MILF combatants and firearms decommissioned; Duterte accepts gun from MILF chair

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COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 08 September) — The chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) handed over, at the start of the decommissioning of 30% of the MILF’s firearms and combatants on Saturday, an Israeli-made Tavor assault rifle to President Rodrigo Duterte as “a token of our very strong appreciation for what he has done to the Bangsamoro people and our homeland.”

Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim  gave the token during the implementation of the Phase 2 of the Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) at the gymnasium of the old provincial capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao.

Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao hands over a firearm as the MILF’s token of appreciation for the President’s strong political will to implement the peace agreement signed in 2014. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO4The MILF turned over 920 high-powered firearms including 81mm mortars; crew-mounted caliber 50 machineguns; and RPG 7 rocket launchers to the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) headed by Turkey.

The MILF also turned over 600 rounds for the RPG 7 rocket launchers, which Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez described as “significant considering how deadly the weapon was for government tanks and personnel.”

A total of 1,060 combatants were decommissioned, including 106 from the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade of the the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.

“We will continue to uphold our part of the bargain,” Ebrahim said.

He profusely thanked President Duterte for “his steadfast support” in the passage of RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and its ratification during a plebiscite early this year.

“We are giving him a token. This token represents our appreciation, our very strong appreciation for what he has done to the Bangsamoro people and our homeland,” he said as he handed over the gray Pelican case containing the rifle to President Duterte.

Phase 2 of the four-phase Normalization process under the Annex on Normalization signed by government and the MILF under the CAB, involves the decommissioning of 30% of the MILF’s 40,000-member BIAF and 30% of its claimed 7,000 MILF-owned firearms.

Altogether under Phase 2, a total of 12,000 combatants and 2,100 firearms will be decommissioned from September 7 until March or April next year, the processing done in eight decommissioning areas, in the MILF’s own camps.

The rest of the 40,000 combatants and 7,000 firearms will be decommissioned in the next two phases.

Ebrahim said the 1,060 MILF combatants who were decommissioned would now have a chance to live peaceful and productive lives because of government’s support.

He said the MILF mujahideens were trained to fight for their homeland.

“For many years our trainings were grounded by armed struggle. We will now face a different kind of struggle to transform ourselves into civilians,” Ebrahim said.

President Duterte said he is satisfied with the implementation of the normalization process.

Duterte said the decommissioning of firearms is a step in the right direction.

“This is a huge step in achieving lasting peace,” Duterte said

Duterte assured Ebrahim and the MILF former combatants that the government will support them in their quest for productive lives.

The government promised each of the MILF combatants who would be decommissioned a package worth a million pesos from the government, consisting of 100,000 cash, scholarships and other socio-economic benefits for him, his family and his community.

Abdullah Yosop, 53, an MILF fighter from Camp Rajamuda in Pikit, North Cotabato welcomed this support.

“Me and my brothers can go back to tilling our land which we have neglected after we became mujahideens,” Yosop said.

Yosop and four of his brothers were among the 1,060 MILF fighters that were decommissioned last Saturday.

Yosop said he and his brothers chipped in money to buy an M14 assault rifle for P80,000.

He said they would take turns in their duties with the MILF, always sharing the rifle among them.

Yosop said the rifle was also useful to them to protect them from roving bandits.

Banditry and ridos were among the reasons cited by MILF why many of their fighters were still holding on to their privately-owned firearms. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)

 

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