Ad Hoc Joint Action Group Overview
The Ad hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) was created by virtue of the Joint Communiqué dated 6 May 2002 between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Its Implementing Guidelines was subsequently issued on 21 December 2004, and underwent several renewals and amendments, the most recent of which was signed on 15 February 2012.
The AHJAG is a coordinative body tasked to coordinate, monitor and disseminate information between and among the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the one hand, and the MILF and its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), on the other, to effect the apprehension and arrest of the suspected criminal elements within communities/areas with considerable MILF concentration (“MILF areas/communities”).
The AHJAG was formally organized on 12 January 2005. Since its establishment, the MILF-AHJAG has been headed by Atty. Abdul Dataya, while the following successively took the leadership of GPH-AHJAG:
1. MGen Mohammed Ben D. Dolorfino
2. BGen Mohammad Askalani
3. BGen Jose B. Vizcarra
4. BGen Alan R. Luga
5. BGen Roland Amarille
6. BGen Leo Cresente M. Ferrer
7. BGen Manolito P. Orense (present)
Timeline of Documents
The 2002 Joint Communiqué between the GPH and the MILF
Despite the ceasefire agreement between the GPH and the MILF, incidents of armed fighting between the BIAF-MILF and the law enforcement units of the Government had occurred when the latter were running after criminal elements within or near “MILF areas/communities.” The GPH and the MILF recognized that the activities of these criminal groups impede the peace process, the effective pursuit of development programs, and the efficient delivery of basic services to the poor. Thus in 2002, the AHJAG was created in order to isolate and interdict criminal syndicates and kidnap-for-ransom groups, including so called “lost commands" operating in Mindanao. The Joint Communique calls for the necessary coordination between the Government and MILF forces to effect the apprehension of criminal syndicates and kidnap for ransom groups, including so-called “lost commands” of the MILF.
The 2012 Approved Implementing Guidelines on the Joint Communiqué of 06 May 2002
In order to further improve coordination and continuously deal with the complex security situation on the ground, an implementing guidelines was issued by the Parties on 21 December 2004. The most recent guidelines was signed on 15 February 2012.
Under the latest implementing guidelines, the scope of the target of operations was expanded to include not just criminal syndicates, kidnap-for-ransom groups and lost commands, but also other criminal elements within “MILF areas/communities”. The guidelines provides for operational definitions of the terms used, organization and composition of the AHJAG and the mechanics of implementation.
The AHJAG role was also clarified as “coordinative,” to differentiate it from the role of the operating units of the AFP and PNP who will execute the actual law enforcement functions, including hot pursuit operations.
The mechanics of implementation provides, among others, that the GPH AHJAG shall coordinate with the MILF AHJAG at least 24 hours prior to the conduct of the AFP/PNP operations in order to allow sufficient time for the evacuation of civilians, and to avoid armed confrontation between the GPH and MILF forces. The 24-hour prior coordination rule may be cut short in cases of high-priority targets, as has been the practice in the past. A submission of a list of high priority targets by the GPH Peace Panel to the MILF Peace Panel was also mandated.
The Revised AFP/PNP Operational Guidelines for the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group of 2013
In order to enhance the operational capability of the AHJAG and be more responsive to the current developments in the GPH-MILF peace talks, the AFP and PNP issued a revised Joint AFP/PNP Operational Guidelines for AHJAG. This letter directive is aimed to ensure that the procedures are followed by all its units from the headquarters down to the operating units in the ground.
The document was signed at Camp Aguinaldo on July 23, 2013 by Police Director Alan LM Purisima and General Emmanuel T. Bautista, in the presence of Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer of the GPH Peace Panel. Also present were top-ranking officers of the PNP and AFP and members of the ceasefire mechanisms.
This operational guideline provides for an organizational structure, including specific functions, of AFP and PNP members who will serve as members of the Government’s AHJAG. It also outlines specific procedure on what to do during Phase 1 (Prior to Law Enforcement operations), Phase 2 (During Law Enforcement Functions) and Phase 3 (After Law Enforcement Functions).
Certification of renewal of the mandate of AHJAG
The GPH and MILF Panels renew the mandate of the AHJAG every year. The current mandate will end on February 2015.
The current Chair of the GPH AHJAG is BGen Manolito P. Orense, the Assistant Division Commander of the 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco, Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguidanao. On its part, the PNP also created a Focal Team on the Peace Process (FTPP) which attends to peace process concerns, including AHJAG matters. It is headed by PDir Edgardo C. Ingking and with members coming from its various units.