Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

MILF agrees to 'reposition' its troops in N. Cotabato villages

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Thursday night said that it has agreed to "reposition" its troops from several villages in North Cotabato towns, a television report said.

This was revealed by MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar during an interview over GMA News' Saksi.

The MILF leaders said that the process would start early Friday morning and would be witnessed by ceasefire committee representatives from both government and the MILF plus members of the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

Jaafar said that they would be coordinating with the Philippine National Police regional director so that the agreement could be implemented.

Under the agreement, the MILF troops would be "repositioned" from three barangays in Aleosan, four villages in Midsayap and another barangay in Libungan.

In the interview, Jaafar said that MILF and government representatives met Thursday in Cotabato City to work out the details of the "repositioning" of their troops which had forced residents from several villages in three North Cotabato towns to evacuate.

That meeting, he added, also resolved to implement the August 2 resolution calling for the "repositioning" of combatants in the said areas.

Asked if the MILF men were out to "occupy" the three towns, Jaafar denied it.

"[We received]...instructions through our peace panel to contact their counterparts in the GRP and to conduct an impartial investigation [into the matter], so we will know once and for all why it happened," he said.

"Expectedly, after tomorrow, ma-e-enforce itong repositioning, sana makasige na yung investigation,"he added.

The agreement was forced hours after the government gave the MILF a 24-hour deadline to move out of several towns in North Cotabato that the MILF forces had "forcibly taken."

The ultimatum was issued during a press conference in Camp Crame early Thursday.

Interior Sec. Ronaldo Puno said the MILF's occupation of several areas in North Cotabato was unacceptable and that the government will be compelled to use "whatever action is necessary" if the rebel forces refuse to leave the area within the deadline.

The government ultimatum - which was finalized Wednesday night following a meeting of the National Security Council - came amid an already tense situation in Mindanao over disagreements on the government's ancestral domain agreement with the MILF, whose signing was halted by the Supreme Court.

"The 24-hour deadline will end at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Friday)," Puno said early Thursday.

Puno said that since July 1, several barangays in North Cotabato towns were forcibly occupied by some 800 elements of the MILF, including villages in the municipalities of Aleosan, Libungan and Midsayap.

Puno also said the occupying forces had been involved in the burning of houses, destruction of plantations, looting, and cattle rustling, and had forced civilians to leave area. MILF attacks have also been recently reported in the towns of Pigkawayan and Northern Kabuntalan, he said.

More than 1,500 families or over 6,500 individuals have been displaced in the towns of Midsayap and Aliosan alone as a result of atrocities committed by forces illegally occupying these areas.

In the press briefing, Puno said that after the 24-hour period, the government will exhaust all peaceful means to address the situation, but stressed "we feel entitled and authorized to undertake whatever action is necessary." (GMANews.TV)

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