Chinks appear in MILF ‘decommissioning’

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CHINKS are beginning to appear in the matter of “decommissioning” of weapons owned by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose fighters were reportedly reluctant to lay down their arms in the light of the recently signed annex on normalization, the final hurdle in the signing of a final peace deal.

On Friday, both Malacañang and the Office of the Presidential peace Adviser (OPAPP) insisted that the agreement to decommission means that MILF fighters will have to “turn over” their weapons.

“Decommissioning includes the turning over of weapons,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita ‘Ging’ Deles said in a text message sent to The Manila Times.

And while the Palace was careful in the past to touch on the ticklish issue of “surrender of firearms,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma has noted that “in essence, the principles of DDR [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration] are being observed.”


“The concept of decommissioning includes laying down arms and transforming an erstwhile armed force into a social movement within a larger polity,” Coloma said in a separate text message.

“ The Bangsamoro Political Entity is envisioned to become an integral  component of the Republic of the Philippines, the Bangsamoro people are part of the Filipino nation,” he pointed out, meaning MILF combatants are not exempt from laws regulating the ownership of firearms, among others.

Also on Friday, the Times reported that veteran MILF fighters will not turn in their weapons despite the signing of the final annex of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement that calls for the decommissioning of the MILF force.

An MILF ground commander said half of MILF’s forces want to hold on to their firearms on the chance that the peace deal will eventually fail, in the same way that the 1996 agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government was left unimplemented.

“Of course we don’t want to surrender our firearms because if they [government]fail to implement what the MILF had been fighting for, we will still have our firearms and we can fight again for our cause,” the commander, who wanted to be identified only as Malik, said.

Malik told the Times majority of his comrades will likely defy orders to lay down their arms.

“What happens to us when our arms are taken away?” said Malik, who claims to lead 200 men.

Malik said not all MILF fighters follow orders from their leaders. He said there are three factions in the group—one loyal to Salamat, the second to Murad and the third to Umbrakato.

He said the prevailing suspicion among MILF fighters is that only their leaders and the people close to them will benefit from the peace agreement.

Under the normalization annex signed last week, a decommissioning body of three foreign and four local experts nominated by the two parties will oversee the disarming of MILF.

A foreign expert will head the panel that will make a headcount of MILF fighters and weapons and decide how to collect and stockpile of the surrendered weapons.

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