MILF-gov't ceasefire body asked to probe Maguindanao clash
- John Unson | Philippine Star
COTABATO City, Philippines - Local officials on Tuesday asked the joint ceasefire committee to investigate the firefight in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, where a key suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre was killed and five police officers were wounded.
One of the wounded policemen was Superintendent Julius Coyme, a senior staff of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional police office.
Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, police director of Maguindanao, suffered a sprained ankle after a bad fall when he ducked for cover when Moro gunmen fired at them with assault rifles while they wre serving the arrest warrant on Maguindanao massacre suspect Dainga Ampatuan in Barangay Kuloy in Shariff Aguak.
Policemen killed Dainga in the encounter.
Barangay Kuloy is a known stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and is covered by the rebel group’s 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities with the government.
Local officials said that so intense was the three-hour running firefight between the combined Army and police raiding team that Dainga and the Moro gunmen managed to cripple a police patrol car with machine guns and shoulder-fired grenades.
Initial reports from barangay officials said that while policemen and Dainga's group were engaged in a gunfight, several gunmen were seen reinforcing the massacre suspect's group.
After the gunfight, police recovered 12 high-powered firearms abandoned by the gunmen who reinforced Dainga's group.
Chief Superintendent Noel delos Reyes, regional director of the ARMM police, said the slain massacre suspect is a relative of detained former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr.
The former governor, along with three of his sons, and several other relatives are now detained in Metro Manila on charges of 58 counts of murder for the Maguindanao massacre in Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23, 2009.
Reports said that the gunmen that fought with Dainga were members of the MILF's 108th Base Command.
Shariff Aguak town Mayor Zahara Upam-Ampatuan said the tension waned only after she and her constituent-leaders managed to contact local commanders of the MILF and asked them to help reposition the rebels away from the scene.
Zahara said dozens of villagers evacuated during the encounter, but some of them have already returned to their homes in Barangay Kuloy.
Von-Al Haq, spokesman of the MILF’s military arm the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said the police team that neutralized Ampatuan did not inform the ceasefire committee of the operation.
The government and the MILF, under the 1997 ceasefire accord, are bound to cooperate, through the joint ceasefire committee and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), in interdicting criminals and terrorists in guerilla strongholds.
The local government of Shariff Aguak has called on the joint ceasefire committee, the AHJAG, and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team to immediately intervene and impose security measures to stave off a repeat of Monday’s clash.