Delayed BBL passage = delayed decommissioning of MILF firearms, combatants

SIMUAY, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 17 June) – The continued delay in the passage of the proposed Bangsamro Basic Law (BBL) is affecting the timetable not only of the establishment of the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but also the process of decommissioning firearms and combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

PARTNERS IN PEACE. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on stage at the ceremonial decommissioning on Tuesday at the gymnasium of the old Maguindanao Capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
PARTNERS IN PEACE. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on stage at the ceremonial decommissioning on Tuesday at the gymnasium of the old Maguindanao Capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Tuesday’s ceremonial turnover of 55 high-powered and 20 crew-served weapons to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) in the presence of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, and the decommissioning of145 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, is only the first of four phases agreed upon by the Philippine government (GPH) and the MILF under the Annex on Normalization signed on January 25 last year.

The first phase involves only a small number of weapons and forces decommissioned — “bonus” as MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told reporters before the program started Tuesday morning — but the second phase, which ends with the ratification of the BBL, involves the decommissioning of thousands of weapons and combatants.

The Annex provides that when the BBl is ratified, 30% of the forces and weapons would be decommissioned, 35% more in the third phase and the last 35% in the fourth phase.

The MILF’s BIAF has an estimated 10,000-strong armed force.

Compliant with Peace agreements

In his speech, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim reiterated their publicly pronounced position on the BBL: “We will only accept a BBL that is in compliance with the letter and spirit of the FAB and CAB and its annexes.”

President Aquino said he was personally investing his time and effort for the BBL, spending a whole day until the wee hours of morning in a meeting with members of Congress, to “eventually finish reviewing and scrutinizing the draft BBL.”

DECOMMISSIONED. President Aquino with Ambassador Haydar Berk of Turkey, chair of the Independent Decommissioning Body, pass by the area of processing the decommissioning of  145 combatants of the MILF, inside the gymnasium of the old Maguindanoa provincial captiol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Tuesday, June 16. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
DECOMMISSIONED. President Aquino with Ambassador Haydar Berk of Turkey, chair of the Independent Decommissioning Body, Cabinet members and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim  pass by the area of processing the decommissioning of 145 combatants of the MILF, inside the gymnasium of the old Maguindanoa provincial captiol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Tuesday, June 16. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

He said the MILF had already shown proof of their sincerity through the ceremonial handover of firearms and decommissioning of combatants even if there is uncertainty in the passage of the BBL.

Apparently addressing legislators who are opposing the BBL, the President said in Filipino: “If there are ten steps between us, steps we must take to become closer to one another, and they have already taken nine and a half steps—would you still deprive them of that last half-step? If you look at yourself in a mirror, would your conscience not haunt you? If, in obstructing the best solution, you arrive at the point in which your family is affected, would you be able to face them and say, ‘Sorry, this happened because I kept us from realizing peace?’”

“Remember this day”

“To those crafting the law, and to those who will vote, when the time comes, in the plebiscite on the BBL: Remember this day. We who did not do our duty by them, we who put forth the wrong solutions, we who failed to do our utmost to protest and put a stop to the abuses committed against them—are we also going to seize from them the chance to live dignified and peaceful lives? Are we going to cling to baseless fears? Do we want to fall back on solutions that have already failed to rectify the problem, and which instead gave rise to more divisions and deepened the wounds caused by a lack of trust?” Aquino asked.

The equivalent of opposing the BBL, he said, is “as if you have willfully deprived them of what should be theirs—ensuring that they have no opportunity to uplift themselves; guaranteeing that they will never lay down their arms and leave conflict and struggle behind.”

He said those who say they are for peace but make the passage of the BBL difficult act as if they are “still not content with making the law pass through the eyes of nine needles, that you will add a tenth and an eleventh.”

“It is as if you have no other goal than to ensure that there is no space for peace,” he said.

He spoke about the visible and invisible costs of war. “If you will not side with peace, how many more will lose their loved ones? How many more communities will find themselves trapped in the crossfire, lacking security? How many who are already suffering will suffer even more? How long before conflict knocks on your door, and involves even your family?”

Obstacle race

In a statement, Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said the BBL, which he described as “the rock on which lasting peae and eventual economic progress in Mindanao can be built,” has “suffered much” in 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,” Hataman said, adding the peace panels have done their part, the Bangsamoro will continue to do what is necessary, including the decommissioning, “to make our dreams of lasting peace a reality.”

Hataman said he hopes the President, who has been championing the cause of the Bangsmaoro, “will do everything that is possible for the BBL to come to its fruition.”

Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, told reporters in his residence on Tuesday afternoon that it is important the BBL reflects what has been agreed upon by the government and MILF peace panels.

He said he hopes the BBL that would be passed would not be “less than the ARMM” but one that would respect the Bangsamoro’s long struggle for self-determination, and honor what has been agreed upon in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), a product of 17 years of peace negotiations.

“If the CAB cannot be recognized anymore from the versions of the (Houses of Congress), if they (MILF) cannot see their work in the CAB in these versions, they will reject it. In other words, even if Congress passes it, the MILF will reject it, and if rejected, there will be a problem about decommissioning because decommissioning depends on the implementation of (political milestones) in the CAB,” he said.

Normalization does not involve only the decommissioning of the MILF combatants and weapons but also the redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (see other story). (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)

 

  • repercussion0911.21

    Masters of deception!

    Where are the 10,000 units of firearms and fighters for Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces?