Saturday, March 30, 2019

Efforts intensified to decommission MILF fighters

From the Philippine Star (Mar 30, 2019): Efforts intensified to decommission MILF fighters


President Rodrigo Duterte and Hadji Ahod Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindano jointly led Friday’s symbolic inauguration of BARMM in Cotabato City. Unson

Efforts to decommission Moro rebels to hasten their return to mainstream communities in the Bangsamoro region are now underway.

The Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process are now coordinating on the implementation of the program, officials told The STAR on Saturday.

The process is based on peace compacts between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose figurehead, Hadji Ahod Ebrahim, most known by his nom de guerre, Murad Ebrahim, is now chief minister of BARMM and concurrent head of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, or BTA.

Ebrahim first announced on Friday, while President Rodrigo Duterte was at the Bangsamoro capitol here to inaugurate the BARMM, that they have submitted to the IDB the list of MILF members subject to decommissioning.

“We are confident the decommissioning process will proceed smoothly. The government is assured of our cooperation on that matter,” Ebrahim told reporters via text message on Saturday morning.

Ebrahim, during the first ever session here on Friday of the Bangsamoro interim parliament, said they will focus on five initial solutions --- education, health, economic development, strategic infrastructures and moral leadership --- to underdevelopment in conflict-affected areas.

In a statement emailed Saturday, the IDB confirmed having received from the MILF the list of combatants to be decommissioned based on a procedure agreed by the group and Malacañang in previous peace talks.

The IDB, jointly established early on by the government and the MILF, functions on a “term of reference” agreed by both sides as its operational guideline.

The IDB said it is grateful to Turkey, Norway, Brunei, Germany, Australia and Japan for supporting the Bangsamoro peace initiative, particularly the restoration of normalcy in areas where there are MILF enclaves.

The five countries have committed to help in the decommissioning of MILF members.

The governments of Norway, Brunei, Japan and Malaysia have also been helping oversee for two decades now the implementation of the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between Malacañang and the MILF.

The provincial government of Maguindanao reiterated on Saturday its readiness to provide college scholarships to children of MILF members who are to undergo disarmament by the IDB.

The now outgoing three-termer Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu told reporters via online Messenger that the Maguindanao Program for Education and Community Empowerment, or MagPEACE, still has 2,000 slots for poor but deserving students with good academic standing.

“We are open to accommodating qualified children of MILF members due for decommissioning,” Mangudadatu said.

The MagPEACE has facilitated, since its inception eight years ago, the schooling of more than 3,000 students who are now employed professionals.

The program has produced teachers, veterinarians, a lawyer, a medical technologist and a doctor of medicine.

Mangudadatu said the MagPEACE is even willing to help children of members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who surrendered in batches in recent months.

The BIFF, which is not involved in the peace process between the government and the MILF, operates in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“We are doing this because we support the education thrust of BARMM and we in the provincial government are certain that education is one best remedy to the poverty caused by armed conflicts in Moro areas,” Mangudadatu said.

Ebrahim said he is thankful to the provincial government of Maguindanao for complementing BARMM’s peace and development efforts.

Ebrahim said the MILF also got elated with how provincial and municipal executives in Maguindanao campaigned for the ratification via the January 21 plebiscite of BARMM’s charter, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (Republic Act 11054).

The RA 11054 paved the way for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with BARMM, a product of more than 20 years of peace talks between the MILF and the national government.

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