Iqbal urges Marcos to hasten amnesty program for MILF members

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 09 October 2022) –  The chair of the Peace Implementing Panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is urging President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to fast-track the grant of amnesty to members who committed crimes punishable under the revised penal code and special penal laws in furtherance of their political beliefs. 

This after 523 application folders for amnesty from members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) were handed over on October 4 to MILF Peace Implementing Panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, who serves as Minister of Basic, Higher and Technical Education of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). 

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) who will be decommissioned arrive at the Old Capitol complex in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat on September 7, 2019, for the launch of the second phase of the decommissioning process. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

The BIAF is the MILF’s armed wing that is currently undergoing decommissioning,  The decommissioning of 40,000 combatants started in June 2015. 

The government and MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations, paving the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao  (BARMM) in 2019. 

Iqbal received the application folders from the Action for Advancement and Development Mindanao (AFADMin).

“It is my hope and sincere recognition that the process of granting amnesty should be fast-tracked basically by the government. On the part of the MILF peace panel, this is a very important aspect of the normalization process,” Iqbal was quoted as saying by the Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO).

“If it is [being] analyzed through ideological considerations, the MILF has not done wrong but it is part of global conflict resolutions or methodologies,” added Iqbal.

AFADMin, a non-government organization gathered the applications from within and outside BARMM, including those detained at Camp Bagong Diwa and the New Bilibid Prison in Metro Manila.

The BARMM comprises the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato; and 63 villages from six towns in North Cotabato known as the Special Geographic Area.

Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, said the creation of the NAC is still under process, with a target to constitute it before the end of the year.

President Rodrigo Duterte on February 5 last year issued four proclamations –granting amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Proclamation 1090), Moro National Liberation Front (1091), Rebolusyonaryong Partido Ng Manggagawa Ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army / Alex Boncayao Brigade (1092) and the “Communist Terrorist Group” (1093), apparently referring to the New People’s Army. 

Proclamation 1090 notes the urgent need and expressed desire to extend amnesty 
“to members of the MILF as an instrument of reconciliation and as a path for their return to a peaceful, democratic, and pluralistic society.” 

In support of the amnesty program for MILF members, Lanao del Sur First District Rep. Ziaur-Rahman “Zia” Alonto Adiong filed House Resolution 193 on August 8, urging Marcos to consider the immediate appointment of the seven members of the NAC, pursuant to Executive Order No. 125 signed by Duterte also on February 5 last year. 

Of the seven members, four are ex-officio members — namely, Justice Secretary, Defense Secretary, Interior Secretary, and the Presidential Adviser On Peace, Reconciliation, And Unity..

In the BIO report, lawyer Badrodin Maguindra, AFADMin consultant, said that under Proclamation 1090, amnesty applications by MILF members will be done individually.

“You to have to go to the amnesty commission and prove to the commissioners that you’ve done so in furtherance of the political ideologies of the MILF,” he added.

Under 1090, amnesty shall be granted to members of the MILF who have committed crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special laws in the country, including rebellion or insurrection, sedition and illegal assembly, among others.

The proclamation also states that the amnesty program is an integral component of the government’s peace efforts and part of the implementation of the 2014 peace agreement. 

The Annex on Normalization of the CAB provides for the decommissioning of the BIAF and the transformation of their camps into peaceful and productive economic zones, among other agreements. 

The third phase of the decommissioning process for the 40,000-strong MILF started in November 2021, involving 35 percent or 14,000 individuals.

Since the start of decommissioning in 2015 during the Aquino administration, a total of 19,345 MILF combatants have been decommissioned, while 2,175 weapons were put beyond use.

The first phase of decommissioning was held in 2015 wherein 145 MILF members and 75 of their weapons were decommissioned. The second phase was held in 2019, during the Duterte administration, which saw the decommissioning of 12,000 MILF members and 2,100 of their weapons.

The Independent Decommissioning Body, chaired by Turkey, is overseeing the process. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)