Next steps in MILF decommissioning process depend on BBL, says JNC member

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 September) – The next steps in the decommissioning process for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will depend on the progress in the deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress, a member of the Joint Normalization Committee said Monday.

“Depende lang sa BBL (It depends on the BBL), Maj. Gen. Leo Cresente Ferrer, a JNC member representing the government, told reporters during the Security Summit organized by the committee at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao.

In the House of Representatives, BBL deliberations had been stalled by lack of quorum during sessions.

In the Senate, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has supplanted the draft BBL submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission with a new bill.

These developments have led to doubts the BBL would be passed before Congress adjourns and the campaign for the 2016 election starts.

Ferrer, however, still sounded optimistic. “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The general’s statement echoed the position of GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer that “the normalization process will be implemented simultaneously with the political process”.
Coronel-Ferrer issued such statement during the special meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in September last year between the GPH and MILF peace panels to formalize the Independent Decommissioning Body and other mechanisms related to the normalization process.

The MILF has yet to submit to the IDB a list of additional combatants for decommissioning, Ferrer said.

In a media forum in Cagayan de Oro City in February this year, the MILF peace panel also declared that the pace of the normalization process would depend on the progress of the implementation of the peace agreement.

The decommissioning process started in June this year with the turnover of 75 high-powered firearms and crew-served weapons to the IDB at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. One hundred forty-five MILF fighters were also processed for their transition into civilian life.

The IDB is composed of three foreign experts from Turkey, Brunei and Norway and four local experts nominated by the GPH and MILF. Its task is to oversee the decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons.

Ferrer said they are planning to set up to 10 assembly processing areas where members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces will be convened, interviewed, and assessed based on their needs and skills, so that they can start transitioning from rebel to civilian life.

“Some persons from the government and MILF will go there to interview the combatants in order to determine if they are real MILF members. The transformation councilors will transform them into civilians,” he said.

“The JNC is tasked to undertake the primary functions of coordinating the process of normalization,” he said in his presentation.

“All movements will be coordinated and controlled by both the MILF and the government with the IDB and the existing peace mechanisms,” he said.

Under the JNC, he said the Joint Peace and Security Committee has been created, which “coordinates with the two parties and command structures on security arrangements and relevant to its functions.”

The JPSC also develops policies and operational guidelines for the effective partnership of the Joint Peace and Security Teams and coordinates the security arrangements for the activities related to the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its annexes.

“The JPSTs shall be the operating units composed of contingents of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and MILF’s BIAF,” Ferrer added.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, member of the JNC-MILF, added that one of functions of the JPST as agreed by the parties is to empower and develop new skills for the former MILF fighters as they transition into civilian life.

“There are several activities that will have to be undertaken. Skills for planning and managing projects. Planning itself is not yet the technical stage of decommissioning because it is to be undertaken in phases,” he said.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Embrahim earlier said they will continue to push for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro even if the BBL would not be passed.

Aside from the IDB and JNC, the two parties also formed theTransitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission which will undertake a study and recommend to the panels the appropriate mechanisms for transitional justice and reconciliation. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)