Tuesday, June 16, 2015

President Aquino witnesses turnover of rebels’ weapons, decommissioning of combatants

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 16): President Aquino witnesses turnover of rebels’ weapons, decommissioning of combatants

President Benigno S. Aquino III here Tuesday witnessed the historic turnover of 75 firearms by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) and the decommissioning of 145 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.

"Heto ang pruweba ng kanilang katapatan sa ating harapan. Kusang-loob pong inilatag ng ating mga kapatid ang kanilang armas. Ginagawa nga nila ito kahit nakabitin pa ang Bangsamoro Basic Law, at mangyayari pa lang ang Bangsamoro Transition Authority," the President said during the event held at the Old Capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province.

"Ito po ay napakatibay na patunay ng buo at busilak na pakikiisa ng MILF sa ating usaping pangkapayapaan, at sa kanilang kahandaang talikuran ang landas ng hidwaan. Iniaabot nila ngayon ang kanilang palad bilang imbitasyon patungo sa higit na pagtitiwala at pagtutulungan," he said.

The 55 high-powered firearms and 20 crew-serve weapons that were turned over, as well as the returnees, were registered by the IDB, which was formed in 2014 and mandated to oversee the decommissioning of the MILF’s forces and weapons.

The IDB is composed of chairman Turkish Ambassador Haydar Berk, a former Turkish representative to the North Atlantic Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and members Major Muhammad Aiman Syazwi Bin Abdul Rahim of the Royal Brunei Land Force; retired Norwegian Brigadier General Jan Erik Wilhemsen, who served in the United Nations peacekeeping forces to Honduras, El Salvador, Central Sudan, Nigeria and Nepal; Professor Mario Aguja; retired Lieutenant General Rey Ardo, who served as Commander of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; Von Al Haq, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces; and Isah Bato.

The decommissioning program for the MILF forces was inspired by the different peace processes done in Nepal, Northern Ireland, and Aceh, Indonesia.

Moro returnees can avail of any of the socio-economic programs deemed suitable for them, such as the livelihood package, where former combatants may undergo training through the Technical Education and Skilled Development Authority or a literacy program through the Department of Education; and a college study or high school grant, both of which are provided with allowances to enable them to start schooling.

All returnees will be given immediate assistance and health insurance as part of the socio-economic package.

For his part, MILF Central Committee Chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim thanked President Aquino for pushing peace and development in Mindanao.

"We cannot thank President Aquino enough for his unwavering commitment in our partnership to build a truly democratic, peaceful and safe society in the Bangsamoro,” Ebrahim said in his message during the ceremony.

“Today, we begin the long walk towards transformation, not surrender, to a higher struggle, the start of the transformation of the MILF from a revolutionary organization to a political organization ready to govern and serve the Bangsamoro people," he added.

Present during the ceremony were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman, Maguindanao Governor Ismael Mangudadatu, Moro Islamic Liberation Front Central Committee Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr., and Archbishop Orlando Beltran Quevedo.


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