MILF says its men will abide with guns decommissioning process PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 18 January 2015 14:29

With love for guns so overwhelming, fanned by decades of feudal atmosphere in their surroundings, how can members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front easily part away with it?

MILF leaders assert it is their sincerity in furthering its peace compact with government that guerillas will abide with the decommissioning process both sides have agreed on.

The Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police complacently estimate at only about 12,000 to 13,000 the number of MILF fighters with firearms.

Many local stakeholders to the Mindanao peace process are certain, however, that the group has no fewer than 30,000 to 50,000 followers, a big number of them armed with automatic weapons.

The International Decommissioning Body (IDB), the government and the MILF are to start with the inventory of guns in the hands of rebels this year.

The IDB is comprised of representatives from Turkey, the European Union, and other foreign states helping push the government-MILF peace efforts forward.

There are local executives — Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman and his staunch political ally, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu — that promised to help in the decommissioning process through community projects that could generate livelihood opportunities for MILF members who are to have their firearms inventoried and kept by the IDB.

Hataman said providing MILF-dominated areas with needed infrastructures, which the ARMM will try to achieve, will improve their agricultural and fisheries productivity and will, in a way, make them feel the more beneficial relevance of not keeping firearms to fight the Philippine government.

The government and the MILF aim to transform guerrilla camps as hubs of socio-economic development to complement the decommissioning process.

The IDB will oversee the overall decommissioning of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), including the inventory and verification of their fighters and weapons.

The independent body will plan and implement techniques for weapons collection, transport and storage.

There will also be a joint security assessment and an inventory of duly-constituted Philippine security troops and units in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory, as a prelude for the redeployment of military personnel and to “avoid a security vacuum” in the proposed new region.

The decommissioning process will also focus on how to address private armies and armed followers of partisan personalities in Muslim areas — known for keeping arsenals as protection against political enemies, as status symbol, and as “tools” for perpetuating power.

The MILF said it is now ready to forge ahead with the decommissioning process.

Sources from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said members of the IDB will meet this month to discuss concerns regarding the initiative.

The MILF’s central leadership had even announced it will initiate a symbolic turnover of firearms by its members as a kickoff for the collection of armaments by the IDB.

“Surely, it will be a sentimental thing for our members. We are sincere in keeping our commitment to decommission our forces as part of our peace agreement with government,” the MILF’s Muhaquer Iqbal said.

Iqbal is chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which is comprised of representatives from the MILF and government.

Mangudadatu said one way of supporting the decommissioning process is the settlement of clan wars involving families identified with the MILF and their adversaries.

Mangudadatu, who has jurisdiction over 36 towns that are known havens of Moro forces, said they have settled at least 48 clan wars in Maguindanao, a known bastion of the MILF, in the past 36 months.

“This is our response to a personal directive by President Aquino to me to initiate the reconciliation of feuding clans in Maguindanao in support of the normalization and decommissioning efforts of the government and the MILF,” said Mangudadatu, chairman of the Maguindanao Task Force on Reconciliation and Unification.

Most of the 48 clan wars the task force had settled were done with the help of representatives from the MILF, the governor added.

The government’s chief negotiator dealing with the MILF, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, said the decommissioning process will definitely takeoff this year.

Local executives in Lanao del Sur, a component province of ARMM, which accounts for most number of still unsettled clan wars involving big families, mostly led by elders who belong to the MILF, are just as ready to help too.

Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr., chairman of the inter-agency peace and order council in the province, said they, too, will embark on programs that can hasten the decommisioning initiative.

“That’s good for our people, our province. We have no problem helping carry that out,” Adiong said.

The MILF had repeatedly stated, via its posts on its website, the www.luwaran.com, that the decommissioning will boost the efforts of restoring normalcy in areas devastated by armed conflicts in decades past.

Iqbal, who, as MILF negotiator, was instrumental in the crafting of the October 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and, subsequently, the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, assured of their group’s forthrightness and dedication to the decommissioning process.