MILF to initially decommission1,800 to 2,100 weapons; 9K to 12K forces

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 January) – With the plebiscite results showing the certainty of ratification of RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the decommissioning of the weapons and combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) is also a certainty: immediately after ratification, it has to decommission 30% of its weapons and forces.

But how to reckon 30%? What is the base number?

Decommissioning is a four-phase process under the Annex on Normalization in accordance with the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace agreement signed by government and the MILF.

Government Peace Panel chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer inspects decommissioned firearms of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during a ceremony at the old Maguindanao provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat town on June 16, 2015. Seventy five firearms are being turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body by the MILF. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Under Phase 1, a ceremonial turnover of 20 crew-served weapons and 55 high-powered firearms to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) was done on June 16, 2015 at the gymnasium of the old provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, in the presence of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. On the same day, 145 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, were also decommissioned.

The first phase involved only a small number of weapons and forces decommissioned — “bonus” as MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told reporters that day of the symbolic turnover in 2015.

Under Phase 2, the Annex provides that when the Bangsamoro law is ratified, 30% of the forces and weapons would be decommissioned. Under Phase 3, 35% more would be decommissioned, and in Phase 4, the last 30%.

Government had estimated the armed strength of the MILF at 10,000.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said they have “30,000 to 40,000” regular members of the BIAF that “will be subject for decommissioning.” He said they are “not necessarily all armed but all are under the official roster of the BIAF.”

Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters raise their firearms in jubilation in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao province as soon as their leaders signed the Framework agreement on the bangsamoro Malacanang on Oct. 15, 2012. MindaNews photo by BONG SARMIENTO

Murad said the MILF-owned weapons are only 6,000 to 7,000 and they are reckoning the 30% to be decommissioned after the ratification from this number. Thirty per cent of “6,000 to 7,000” is 1,800 to 2,100 weapons.

“Automatic, ide-decommission yan, pati forces” (Automatically, they would be decommissioned, including the forces), he told MindaNews on January 18, after the Peace Assembly attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

A member of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces watches from a distance from under the shade of a banana plant the arrival of the Philippine National Police’s Board of Inquiry on Tuesday (24 February 2015), at the cornfields where the bodies of 35 of the 44 slain SAF members were found. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Ebrahim explained their three categories: 6,000 to 7,000 weapons owned by the MILF itself; weapons owned by individual members and they are presently conducting a survey on it; and weapons of sympathizers.

He said there are weapons that are “pag-aari ng combatants. Binili nila yun” (they bought those).

“Yung weapons owned by the combatants and civilians, pag-uusapan pa kung paano ma compensate ang may-ari” (we are still discussing how to compensate the owners), Murad told MindaNews Thursday.

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stand at attention at the end of the four-day Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly inside Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on 9 July 2012. MindaNews file photo by ERWIN MASCARINAS

The 30% of forces to be decommissioned, he said, would be reckoned from “30,000 to 40,000” on the BIAF roster – or 9,000 to 12,000 of them.

All together, after ratification, 30% of weapons and forces would be 1,800 to 2,100 weapons and 9,000 to 12,000 forces, Murad said.

The date for the 30% decommissioning has yet to be discussed but it will be after the proclamation that RA 11054 has been ratified by a majority of the people in its proposed core territory.

The plebiscite was held on Janurary 21 in the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the cities of Cotabato and Isablea. On February 6, voters in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato will also troop to the polls to ratify the law that would pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the new autonomous political entity that will replace the ARMM.

Four phases 

Phase 1 of the Normalization process is “from the signing of the Annex on Normalization up to the completion of the verification and validation conducted by the IDB.”

The Annex was signed on January 25, 2014.

GPH-MILF Annex on Normalizattion

Phase 1 included the ceremonial turn over of 20 crew-served weapons and 55 high-powered firearms in June 2015. Phase 1 also included starting the process of redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from former conflict areas and the submission of the report of the Independent Commission on Policing, among others.

It should also have established the National Agency Task Force for the Disbandment of the PAGs (private armed groups) and Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission. These two bodies have not been set up.

Phase 2 is “from the completion of validation of MILF forces up to the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)” which will then involve the decommissioning of 30% of MILF forces and weapons; Phase 3 is “from the ratification of (RA 11054) up to the establishment and operationalization of the police force for the Bangsamoro,” which will lead to the decommissioning of 35% more of MILF forces and weapons or a total of 65% by then.

Phase 4 is “from the operationalization of the police force for the Bangsamoro up to two months prior to 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 all the commitments of the parties, except the remaining stage of decommissioning, has been completed.” This last phase involves the decommissioning of the remaining MILF forces and weapons or a total of 100% by then.

Normalization does not involve only the decommissioning of the MILF but also the redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from the conflict areas.

DECOMMISSIONED. President Aquino with Ambassador Haydar Berk of Turkey, chair of the Independent Decommissioning Body, pass by the area of processing the decommissioning of 145 combatants of the MILF, inside the gymnasium of the old Maguindanoa provincial captiol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

In Phase 1, the Joint Normalization Committee recommends criteria for AFP redeployment, with the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) and Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST) initiating work on disbandment of PAGs.

Phase 2, which ends with the ratification of (RA11054) marks the start of the implementation of AFP redeployment; deactivation of the S/CAAs or the Special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit; actions against PAGs; firearms control and management.

Phase 3 continues with the implementation of AFP redeployment; continuing actions against PAGs; firearms control and management while Phase 4 involves continuing redeployment; continuing actions against PAGs; firearms control and management.

January 25, 2019 is exactly five years to the day the Annex on Normalization was signed in Kuala Lumpur by then government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Iqbal. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

READ ALSO:

Delayed BBL passage = delayed decommissioning of MILF firearms, combatants

Pinoy and Murad: a chance to right the narrative; transformation, not surrender 

Decommissioning’s significance: “ a promise of peace after Mamasapano”

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