COTABATO CITY (September 7, 2019) — The decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants and their weapons is not a sign of capitulation but rather a symbol of their organization’s sincerity and determination to push forward the Bangsamoro peace process.

This was stressed by Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Interim Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim a day before the decommissioning of 1,060 MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members and 920 of their weapons.

Steadfast commitment to peace process

“I would like to emphasize that we have not given up what we used to fight for. It is simply to demonstrate our full commitment to fulfilling our obligations and responsibilities in the peace agreement we signed with the government,” Murad said in a media forum here.

The decomissioning of the MILF-BIAF members will be handled by the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB).

The IDB was established by the GPH and MILF Implementing Panels in 2014 to oversee the decommissioning process of combatants under the normalization track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“Decommissioning is the first step in achieving our goal to return our combatants to civilian but productive life,” Murad said, noting the decommissioned fighters will be receiving socio-economic packages which include health benefits, scholarships, housing and livelihood projects.

“Through these interventions, our combatants will be able to return to mainstream society. We will be able to transform our combatants from revolutionary forces to civilian life,” Murad said.

Independent Decommissioning Body

At the same forum, IDB Chairman and Turkey Ambassador Fatih Ulosoy lauded the MILF and Philippine Government for sustaining the gains of peace through the implementation of the Bangsamoro peace agreement.

“I would like to commend the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for reaching another milestone in the Bangsamoro peace process – the decommissioning of MILF combatants and their weapons,” Ulosoy said.

He underscored that the IDB must work with full adherence to confidentiality. In order to effectively carry out its mandate, the body has developed guidelines and protocols to ensure that the decommissioning process will be done with utmost impartiality and integrity.

“The presence of President Duterte at all stages of the peace process attest to the solid will of the GPH. The MILF, on their side has repeatedly shown its sincerity to work together with the government, and this event is a clear example of that,” Ulosoy said.

Another milestone

In the meantime, Presidential Adviser on Peace Reconciliation and Unity Carlito G. Galvez Jr. highlighted the significance of the decommissioning process and its impact on the Bangsamoro peace process.

“We are celebrating another key milestone in the peace process: the decommissioning of MILF-BIAF members and their weapons. The decommissioning process will enable the MILF combatants to return to mainstream society as productive and peaceful citizens,” Galvez said.

“By and large, the decommissioning of MILF-BIAF members is a clear testament of the MILF’s desire to sustain the gains of the peace process, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s political will and unwavering commitment to fulfil all signed peace agreements,” he added.

According to Galvez, decommissioning is not only disarming, “but is a whole process of changing the mindset” of the combatants and “changing the social conditions on how we can really have a peaceful life.”

He pointed out this peaceful life can only be achieved by “removing the conditions” which makes the use of firearms a necessity. “And we can only remove [those conditions] by showing your sincerity [and] removing those firearms as a tool to live.”

“With the thrust of the current leadership of BARMM for moral governance, I believe in the near future, [in] three or five years from now, we will see the difference that the social conditions now will not necessitate the need to have firearms,” Galvez said.

Skills training for decommissioned combatants 

Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) signed a Memorandum of Agreement to formalize a partnership between the two agencies.

In his remarks, Galvez, who represented OPAPP in the signing, said all of the initiatives under the MOA are anchored on the normalization track of the CAB, and aim to assist decommissioned MILF members make the transition to peaceful and productive civilian life.

“TESDA’s assistance will focus on developing skills training programs and providing scholarship grants that will help these former combatants find better employment opportunities, earn a decent living, and support the needs of their families,” he said.

“TESDA’S involvement in the decommissioning process is a demonstration of the national government’s integrated, holistic approach in capacitating these decommissioned combatants, and helping them return to mainstream society,” Galvez added.

For his part, TESDA Director General Isidro Lapeña thanked OPAPP for partnering with his agency in line with the national government’s efforts to help the decommissioned combatants return to mainstream society.

OPAPP and TESDA are both members of the Inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization (ICCMN), which was established in order to create a greater convergence of efforts among national government agencies in the implementation of the normalization track.

“TESDA is committed to help in the transformation process [of decommissioned combatants]. If you want to have a good job, you need to have the [necessary] training. [Good] training is the gateway to opportunities,” Lapeña said. ###