MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 7 Sep) – As many in the Bangsamoro region hailed the Senate’s passage of the bill to move elections in the area to 2025 and thus extend the term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), some disgruntled mujahideen are expressing their frustrations on the peace process and the leadership of the autonomous region.
At a small gathering here in Marawi City on September 1, mujahideen or fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), openly aired how they thought the issues they fought for are not being carried by the MILF leadership.
“Those who have benefited now are not genuine fighters of the MILF. They are technocrats who have not dirtied their hands for the revolution,” said “Tano,” a 55-year-old BIAF fighter who asked not to be named for security reasons.
Another mujahid, “Aisha,” a 42-year-old veteran, said: “I patiently brewed coffee for the fighters so they have warm stomachs during the fighting but now I was told I have no job under the BARMM.”
These are common complaints among the 40,000-strong BIAF of the MILF, which officials of the government and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) admit have become a problem.
Ariel Hernandez, co-chair of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Joint Normalization Division, said they are looking at the problem with growing concern.
“This is a problem that should be addressed by the MILF leadership. We cannot intrude on this problem otherwise the MILF would accuse us of interfering with their problem,” he said.
Aside from that, Hernandez noted that the MILF leadership had to contend with the issue of extension of the BTA.
The Bangsamoro parliament had requested Congress to extend BTA until 2025 to allow further time to transition, and so far got the Senate’s nod. (See separate story.)
Hernandez said the issue of decommissioning the MILF fighters and their firearms are among those not yet resolved.
He said under phase 2 of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the MILF and government in 2014, 12,000 fighters or 30 percent of the rebel forces and their firearms were decommissioned.
Hernandez said Phase three, involving 14,000 fighters, would see the final stage of decommissioning of MILF fighters and their firearms.
Bangsamoro Minister of the Interior and Local Government Naguib Sinarimbo declined to reply on the issue on the demobilization, preferring that the MILF should answer it.
Sinarimbo, however, said MILF fighters should understand that the BARMM is not only for them but to all residents in the Bangsamoro region.
He said administering BARMM requires different skill sets and expertise for it to succeed.
“The skill sets and expertise needed are different from those of the fighters carrying rifles,” Sinarimbo pointed out.
He said MILF fighters should understand there are two sides of the peace process – the normalization process and establishment of BARMM.
Sinarimbo said the complaints of the MILF fighters can be addressed by the normalization process, which provided economic package for their return to normal lives.
“The MILF leaders have continuous meetings with the fighters to explain these but these issues continue to crop up,” he said.
Abel Moya, director of Pakigdait, a non-government organization advocating peace, said they have conducted meetings with the MILF fighters in Lanao del Sur and have heard these complaints.
He said they have also tried to explain to the fighters that “not all of them with be entitled to the spoils of the peace dividend.”
“There is another skill set needed for running a government. They maybe were good fighters but they cannot become good auditors and technicians,” Moya said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)