Woman power: Laisa Alamia, a Tausug, named chair of gov’t panel for deactivated MILF combatants

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 14 July) – Bangsamoro Parliament Minority Leader Laisa Alamia has been appointed chair of the government panel for decommissioned fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their communities, it was learned Wednesday.

Bangsamoro Parliament Minority Leader Laisa Alamia. Photo from the Facebook page of the Office of the Minority Leader – Bangsamoro Transition Authority

Her appointment to the Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC) came on the heels of an announcement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) that the third phase of the decommissioning process for MILF members and their weapons “will start in August.”

The task force’s mandate is to undertake “all efforts related to socioeconomic and development programs for MILF combatants and their communities.” It is led by designated representatives from the government and the MILF.

“This assignment ties in with her work as member of the Bangsamoro Parliament where she has consistently authored and supported progressive legislation and programs that focus on transitional justice and reconciliation,” a statement from her office said.

The Bangsamoro Parliament is run by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim body tasked to govern the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) until June 30, 2022 when the new set of elected officials shall have taken their oaths of office. However, there have been calls to postpone the BARMM elections and extend the transition period for three more years until 2025.

Aside from working on women’s and children’s issues, Alamia has also advocated for the rights and welfare of decommissioned combatants who stand to benefit from reintegration support that the government has promised early on in the peace process, the statement added.

Alamia assumed her post after the recommendation from the Philippine government’s Peace Implementing Panel (GPH-PIP) that notes her “deep understanding of the Bangsamoro context and its socioeconomic environment along with her technical expertise and vast experience and network in the local community,” it said.

Ariel Hernandez, chair of the government’s Joint Normalization Committee and member of the GPH-PIP, told MindaNews they asked Alamia to head the government’s TFDCC because of her background with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and her familiarity with the Bangsamoro region.

Alamia, a Tausug from Basilan and nominated by the government to the BTA, was former executive secretary of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during the term of then governor Mujiv Hataman.

She replaced OPAPP Undersecretary Allan Pajarillo, who heads the agency’s finance and administration services, Hernandez said.

The other members of the government’s TFDCC are Social Welfare Undersecretary Felicisimo Budiongan and Interior and Local Governments Assistant Secretary Alexander Macario, he added.

Their counterparts in the MILF are Abdullah Pacasem (chair) and members Engr. Abdulmaomit Tomawis and Abbas Salung, Hernandez said.

When asked for a date when the third phase of the decommissioning process will start, Hernandez replied that “it could be known by next week.”

Earlier this month, OPAPP Undersecretary David Diciano, chair of the GPH-PIP, said that the government and the MILF are eyeing to start the third phase of the decommissioning process in August.

Phase 3 involves 35 percent of the 40,000-strong MILF, which waged a decades-old war with the government in an initial bid for Moro self-rule in Mindanao that eventually concluded in negotiated autonomy.

Diciano said the government and the MILF peace panels have been finding ways to jumpstart key normalization programs in the region.

The decommissioning of MILF combatants and the transformation of their camps are part of the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB is thel peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations. The signing of the CAB paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in January 2019 following the plebiscite that ratified Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM.

In September 2019, the Phase 2 of the decommissioning process was launched in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao with President Rodrigo Duterte as the main guest. It involved 12,000 MILF members and at least 2,100 assorted weapons “in a process that was completed in March 2020,” according to the foreign-led Independent Decommissioning Body.

Each deactivated MILF fighter was promised a million peso package of assistance, which includes livelihood and shelter, and 100,000 pesos.  The 12,000 decommissioned fighters have received only the cash component and are still waiting for the rest of the package.

In 2015, former President Benigno Aquino III led the Phase 1 of the decommissioning process involving 145 MILF fighters and 75 high-powered weapons also in Sultan Kudarat town.

Diciano admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the implementation of the normalization track due to budget realignments for the government’s COVID-19 interventions across the country and the movement restrictions imposed by local governments to curb the spread of the virus. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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