DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 January) – The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the decommissioning of combatants and weapons of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other aspects of the Bangsamoro peace process will be passed on to the next administration, following the failure of the 16th Congress to pass the proposed law.
The delay in the passage of the BBL affects not only the timetable for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that is supposed to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but also the process of decommissioning firearms and combatants of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and President Benigno Aquino III inspect the firearms during a ceremonial turnover at the old Maguindanao provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on June 16, 2015. The MILF turned over a total of 75 weapons as an initial step toward decommissioning. MindaNews file photo by Toto Lozano
Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by government (GPH) and the MILF on March 27, 2014, decommissioning has four phases.
The ceremonial turnover on June 16, 2015 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 of 145 members of the BIAF was only the first phase, according to the Annex on Normalization.
The first phase involves only a small number of weapons and forces decommissioned — “bonus” as MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described it to reporters before the ceremonial decommissioning, 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 – from the ratification of the BBL to the establishment and operationalization of the police force for the Bangsamoro; and the last 35% in the fourth phase, from the operationalization of the police force “up to two months before the signing of the Exit Agreement, provided that the evaluation of the panels with the participation of the Third Party Monitoring Team and Facilitator that that all the commitments of the Parties, except the remaining stage of the decommissioning, has been completed.”
The BIAF has an estimated 10,000-strong armed force.
In his speech at the decommissioning, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim reiterated they will “only accept a BBL that is in compliance with the letter and spirit of the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamor) and CAB and its annexes.”
President Aquino on the other hand commended the MILF for showing sincerity through the ceremonial handover of firearms and decommissioning of combatants despite the uncertainty over the passage of the BBL.
Addressing the legislators opposing the BBL, the President said that if there were 10 steps between them, the MILF had taken nine and a half steps. “Would you still deprive them of that last half-step?”
He urged them to “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 “willfully depriving the Moro people 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.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)