‘Decommissioning of 12,000 MILF members may be finished by November’

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KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/25 April) – The names of the 12,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who will be decommissioned this year have been submitted to the foreign-led Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. said on Thursday.

Fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will undergo a demobilization process as part of the peace agreement signed with government in March 2014. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

He noted the IDB had held a simulation exercise that showed that 250 to 300 MILF combatants and their weapons could be processed daily.

“The IDB gave an assurance that if they will start the verification, processing and validation in June, they can finish the decommissioning of the 12,000 MILF combatants by October or November,” Galvez told MindaNews in a text message.

The 12,000 comprise 30 percent of the total 40,000 MILF members who will be decommissioned as key milestones are achieved, according to Galvez.

The ceremonial decommissioning of 145 combatants was completed in 2015 under former President Benigno Aquino III, following the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace deal signed by the government and the MILF a year earlier.

The IDB is chaired by Turkey and composed of a representative each from Norway and Brunei and four local experts jointly nominated by the government and the MILF.

Its main task is to verify, register and inventory the MILF fighters and their weapons.

On Tuesday, top military and police officials and MILF base commanders gathered at the 6th Infantry Division in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao to discuss the smooth implementation of the normalization track.

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, also the MILF chair popularly known as Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, backed the need to jumpstart the normalization process.

“These combatants and their communities must be transformed… and the first to receive the true dividends of peace. If we can be successful in this respect, we would have the best argument that there is indeed value and hope in the peace process, contrary to what other groups believe in,” Murad said in a speech provided to this reporter.

Eduard Guerra, BARMM’s Minister of Finance, Budget and Management and co-chair of the Joint Normalization Committee, delivered Ebrahim’s message.

But BARMM Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Abdulraof Macacua admitted the normalization phase could face glitches even from within the MILF ranks .

“It may be difficult for some of the MILF combatants to give up their firearms because of their great dependence on these weapons for more than 40 years of struggle,” said Macacua, also known as Sammy Almansoor and Sammy Gambar, chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing,

The decommissioning of MILF fighters and their weapons is part of the Annex on Normalization of the CAB.

The peace accord has two tracks: the political track, which was completed with the passage of the Organic Law for the BARMM, and the normalization track, which also includes the dismantling of private armed groups, as well as the transformation of several camps into progressive and resilient communities.

In a press statement, Galvez asked the BIAF front and base commanders to work together with the state security forces to ensure order in their communities once the formal decommissioning process begins. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)

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