EO on normalization a big boost to Bangsamoro peace deal, MILF says

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Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants in a military formation at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao. MILF fighters will be decommissioned in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace deal between the government and the MILF signed in 2014. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/03 May) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is hoping President Duterte’s recent signing of Executive Order 79 for the implementation of the Annex on Normalization will fast track the transformation of Moro combatants into productive members of mainstream society.

Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, better known as Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the MILF chair, lauded Duterte for signing the measure that will pave the way for the demobilization of MILF fighters and their weapons.

Ebrahim, whom Duterte appointed as interim Chief Minister of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), stressed the normalization track of the Bangsamoro peace process is “now very much lagging behind the political track.”

“It (signing of EO 79) is a welcome development as it will hasten the implementation of the normalization track of the GPH (Government of the Philippines)-MILF peace process,” he said in a text message early this week.

The Annex on Normalization is part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace deal signed by the government and the MILF in 2014 after four decades of conflict that left over 120,000 people dead, including civilians.

The political track of the CAB was achieved with the passage of the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM), which was ratified during two plebiscites held earlier this year that led to the establishment of the new political setup.

The BARMM, which replaced the 29-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato.

Von Al Haq, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, assured they will comply with the demobilization of forces and weapons as stated in the normalization annex.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. said that Duterte’s approval of EO 79 “marks another milestone in the decades-long Bangsamoro peace process and signals the full implementation of the normalization track.”

Galvez said the key to the successful implementation of the normalization phase will largely depend on the involvement of the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the body that will govern the new region until the election of regular officials in 2022.

“More than anything else, the BTA, under the leadership of (Ebrahim), can serve as a symbol of solidarity, reconciliation and more importantly, inclusivity in the region,” he said.

Galvez said the normalization phase will cover the six MILF-recognized camps — Camp Bilal in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, Camp Omar ibn al-Kattab in Maguindanao, Camp Rajamudah in North Cotabato and Maguindanao, Camp Busrah Somiorang in Lanao del Sur and Camp Abubakar as-Siddique in Maguindanao.

He added that other locations where decommissioned combatants are residing may be identified for inclusion later on by the GPH and MILF Implementing Panels.

“The main goal of normalization is to help these former rebels return to the folds of the law and regain their lives,” Galvez said.

He earlier said that 12,000 MILF combatants and their weapons will be decommissioned within the year.

The ceremonial decommissioning of 145 MILF fighters took place under the term of former President Benigno Aquino III. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)

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