Cooperative Field Investigation with the Joint GRP-MILF CCCH in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao

In January 18, 2004 the Joint GRP-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) together with the Bantay Ceasefire conducted a field investigation in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The investigation looked into reported violations of the ceasefire agreement as a result of government’s manhunt, which started mid-December 2003, against a kidnap group holding a local businessman.

The investigation site- sitio Tatapan- is located in Brgy. Kitango in Datu Saudi Ampatuan (DSA), Maguindanao. Sitio Tatapan was among the affected areas when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched an assault in mid-December 2003 against a kidnap group holding a Cotabato businessman kidnapped on December 8.

On 13 December, troops pursuing the kidnappers clashed with MILF Commander Talio and his men in the Talitay-Talayan-Datu Piang areas in Maguindanao. Two days later, Maj. Gen. Generoso Senga, commander of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division covering south and central Mindanao, ordered an intensified manhunt and ground offensive against the kidnappers “and the group coddling the said kidnap gang”. The clashes escalated soon after, resulting in evacuations from civilians and casualties among government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), thus endangering the ceasefire.

The joint Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) on 15 December had an emergency meeting at Cotabato City, which resulted in an agreement for the MILF to restrict its forces to a “temporary consolidation area” while the AFP pursued the kidnap group.

But in a January 16, 2004 letter, AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, chair of the GRP CCCH, wrote to his MILF counterpart over complaints made by the 6th Infantry Division that the MILF had violated provisions of the ceasefire agreement. The violations referred to paragraph 3.1.2 (unjustified massing of troops) and 3.2.3 (massive deployment and/or movement of forces which are not normal administrative functions and activities). According to the 6th Infantry division, MILF forces under Wahid Halil Tundok had established station at sitio Tatapan, just a kilometer away from the highway, reportedly to intensify “zakat” collections from local businessmen. The local government unit had also reported MILF construction of “running trenches and barricades, assuming posture of a camp.” As a result, there were reported transfer of residents and the local PNP reportedly could not enforce laws.

This led the joint CCCH to conduct a joint fact-finding mission in the area on January 18. The “Bantay Ceasefire” was invited to join as an independent third-party on suggestion of GRP CCCH secretariat chair, Major Dickson Hermoso,

The government team was led by CCCH secretariat head Major Hermoso and his deputy, Lt. Elmer Boongaling; and the MILF CCCH led by its chair Benjie Midtimbang and secretariat chair Atty. Mutalib Tagtagan, and their respective CCCH support staff.

Read full text of report (in .pdf, 145kb, 6pp.).

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply