GMA order ceasefire with MILF

PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — Resolved to get the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front going, President Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday ordered the suspension of military operations in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

In a hastily-called press conference, Executive Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Eduardo Ermita said the government declared a unilateral ceasefire as a ‘‘policy directive to advance stability and peace in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao, intensify and sustain law enforcement measures and provide a stable environment for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the MILF.”

Ermita said the implementation of the SOMO is indefinite and will depend on the response of the MILF.

“The AFP shall revert to active defense mode as provided for in the Guidelines on the Primacy of the Peace Process and the subsequent Reminders on the GRP-MILF Peace Process,” he said.

However, the Philippine National Police shall continue with its law enforcement activities to bring the three renegade MILF commanders and other lawless elements to the bar of justice, with the Armed Forces playing a support role.

“The Chief of Staff shall issue appropriate guidelines for the implementation of this directive. The Chief PNP shall similarly issue guidelines as it pertains to its law enforcement role,” he added.

Ermita said the government expects the MILF to also show “genuine goodwill” so that the resumption of peace negotiations can be set.

Chief government negotiator Rafael Seguis said the date of the resumption of the talks will depend on the response of the MILF. He said the government is also waiting for the response of Malaysia as third party facilitator and host of the talks.