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No pact yet but peace reigns for 5 months now

There have been no fighting between the military and Muslim rebels in Mindanao since January this year, giving high hopes that a final peace agreement will soon be reached.

Dean Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF, said that from Jan. 1, 2012 to date, there were no reports of armed clashes, a good indication the peace process is holding.

Maj. Gen. Jose Tony E. Villarete, commanding general of the 3rd Air Division of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), based in Zamboanga City made the same statement.

“This is the first time in many years that no fighting has erupted between government forces and MILF rebels.” He expressed the hope that “there will be no more fighting in Mindanao” and peace will reign.

Last June 6, Leonen lauded the efforts of the military and the police in the south for observing the ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Leonen addressed the government security forces during a conference inside the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division (ID) in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

He also reiterated the primacy of the peace process, reminding government troops to observe due diligence in dealing with conflicts on the ground and enforcing the law.

“Every tactical action has its strategic repercussions,” Leonen said while urging them to be always ready to enforce the law as well as protect and assist communities in their areas of responsibility. He also called on them to be always prepared to address conflicts on the ground such as clan wars or “ridos,” kidnappings and other criminal activities.

The panel chair added that necessary coordination with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in running after criminals within MILF-controlled areas will be facilitated by the GPH-MILF Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the recently reactivated Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) which are bilateral efforts of the two parties to curb and deter criminal activities and potential flashpoints in areas covered by the ceasefire agreement.

Also present were 6th ID commander Major General Rey Ardo, Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) for Western Mindanao Police Chief Superintendent Manuel Barcenas, and field commanders of the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and the Philippine Marines inside the areas covered by the GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement.

Along with Leonen were government senior military adviser Brigadier General Leo Cresente Ferrer, newly appointed GPH senior police adviser Senior Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, AHJAG chair Brigadier Gen. Roland Amarille, and head of the GPH CCCH Secretariat Major Carlos Sol.

Leonen met with the security forces as part of the panel’s regular consultations with various stakeholders following the 28th formal exploratory talks between the GPH and the MILF panels in Kuala Lumpur last month.

During the discussions, field military commanders raised their concerns and suggested that more multi-sectoral consultations be conducted in their areas, to which Leonen willingly obliged.

“We will be very willing to come subject of course to our schedules,” he explained saying that other members of the GPH peace panel are also engaged in consultations with different stakeholders in Mindanao.

“We want to make sure that a critical mass of our people will be behind us supporting the peace agreement,” he said.

Leonen reiterated that government wants to ensure that any peace pact that it will sign with the MILF will be inclusive, collective and democratic, adding that the final peace agreement cannot even be initialed unless it is publicized to the people.

He also called on the government troops to educate themselves and help inform the stakeholders on the developments in the peace process.