Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP) Secretary and former Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Galvez orders peace body to investigate Maguindanao blast that killed 2 kids

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. on Tuesday called for an impartial investigation on the mortar shelling that killed two children and wounded at least 15 others in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao during the celebration of Eid’l Fitr.

According to police, an 81mm-mortar went off at Kitango Market in Barangay Kitango around 3:20 p.m. last Sunday, tainting what was supposed to be a peaceful observation of the end of the holy month of Ramadan by Filipino Muslims.

The incident killed siblings Aslamia and Sadam Tambak, aged 10 and 7 respectively, who were inside their house when shards of the mortar shell went through the roof of their house and hit them, according to police.

The victims’ mother and five-year-old sibling were among those hurt, according to police.

Galvez said he has directed the government’s peace mechanisms to investigate the incident.

“We are saddened by what transpired on Sunday. We would like to assure our Moro brothers and sisters that we shall leave no stone unturned as we seek justice for the victims,” Galvez said.

“I would like to appeal to the residents who have been affected by the ongoing armed conflict, as well as the leadership of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) for calmness and sobriety as authorities conduct an investigation on the incident,” he added.

Reports said that the Philippine Army was conducting offensives against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) prior to the incident.
However, Major Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) which has military jurisdiction in the area, denied that there were combat operations when the explosion happened.

“Wala tayong ground troops, walang operation na nangyari during that time of the incident (We have no ground troops, no operation was conducted during that time of the incident),” Encinas told reporters on Monday.
Encinas said four hours before the explosion, a group of Moro Islamic Freedom Fighters (MILF) in the same village were ambushed where three Islamic militants were killed.
He said the suspects were not identified but added there was an existing rido or family feud in the area.

Meanwhile, acting on Galvez’ directive, the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) has already started its investigation on the incident together with the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

Based on the Implementing Operational and Administrative Guidelines and Ground Rules of the Agreement of General Cessation of Hostilities (AGCH), it was stated that the CCCH shall “promptly conduct motu proprio or as directed by the GRP – MILF Peace Panels, conduct an inquiry on alleged violations of the cessation of hostilities.”

Further, the AGCH states that the CCCH shall “conduct inquiry, prepare report and recommend appropriate action on matters pertaining [to] the alleged violations/infractions of the provisions of the implementing Guidelines and Ground Rules of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GRP – MILF) AGCH.”

Galvez said the IMT shall release the results of the investigation after coordinating with the CCCH of both the government and the MILF through Joint Field Verification Mission.

Further, Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, WestMinCom commander, also met with the officials of the BARMM on Monday to address the incident.

Sobejana said the security forces, the local government leaders of the BARMM, and other stakeholders have agreed to collectively work to hasten the resolution of the case through the conduct an honest and parallel investigation.

Among those who attended the meeting were Datu Saudi Ampatuan town Mayor Resty Sindatok; lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, Minister of the Interior and Local Government of BARMM; Major General Diosdado Carreon, commander of Joint Task Force Central; and other local military commanders and officials.