The tough phase of the Bangsamoro peace agreement should be fully implemented so as to keep people in Mindanao from turning to violence and being lured to radicalism and terrorism, an international expert on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) said in a forum before the Holy Week break.
DDR expert Stavros Stavrou underscored the importance of a successful normalization process as it will help prevent radicalization that is now spreading in the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) areas in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Stavrou pointed out that “the real question is whether ex-combatants have indeed become ex-combatants—that you have taken those people out of the culture and context of conflict.”
“Providing stability and sustainability to these ex-combatants are important in ensuring they would not be enticed to return to armed radicalism,” he said.
“If you are able to attract the most number of combatants possible in the process, then you are in a good position to prevent ISIS-like elements from emerging. But if you don’t deliver, you will definitely see resistance,” Stavrou added.
Currently working as a senior social development specialist at the World Bank, Stavrou has been at the forefront of reintegration programs with ex-combatants for more than 15 years.
He oversaw and implemented normalization-like initiatives in Iraq, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Sudan among other countries.
Stavrou said that the communities also must be involved in the normalization process by ensuring they are sensitive to acting immediately on or preventing a situation that would make ex-combatants return to their old ways.
“You need to sensitize both the ex-combatants and the communities properly. You cannot have situations wherein ex-combatants are being taken advantage of again,” Stavrou said.
“The normalization phase is the time to plant the seeds of development. However, this can only happen when we treat our partners from across the negotiating table with the same respect we’d afford ourselves,” he added.
Aside from the political and socio-economic aspects of normalization, Stavrou maintained that psycho-social interventions were equally important.
“The psycho-social component of conflict lingers the most. You need to institute programs to address that in order to put an end to the cycle of conflict and violence,” he said.
Earlier, government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that “by forging a peace agreement with the government, the MILF has committed to renounce violence and terrorism as an ideology and way of life.”
“The full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will ensure that the leaders and followers of the MILF will desist from going the way of the ISIS,” she added.
The normalization process, including the decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons, shall be implemented by the executive branch and will coincide with and shall be commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the parties.