CARMEN, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 2 Aug) – Not long ago, they fired at each other every time they meet in the field.
Now, they are together, still in uniform, not as enemies but as comrades.
Combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are still in disbelief as they started military training starting Aug. 1 inside Camp Lucero, home of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade here.
“The feeling is great, the feeling is exciting. I never thought coming in here without being shot at,” said Abdul Nur, one of the 225 MILF combatants undergoing a month-long Joint Peacekeeping and Security Team (JPST) Basic Military Training along with government forces.
The training is part of the normalization process while implementing the GPH and MILF peace agreement.
Under the agreement, 3,000 MILF members will undergo training under the JPST for them to serve as community police in their respective areas. If they qualify, they can be absorbed either in the Armed Forces or in the Philippine National Police.
The government also has to train 1,600 policemen and 1,400 military personnel from outside the MILF to compose a 6,000-strong combined security forces.
Primarily, they will be tasked to secure officials performing the decommissioning process of other MILF fighters, particularly the International Decommissioning Body (IDB).
Their task also covers the transport of MILF members set to be decommissioned who will deposit their firearms in a designated site. The former combatants will then be brought to a processing area where they will be interviewed and profiled until they are brought back to their respective communities.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez said members of JPST will also help the police and the military in the fight against terrorism and illegal drugs in their respective communities.
Galvez told the trainees that once they complete the training, they will form part of the legal security and peacekeepers in their respective communities.
Abdulraof Macacua, chief of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF, said he too never thought his subordinates will set foot inside an Army camp and be given training by government soldiers, their erstwhile enemies.
OPAPP Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso, himself a military man who retired recently, explained the issue of parity as far as the MILF and security forces are concerned.
Under the law, only Philippine soldiers and police are allowed to carry guns. “With this arrangement, the MILF will become like reservists and they will secure the decommissioning area,” Hermoso said. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)