More than P1-million package awaits every decommissioned MILF combatant

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 27 Aug) – A package worth P100,000 in cold cash, housing and social services worth P950,000 awaits every Moro combatant set to be decommissioned, according to lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Armed MILF troops inside Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Sinarimbo, who is also BARMM’s Minister of Interior and Local Government, said in a press briefing today that the non-cash package include “social protection that includes health benefits, scholarships and other social services, including the housing for the family of combatants.”

Before his current posts at BARMM, Sinarimbo was part of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Technical Working Group and legal consultant during the long peace negotiations.

“Overall our goal is that combatants will not only get cash assistance but for them to have a transition to a civilian life from being a rebel, and become a productive member of the community,” he added.

The women and young combatants of the MILF will be the first in line in the processing and profiling as the decommissioning process started this week, which will pave the way for the combatants to lead normal lives.

Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso, of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), confirmed that the top priorities are the vulnerable sectors of the MILF.

Initial works for the profiling and processing of combatants started today until Thursday, in preparation to the scheduled ceremonial decommissioning set on Sept. 7, which will be attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

It is expected that a total of 1,060 combatants will be decommissioned by then, and around 920 firearms will be turned over to a third party group, which is the International Decommissioning Body (IDB).

The IDB will store the firearms in an agreed area.

Crew-served weapons like machine guns and rapid propelled-grenades and small arms or rifles will be the first to be demobilized.

Hermoso, who is also Minister of Transportation and Communication, said that the political and legislative aspects of the peace agreement has already been given to the MILF in the form of the BARMM.

“Now we are into the security aspect, to which MILF has to comply to what has been agreed upon. And they will subject themselves into the decommissioning,” noted Hermoso.

From peace negotiations, they are now in the stage of peace implementation, said the retired military official.

The initial decommissioning phase happened on June 16, 2016 witnessed by then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, wherein 20 crew-served weapons and 55 high-powered firearms were turned over to the IDB and 145 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members were decommissioned in a ceremony.

The decommissioning for the 40,000 MILF combatants will be in three tranches.

In the first tranche, 30% of the forces and weapons of the MILF would be decommissioned when the Bangsamoro law is ratified, as stated in the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement between government and the MILF signed in March 2014.

The ongoing decommissioning is part of this phase.

The second tranche will cover the next 35% of around 14,000 combatants, and 14,000 more in the last tranche.

For the 40,000 MILF members set to be decommissioned, the government will shell out more than P40 billion in assistance package.

The old capitol of Maguindanao in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat will serve as one of the Assembly and Processing Areas (APA) for the decommissioned combatants. There are nine APAs area all over Mindanao covered in the decommissioning process.

Combatants will be gathered and secured by the teams of Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) composed of combined military, police and MILF members who are now treated as part of the government’s reservist force.

During the profiling, the combatants will be asked about their socio-demographic profiles, and will be assisted to secure birth or marriage certificates and other documents if they have none.

They have the option to choose what livelihood or education packages they want. Government socio-economic teams are on standby during the process.

“If they want to be a farmer, we have the Ministry of Agriculture. If they want fisheries, we have a ministry to assist, or if they want to study, the Ministry of Education is willing to assist them,” Hermoso said. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)

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