks in Kuala Lumpur that the government has said could lead to the imminent signing of a roadmap to end the insurgency that has claimed more than 150,000 lives.

Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles said in a statement on Friday, however, that no agreement has been reached. “Both sides are working hard and undertaking due diligence to ensure a framework agreement that we can uphold and stands the best chance to bring us the peace our people have long been hoping for and deserve.”

The MILF said the Marines had deployed more than 100 troops near Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, where rebel troops were stationed, describing the move as “provocative.”

“These troops of marines are not respecting and violating the ceasefire accord and the primacy of the peace process between the government and the MILF,” said a statement on its website.

The troops arrived on Tuesday, October 2, the same day that the Malaysia talks began, according to the statement.

“We cannot understand why they are doing it deliberately…while the talks are ongoing.

“It is only the government to blame when firefight erupts.”

The government issued an upbeat forecast when the talks resumed on Tuesday.

“We are on the brink of layering the written predicates that can frame the process of building trust as we usher in an era of peace, of hope and of recovery,” chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen said at the start of the talks.

“We cannot postpone any longer. Now is the time,” he said. “To state that what we hope to be able to do in the next few days is historical is definitely an understatement.”

MILF negotiators also expressed optimism, but cautioned there were still many obstacles to overcome.

No violation

The military said it had moved troops into the area near Palimbang, but denied it had broken the ceasefire with the 12,000-strong MILF.

The marine unit’s commander, Col Alexander Balutan, insisted they were enforcing arrest warrants against “lawless elements” — none of them MILF members — who had illegally cut down trees in Palimbang.

“We have been directed by no less than (President Benigno Aquino) to conduct anti-illegal logging operations,” Balutan told reporters.

“I am not targeting the MILF nor any of their camps. They have no camps in the area.”

The MILF and other Muslim rebel groups have been fighting for independence or autonomy in Mindanao, a resource-rich region they regard as their ancestral homeland, since the early 1970s.

This latest round of peace talks ia expected to wrap up this weekend. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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