GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 2 June)—Aging and needing help, former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) hailed a move by legislators in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to create an agency that will serve their needs.
The region’s interim parliament hopes to pass soonest Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Bill 44 which proposes to establish a Bangsamoro Veteran Mujahideen Affairs Office (BVMAO).
BVMAO will provide financial, medical, social, and other forms of assistance, “in recognition of the sacrifices of the brave mujahideen and mujahidat who have fought for the cause of the Bangsamoro,” according to a press briefer by the BTA.
In an interview with reporters, parliament member Raissa Jajurie said they are in the process of conducting consultations to gather vital inputs for the proposed measure which they will include in a committee report to be presented in plenary.
Based on a study, Jajurie said a huge budget is needed for the monthly benefits of thousands of veteran mujahidin from both MNLF and MILF, along with other assistance to be given.
As proposed, the budget of the Bangsamoro Veteran Mujahideen Affairs Office will come from the Bangsamoro Government Fund, Jajurie said as she hinted that they are aiming the measure to be enacted before the BTA adjourns its second regular session in February next year.
The proposal, however, is frowned upon by some who served in uniform who fear that it will bring demoralization among the ranks of the Armed Forces and the Philippines National Police (PNP).
“Malaking sampal sa AFP at PNP yan (It’s a big slap to the AFP and PNP),” said retired police lieutenant Philip T. Morris in a phone interview. He was once assigned in Cotabato and Maguindanao where he experienced being ambushed and lost a colleague.
“What they did then was rebellion and must not be glorified by treating them like veterans and heroes,” Mario Almanzor told MindaNews. He once served in the defunct Philippine Constabulary in Lanao del Sur in the 1970s. “Maraming namatay, nawalan ng mga mahal sa buhay sa mga ginawa nila noon (Many died, lost loved ones with what they did then),” he said.
BTA Bill 44 defines “veteran mujahideen” as members of the MILF and MNLF who are at least 55 years old by the time the law takes effect and “had rendered revolutionary services in the protracted wars for self-determination between the Bangsamoro people and the national government for at least 20 years between 1969 and 2014.”
In the May 30 public consultations for the proposed measure in Cotabato and Marawi cities, several former combatants took turns sharing their experiences in the years of struggle and expressed elation on the planned recognition by the BARMM government of what they did, as shown in the transcript of the consultations.
Ustadz Abdulwahid Tundok, commander of the MILF 118th Base Command, said they need psychological support for the traumas they endured, aside from financial support for livelihood programs, medical assistance, social welfare programs, and educational opportunities for their children.
The wife of the renowned Tani Malaguiok of the MNLF recounted her experience as a field medic in the Bangsamoro struggle in Cotabato and Maguindanao in the 1970s.
Talking in Maguindanaon, she said what the government is considering “gives us veterans a glimmer of hope and shows that our efforts have not been in vain.”
In September, last year, an official of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said they have given financial packages to each decommissioned combatants of the MILF.
In a report by the state-run Philippines News Agency, DSWD Undersecretary for Inclusive and Sustainable Peace Alan Tanjusay said the cash aid for former MILF combatants were coursed through the Bangsamoro Transitory Family Support Package (BTFSP).
“Each decommissioned combatant gets P80,000 from BTFSP and another P20,000 as livelihood settlement grant,” Tanjusay was quoted as saying in a statement. (Rommel G. Rebollido / MindaNews)