Another 14,000 MILF fighters set for deactivation starting Nov. 8

MILF weapons that were deactivated during Phase 2 in September 2019. MindaNews file photo by BONG SARMIENTO

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 5 November) – Another 14,000 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be decommissioned starting Monday, 8 November, 20 months after the deactivation of 12,000 MILF fighters were completed, MindaNews learned Friday.

 

The Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), which is tasked to oversee the deactivation of MILF fighters and their weapons, has sent out letters to government and MILF officials invited to grace another milestone in the Bangsamoro peace process.

 

Lt Col Mohammed Shalleh Ismail, IDB deputy chief of staff, said the Phase 3 decommissioning process of MILF combatants will be held Monday starting 8 a.m. at the Old Provincial Capitol in Barangay Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

 

Ismail said that in compliance with the COVID-19 health protocols, the number of individuals who will be allowed to enter the venue will be limited.

 

Turkish Ambassador to the Philippines Ahmet Idem Akay, the IDB chairperson, will spearhead the activity, which will include the signing of the wall of commitment for the Phase 3 decommissioning process.

 

Invited to grace Monday’s event are Undersecretary David Diciano, chair of the government peace implementing panel, and Bangsamoro Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace implementing panel.

 

Ariel Hernandez, co-chair of the Joint Normalization Committee representing the government side, noted the rolling out of the third phase of deactivating the MILF forces is a positive step for the Bangsamoro peace process.

 

This phase would include 14,000 MILF fighters and about 2,500 assorted weapons, based on the list submitted earlier by the MILF to the IDB.

 

The Phase 3 involves 35 percent of the 40,000-strong MILF, which waged a decades-old war with the government in a bid for Muslim self-rule in Mindanao.

 

Hernandez earlier said the government and the MILF peace implementing panels have been earnestly working for the normalization process to be felt in MILF communities.

 

The decommissioning of MILF forces is among the major provisions of the normalization aspect of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

 

The normalization phase seeks to help combatants transform into civilian lives and the recognized MILF camps into peaceful and productive economic zones.

 

President Rodrigo Duterte led the ceremonial decommissioning of 12,000 MILF fighters for the Phase 2 in September 2019, also held at the Old Provincial Capitol in Sultan Kudarat town.

 

“This is a huge step of achieving lasting peace in Mindanao,” the President had said.

 

MILF fighters who were deactivated during Phase 2 in September 2019. MindaNews file photo by BONG SARMIENTO

Each deactivated MILF fighter received P100,000 cash and a package of socio-economic promises totaling to P1 million, including education and livelihood training programs.

 

Last September, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. clarified in a Senate budget hearing that the P1 million earmarked for each of the decommissioned MILF fighters is the estimated monetary value of the socioeconomic package they are meant to receive.

 

Na-misinterpret po nila na, actually gusto nila na cash (‘yung P1 million) but we cannot do that, we cannot afford. Yung P1 million na ‘yun ay some sort of tinatawag natin na ten-year program for the combatants,” he said in a statement issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

 

Under Phase 2, at least 2,100 assorted weapons and more than 500 ammunition were also turned over by former MILF combatants to the IDB, according to OPAPP data. Phase 2 covers 30 percent of the armed members of the MILF.


It was completed in March 2020, at a time when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic started to rear its ugly head in the country.

 

The Phase 3 of the decommissioning process was supposed to roll out last year but the pandemic hampered its implementation.

 

In 2015, the late 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. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)