• MILF guns silenced in symbolic decommissioning rite

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    BUCK FOR A BANG  President Benigno Aquino 3rd (center) views the guns handed over for decommissioning by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Tuesday in Sultan Kudarat. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

    BUCK FOR A BANG
    President Benigno Aquino 3rd (center) views the guns handed over for decommissioning by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Tuesday in Sultan Kudarat. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

    SULTAN KUDARAT: At least 75 weapons, mostly old and rusty rifles, which were used by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were handed over to an independent multinational body tasked to decommission the rebel group’s armed component as part of the peace process it agreed to undertake with the Philippine government.

    The event held on Tuesday in an MILF camp and attended by President Benigno Aquino 3rd also saw the decommissioning of 145 combatants from the MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). This process marks the start of the former fighters’ return to full civilian lives.

    The weapons, including mortars, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns, were handed over to an independent decommissioning body headed led by Turkey’s former ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Haydar Berk. It also includes experts from Norway, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines.

    The weapons handover was the first concrete action by the MILF to abandon a decades-old rebellion that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

    Under the peace agreement, 30 percent of MILF fighters as well as weapons would be decommissioned once Congress passes the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. The weapons will be stored in a secured area controlled by the decommissioning body.

    Another 35 percent will follow after the BBL is ratified in a plebiscite, while the remainder will be handed over once the Bangsamoro government is established and its leaders elected in May next year.

    The President as well as senior MILF leaders said the largely symbolic activity was intended to spur Congress to pass a delayed proposed law giving Muslims self-rule under the terms of a 2014 peace treaty.

    “This is one of the most difficult decisions we have made so far in more than 40 years of struggle,” chief MILF peace negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal said in a speech. “We want to show the world that the MILF will always comply with its obligations set forth in the signed agreement.”.

    Speaking to reporters before the ceremony at the old provincial capitol, Iqbal said the decommissioning sends a strong signal that the MILF means business.

    Worthy of trust
    Aquino, who ends his term in a year’s time, wants the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to be passed soon, fearing that his successor may not pursue the peace initiative.

    “Let us show them that we are worthy of their trust,” the President said in his speech.

    Congress failed to pass the bill before it went into recess last week amid a public outcry over the killing of 44 policemen by MILF rebels and other armed groups in Maguindanao in January.

    Debates on the proposed BBL are expected to continue when Congress resumes its session on July 27.

    The government has allocated an initial P2.4 billion in the 2015 national budget to support MILF fighters who will lay down their arms and return to civilian life.

    Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the government will provide livelihood assistance, educational grants, health insurance, among others, to the decommissioned combatants.

    “They will have an opportunity to have a job, finish school, dream again of a peaceful and prosperous life for their family, for Bangsamoro and for the country,” she added.

    Deles said a “Normalization Trust Fund” will also be provided to augment the amount allocated for the socio-economic programs for the former MILF fighters. The proposed trust fund is part of the Annex on Normalization, which government negotiators and their MILF counterparts signed last year.

    Act of peace
    Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman described the decommissioning as “the act of peace, the show of sincerity in the peace process,” of both the MILF and the government.

    “Beginning today, the MILF will beat swords to ploughshares as soldiers will begin to bring life to the land instead of taking from it,” he said. “Today, mothers will begin to send their children to school again without fear, and welcome them home happily. Today, children will start learning to be children, and hope never to learn about war again.”

    Hataman acknowledged that the BBL has “suffered much under the hands of those who have studied it, as well as those who have not, but it has been passed by the House Ad Hoc Committee, though it is now going through what might be called an obstacle race in the Senate.”

    “We pray that this race will soon end and the BBL be hailed as victorious,” he said, adding that the peace panel has done its part.

    “The Bangsamoro will continue to do what is necessary, this decommissioning of arms not the least, in order to make our dream of lasting peace a reality. We hope that the President, who has been its champion since its inception, will do everything that is possible for the BBL to come to its fruition,” Hataman added.

    Turkish Ambassador Berk, head of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), praised both sides for their efforts.

    “We are proud to be part of this historic, courageous peace process. I have doubt that not only the present generation but future generations would admire your visionary statesmanship,” he said.

    Berk added that the ceremony was more than just symbolic. It would be the model for the decommissioning events to follow.

    The British Embassy in Manila, meanwhile, welcomed the first phase of the decommissioning of weapons of the MILF.

    Trevor Lewis, charge d’affaires of the British Embassy, said it “is a significant and welcome step in the peace process.”

    “With legislation [Bangsamoro Basic Law] still pending in Congress, this event underlines the continued commitment of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to pursue its objectives through political rather than violent means,” Lewis added.

    WITH BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON

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    9 Comments

    1. mahina ako sa math pero sa nabasa ko… 30% ng milf troops ay dedecommision upon passing ng bbl sa congress…. so thats 145 decommissioned milfs…. which kung ginawang 100% sila… nasa 480 lang sila? eh bibigyan natin sila ng 2.4 billion pesos para magbalik normal… so.. tig 5million pesos sila? kahit gawin natin 4800 sila… tig kakalahating million sila? eh parang nanalo pala sila ng lotto eh… mag mmilf nalang ako

    2. Ang hindi ko maintindihan kong bakit believe talaga si Pnoy sa MILF kay sa kanyang mga Boss. Katulad nang 75 rifles na yan. Naloko na naman nang MILF si Pnoy. What are 75 rifles compared to the reported strength of 10,000 MILF rebels. Para sa akin hindi sila sinsero.

    3. Vic PenetranteVic on

      P2.4B for 75 weapons and 145 combatants. After this ‘patikim’, MILF said that there will be no second decommissioning if BBL is not approved. Not a warning – like Purisima’s ‘advice-not-an-order’ in the Mamasapano massacre!

    4. “act of peace?” “trust?” easier said; how about sending a troop of our SAF to arrest those responsible for the murder of SAF44? if they come back well and alive together with the captives then that would be considered as sincere and yes worthy of our trust! what say you milf? peace panel?

    5. Pansinin sa picture – yung mga kamay nina aquino at deles nasa likod ng kanilang mga katawan. Ano ba ang tawag sa mannerism na ganyan?
      “Old and rusty rifles?”. Ano yan – charade? Bakit hindi inuna yung mga bagong armas na galing sa isang bansa na ang tawag daw ay malaysia?

      • At tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang gunrunning / smuggling ng mga bagong armas at ammunition. May nabasa ka na ba na nahuling shipments? At iyon atang bumagsak na eroplano, ano ang laman nuon?

    6. P.Akialamiro on

      If the MILF is sincere, well and good. But, since it’s only symbolic, let’s wait and see. “Baka pakitang tao lang yan”.or, part of the ‘script’.

      What happened to those weapons and properties ‘stolen’ during the Mamasapano incident? How come up to now, they haven’t all been returned yet? Is the MILF really in control of their men?