Preps for MILF decommissioning underway

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/31 March) – Preparations for the decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants are now underway to speed up the process once Congress approves the Bangsamoro Basic Law, government peace implementing panel head Irene Santiago said Wednesday.

During the third year commemoration of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City on Wednesday, Santiago said this is part of the normalization track as provided for in the CAB.

The parties agreed to undertake necessary measures for the transformation of the six previously acknowledged MILF camps — Abubakar-as-Siddique, Omar, Rajamuda, Bad’r, Bushra, and Bilal.

“It’s not going to be easy to have the decommissioning, for example, 9,000 combatants, if we prepare only them. We are ready preparing now. We have a plan for that,” she said.

One hundred forty-five Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces fighters and 75 firearms were decommissioned on June 16, 2015 at the old Maguindanao provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat with President Benigno S. Aquino III in attendance.

“We are, in fact, preparing a framework for the entire organization, so everything hands together. We are going from transition to transformation. Transition, meaning all basic services that are needed by this deprived communities must be there and ensure that this will continue even after six years (of Duterte administration),” she said.

She said there will be a turnover of a “confidence-building” project in the fifth MILF camp on Monday.

On March 7, as part of the confidence-building measure, representatives from the government, MILF and Mindanao Trust Fund turned over an 84-meter footbridge, two warehouses and solar dryers to over 7,000 beneficiaries from Baragnays Talitay and Rajamuda in Camp Rajamuda, Pikit, North Cotabato.

She said they are implementing the recommendations of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, including the creation of a National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission on the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB) that will “deal with the issues of historical injustice, human rights violations and land dispossession, issues that lie at the heart of this protracted conflict.”

She said the GPH and MILF implementing panels will ensure the NTJRCB is constituted but “apart form that body we are also looking at what can happen in the communities that have several human rights violations that suffered so many things.”

“These are things we don’t have to wait, for the national body to work on. The whole process of normalization is very complex process. And so, different types of groups now working on the different components of normalization. That’s going on while this is going on,” she said.

MILF peace implementing panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said “key to fast-tracking the process is the movement of the BBL, from the BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Commission) to the level of Congress of the Philippines.”

“I would say that the frustration hit every man, but hope is also being rekindled in the face of still so many things waiting to be realized, waiting implementation. Hope is one thing we cannot afford to lose,” he said.

“The leadership of the MILF has a wider latitude of understanding the complexities of the implementation process, assuming our patience is longer than that of our constituents’. But there are critical audiences whose questions and sentiments we need to address and whose patience will run dry faster way ahead than those who keep it in the peace process,” he said.

He acknowledged that the implementation is harder than the negotiation but the implementation phase “could a be long drawn-out battle which I really hope it will not be. In any case, we are prepared for the challenge.”

He said he is hoping the Congress would pass an acceptable enabling law, a mechanism that will implement the 2014 CAB.

The 21-member BTC, chaired by MILF first vice chair Ghazali Jaafar, is eyeing to submit the draft BBL before May 18 for review by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Santiago said they will submit the draft BBL by June to Congress, which is expected to be certified as urgent during Duterte’s Second State of the Nation Address on July 24. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)

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