Gov't, MILF Declare Ceasefire; Warrants of Arrest, Bounties Suspended for Formal Peace Talks

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Byline: FERDIE J. MAGLALANG

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) declared yesterday an indefinite ceasefire or cessation of hostilities as the warrant of arrest and bounties against MILF Chairman Hashim Salamat and other leaders were suspended to allow them to attend next weeks formal peace talks.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made the official announcement as the government cleared out any technical and legal obstacles that would pave the way for the immediate resumption of the formal peace talks between the government and the MILF scheduled next week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"Today the peace panels of our government and the MILF agreed on a mutual cessation of hostilities," she said in an official statement, furnishing reporters of the one-paragraph agreement declaring an indefinite mutual ceasefire or cessation of hostilities effective today, July 19.

The agreement, one of the preconditions for the revival of the long-stalled peace talks between the government and the Muslim rebel group, was signed by Presidential adviser on the peace process Eduardo Ermita. Al Hadj Murad Ibrahim is expected to affix his signature as head of the MILF peace panel.

The Chief Executive likewise announced that the court has suspended the warrant of arrest slapped against Salamat and nine of his members, prompting the government to lift the P5 million bounty against them and instead, issue a safe conduct and free passage effective for 90 days.

"I call on the panels to immediately enter in formal talks towards a final peace agreement," she said, hopeful that the Malaysian-led ceasefire observer team will soon be convened to oversee the strict implementation of the bilateral ceasefire agreement between the government and the Muslim rebel group. …