Decommissioning of MILF starts in January 2015

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/29 November) — The decommissioning of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will start by January next year, a senior official of the rebel group said on Saturday.

MILF peace panel member Datu Antonio Kinoc said the decommissioning or disarmament of the MILF fighters will be gradual and that it could take years to implement.

“This is what I heard from our discussions in the peace panel,” Kinoc said, confirming earlier reports quoting MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal as saying the “ceremonial “decommissioning will take place in its main camp in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao by January next year.

Kinoc said a total of 75 firearms including a crew-served heavy machinegun will be decommissioned as “a sign of good faith” by the MILF to the peace agreement.

He said the decommissioning will be done gradually until both the government and the MILF sign an exit agreement that would indicate all provisions in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro have been implemented.

“The firearms that will be decommissioned in January will represent one percent of the total firearms of the MILF. That is our agreement,” Kinoc said.

He said the next phase of the decommissioning of 30 percent of MILF firearms will take place by April 2015 or as soon as the 15th Congress has passed the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

He said the third phase of the decommissioning representing another 3o percent of firearms will be done once the Bangsamoro government is installed.

“The final decommissioning of 34 percent of our firearms will be made once the exit agreement is signed by us and the Philippine government,” Kinoc said.

The MILF leader said the decommissioning was scheduled for Nov. 17 but was cancelled for still unspecified reasons.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) estimated that the MILF had 12,000 armed fighters before Commander Ameril Umra Kato broke away from the group to form the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) sometime in 2010.

Kato’s unit launched attacks in 2008 after the Supreme Court declared the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) as unconstitutional.

The rebels have high-powered assault rifles like M16 and M14 rifles as well as a number of crew-served machineguns like the 50 caliber Browning in their arsenal.

Decommissioning is one of the provisions in the government-MILF peace pact.

Former Iligan City mayor Lawrence Cruz raised the issue of decommissioning during the House public hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Iligan on Friday.

Cruz, who opposed the MOAD-AD, said he was wary because the mechanics of the disarmament are not clear in the proposed Bangsamoro law.

“This is very dangerous because the disarmament issue is not clearly stated in black and white in the proposed law. What we have are side agreements which are not official,” he said.

He said disarming the MILF rebels until an exit agreement is crafted and signed by both parties was worrisome for the entire Mindanao.

“Will the MILF combatants be free to roam side by side with the Bangsamoro police force and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines?” Cruz asked.

“If this is the case, it can be a very worrisome, restless and volatile situation,” he added. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)

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