Frequently Asked Questions on the GPH-MILF Ceasefire Mechanisms

What is the ceasefire agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)?

On 18 July 1997, almost as soon as the negotiations between the GPH and the MILF started, the parties signed the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities (AGCH). This commitment to a general ceasefire was necessitated by the dire effects to the ongoing peace talks of eruptions of violence between the government and MILF forces. Thus were created the parties’ respective Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCHs) to monitor the parties’ compliance to the ceasefire agreement.

 

What are the mechanisms for the maintenance of the ceasefire?

The GPH-CCCH and the MILF-CCCH are tasked to supervise the maintenance of ceasefire between the parties. They conduct inquiries, prepare reports, and recommend appropriate action on alleged and proven violations to the ceasefire. They conduct visits and inspections in areas where the ceasefire is in effect to ensure that no factor that would contribute to the breaking of the ceasefire exists.

The work of the CCCHs is complemented by the Local Monitoring Teams (LMTs) established in all conflict-affected areas mutually determined by the GPH and the MILF. They operate in designated provinces in Mindanao and are composed of representatives from the local government unit, civil society organizations, and the religious sector. They conduct fact-finding missions for the CCCH and work towards the immediate resolution of the crisis situation by acting as first responder.

For specific areas where there is high probability of armed conflict, Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Posts (JCMPs) are established. JCMPs cover clusters of barangay within the conflict-affected areas where units of the government and MILF forces are assigned. JCMPs act as early warning mechanisms and prevent the occurrence of conflict within their areas of responsibility. In the event of any armed confrontation, they are first responders to the conflict.

A third party International Monitoring Team (IMT), composed of representatives from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Norway, and Japan, observes and monitors the ceasefire between the two parties. It conducts field verification and coordinates closely with the CCCH of the Government and the MILF for this purpose.

 

What constitutes a ceasefire violation?

The parties agreed upon a listing of hostile and provocative acts that are prohibited to both government and MILF forces. Prohibited hostile acts are terroristic acts1, aggressive action2 , and establishment of checkpoints except those necessary for the Government’s enforcement and maintenance of peace and order, and for the defense and security of the MILF in their identified areas, as jointly determined by the GPH and the MILF. Prohibited provocative acts, on the other hand, include the display of the MILF flag in non-identified MILF areas, providing sanctuary or assistance to criminal or lawless elements, massive deployment and/or movement of GPH and MILF forces which are not normal administrative functions and activities, public pronouncements that will tend to undermine the sincerity or credibility of either party in implementing the cessation of hostilities, and other acts that endanger the safety and security of the people and their properties; and/or that which contribute to the deterioration of peace and order, such as blatant display of firearms.

 

How are ceasefire violations prevented?

To prevent armed skirmish, the parties committed to desist from committing any of the above hostile and provocative acts. Moreover, movement of MILF forces outside of their identified areas are coordinated to the government forces for clearance prior to the movement.

The GPH-CCCH likewise conducts troop visits, community visits, and peace dialogue/advocacy, establishes early warning systems, and coordinates with other stakeholders to disseminate information on the ceasefire agreement with a view to avoiding violations thereto.

 

How are police and military actions conducted in areas covered by the ceasefire agreement?

Police and military actions and administrative/logistic activities are still undertaken by the government throughout Mindanao. However, to avoid confrontational situations between government and MILF forces, prior coordination is done for peacekeeping and police actions (preventive patrols, investigations, arrest, searches and seizures against criminality, especially against piracy, robbery, kidnapping, cattle rustling, murder, etc.) and defensive or provocative actions by both the government and MILF forces to ensure the security of its forces, facilities, installations, equipment and lines of communications, and the safety and tranquillity of the civil government and the populations.

 

What does the CCCH do when there is ongoing violation of the ceasefire?

The GPH-CCCH and MILF-CCCH establish contacts with leaders of the contending forces and assess the ground situation. They negotiate for immediate cessation of hostilities and work towards the separation and withdrawal of the two armed forces involved in the conflict. They also assist in the evacuation of the civilians and displaced persons in the area. The CCCHs assist both parties in the evacuation of the wounded and the retrieval of their casualties.

 

What does the CCCH do after the violent incident?

The CCCH of the Government and the MILF conduct investigation to establish what circumstances led to the armed skirmish. They report their findings to the negotiating panels. The GPH-CCCH and MILF-CCCH also discuss possible measures to prevent the occurrence of similar future altercations.

When violations are proven, the CCCH of either side files a protest against their counterpart. The IMT mediates to resolve the subject matter of the protest with a view to preventing its similar occurrence in the future.

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1Acts such as kidnapping, hijacking, piracy, sabotage, arson, bombings, grenade throwing, robberies, liquidations/assassinations, unjustified arrest, torture, unreasonable search and seizure, summary execution, as well as burning of houses, places of worship and educational institutions, destruction of properties, and abuse of civilians.

2Acts such as attacks, raids, ambuscades, landminings, and offensive military actions such as shelling, reconnoitring, and unjustified massing of troops.