MILF Chair Murad: ‘We also dream of living a life without guns’

DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews/30 October)– Like many other Moro men, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim seems to have resigned to the fact that at present they would find it easier to leave their wives than their guns.

But he said that once the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is realized by 2016 as proposed, many Moro men would prefer to lead normal lives with their loved ones just like other Filipino families.

“We look forward to a Bangsamoro family just like an ordinary family in other areas in the Philippines whose basic necessities are served,” Murad said in a press conference here on Saturday.

“So that is where we are looking forward, when there is security, when there is justice… They are served with their basic necessities,” he said.

“They might say, I will marry another three wives to complete my obligation,” he added, drawing laughter from Filipino and foreign reporters during the first conference he hosted after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) at Malacanang Palace on October 15.

Normalization

The FAB states that through normalization “communities can return to conditions where they can achieve their desired quality of life, which includes the pursuit of sustainable livelihoods and political
participation within a peaceful deliberative society.”

Murad said the normalization process is complex, as the decommissioning of MILF forces requires normalizing the situation on the ground.

It includes issues on policy, rehabilitation, reconstruction, development programs for people to return to their normal life, and needs for political will and determination from both parties, he added.

He clarified that there will be a graduated decommissioning of the MILF forces. He said the two panels have yet to discuss the details on their joint effort to reduce the number of firearms in the area, and the role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“In principle, we are not moving for an integration of the MILF forces because our fighters… the reason they joined the struggle is because they want to achieve the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people,” he said.

“They are not interested in becoming soldiers because if they want only to become soldiers then they might have opted not to participate anymore in the struggle and go directly for training in the Armed
Forces of the Philippines. They can also be soldiers,” he said.

Murad said they are opting for the establishment of a police force that will effectively enforce law and order in the Bangsamoro area.

The FAB states: “In a phased and gradual manner, all law enforcement functions shall be transferred from the AFP to the police force for the Bangsamoro.”

“And, once people feel that they no longer need to hold firearms because there is justice, there is security… then I think people will just voluntarily hand over their firearms and say ‘I don’t need these firearms anymore, you can keep it for us’,” Murad said.

He explained that it is logical for Moro people to aspire having firearms because they feel insecurity, injustices and oppression.

He cited that “guns and goons” became a way for political power, thus there are many warlords in the area.

“So that is why the decommissioning will be graduated. It will be gradual because it depends on the situation on the ground,” he stressed.

Murad also noted that normalization process may take years to become fully implemented.

“What is important is that there will be a detailed agreement on normalization and as far as implementation is concerned, you know, it will take long time,” he said.

He cited the case of the 1998 Northern Ireland peace agreement, known as the Good Friday Agreement signed on April 10, 1998.

“Until now they (Northern Ireland) have not completed the normalization process. They have signed the agreement, I think seven years ago, but until now they have not yet finally implemented the normalization process,” he said.

But in the case of the Bangsamoro, he stressed that what is important is that the agreement is there and both parties can move forward from there. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)

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