LAMITAN, BASILAN — The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) launched the MNLF Transformation Program on Saturday, September 30, here at the Lamitan Gymnasium, marking another major milestone in the GPH-MNLF peace process.

The occasion saw the completion of the verification and socio-economic profiling process for 60 MNLF combatants from Basilan, which is the first step towards the full implementation of the MNLF Transformation Program.

The event was spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) through the GPH-MLF Management Committee, and supported by national line agencies, academe, civil society and the security sector.

The said 60 MNLF members will be among the initial beneficiaries of the Transformation Program.

MNLF Transformation Program

The MNLF Transformation Program is a realization of the government’s commitments under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. It aims to help MNLF combatants make the successful transition into productive, empowered and self-reliant individuals.

The program has four major components: security, socio-economic, confidence-building, and community healing and reconciliation.

Under the socio-economic component, MNLF combatants, their families and communities will receive assistance such as social protection consisting of Immediate financial cash assistance, health insurance (Philhealth), civil registration assistance (birth certificate/ marriage certificate) and special assistance (combatants with disabilities including their families).

Other interventions include capacity-development such as peace formation sessions; values transformation training; Alternative Learning System (ALS); financial assistance for college students; livelihood assistance which include cash-for-work and livelihood investment support through skills training and enrollment to Philippine Health program.


Verification and Socio-economic Profiling

Aside from the 60 MNLF members who will be among the pioneering beneficiaries of the Transformation Program, another 407 combatants shall undergo the verification and socio- economic profiling process from October 2 to 6 in Basilan.

The socio-economic profiling is the initial process that will ensure the proper documentation of MNLF combatants so they can avail of socio-economic and livelihood assistance. It aims to gather data that will help in crafting their individual development plans.

Each of the MNLF combatants who underwent the process received transitional cash assistance amounting to Php 45,000 from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

During the ceremony, GPH Management Committee Chair and OPAPRU Presidential Assistant Cesar B. Yano explained the rationale in choosing Basilan as the pilot-site of the Transformation Program.

“We, in the GPH-MNLF Management Committee, chose the province of Basilan because we saw that the MNLF Transformation Program is in line with various existing programs implemented by the Provincial Government,” Yano said.

For his part, MNLF Management Committee Chair Uttoh Salem Cutan emphasized the key role of LGUs in the Transformation Program’s implementation.

“Rest assured that this Transformation Program being done by the MNLF and GPH will always have a coordination to all local government (units) not only in Basilan but in the entire Bangsamoro homeland,” Cutan said..

Grateful for assistance

The first 60 MNLF combatants who completed the verification and socio-economic profiling process have high hopes that their lives and the welfare of their families will significantly improve.

MNLF member Almid Albad shared that he and his comrades are happy with the implementation of the MNLF Transformation program, as it will be a big help uplifting their socio-economic conditions.

Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman Salliman thanked the national government, especially the OPAPRU, for supporting Basilan in the implementation of initiatives that have significantly improved peace, security and development conditions in the province.

Salliman committed that the Basilan provincial government will continue to support the national government’s peacebuilding and development efforts in their province.

DSWD USec. Alan Tanjusay also gave his agency’s commitment to support the roll out of the MNLF Transformation Program that seeks to bring genuine peace and sustainable development in the province.

Tanjusay assured the MNLF combatants that they will receive the socio-economic benefits based on the commitment made by the government under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

Mindanao State University Chancellor Dr. Nagder J Abdurahman threw his university’s support behind the implementation of the national government’s peacebuilding interventions, particularly the verification and socio-economic profiling of MNLF combatants.

Eng. Akan G Tula of the Philippine Statistics Agency said his agency will continue to ensure that all MNLF combatants, their families and communities will undergo the civil registration process, as he reaffirmed PSA’s commitment to support the GPH-MNLF peace process.

Support of security sector

11th Infantry Division Commander MGen. Ignatius Patrimonio shared that the creation of Joint Task Force Orion will help ensure peace and security in Basilan and Sulu, and will be a reliable partner in the implementation of the MNLF Transformation Program.

Patrimonio also read a message from AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner, Jr. (PA) who said the AFP “ensures to further strengthen its commitment and remain steadfast in pursuing peace in the Bangsamoro Region as a symbol of sincerity of the government.”

Brawner commended the historic launch of the MNLF Transformation program, saying it is a “pivotal milestone in reaffirming the unwavering belief in the power of dialogue and reconciliation to fulfill the remaining commitment under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.”

PBGen. Augustus Percival Placer of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Peace Process Office assured the MNLF combatants that the PNP will continue to guide and support their transition process andl pave the way to a better future.

Placer reminded the MNLF members to remain open to change and learning as they participate in the Transformation Program.

A guide for future peace initiatives

MNLF Chair Muslimin Sema hopes that the successful implementation of the Transformation Program will serve as a guide for the OPAPRU and MNLF in carrying out future interventions.

According to Sema, the program is a significant development in the GPH-MNLF peace process.

He expressed the MNLF’s whole-hearted decision “to be part…of the Republic of the Philippines” and that through the MNLF Transformation Program, “our (MNLF) forces will be transformed socially, economically, everything so that our dream of having peace in our homeland, our dream of changing our armaments into computers and ballpens, will be realized.”

Meanwhile, Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez Jr. commended the invaluable support of OPAPRU’s implementing local and national partners in the successful launching of the Transformation Program.

Galvez also called for the continued support, participation and cooperation of the MNLF combatants, as he assured them that the national government remains committed to fulfill the commitments it had made under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

“Ang inyong partisipasyon sa programang ito ay simbolo ng inyong determinasyon na tumulong upang pangalagaan ang ating mga nakamit na panalo sa ilalim ng prosesong pangkapayapaan. Dahil dito, masasabi nating abot-kamay na po natin ang mga dibidendo ng kapayapaan hindi lamang sa inyong mga komunidad kundi sa buong probinsya ng Basilan,” he said.

Galvez assured the MNLF combatants that the MNLF Transformation Program will serve as an avenue to uplift, transform and empower them, as well as their families and communities.

“Sa mga miyembro ng MNLF, makatitiyak po kayo na ang inyong aktibong paglahok sa Transformation Program ang magiging daan ng pag-unlad ng inyong pamumuhay, kasama ng inyong mga pamilya at komunidad. Abot kamay na po ninyo ang isang mas maganda, masagana at mapayapang kinabukasan,” he said.

The OPAPRU, through its MNLF Peace Process Office, will also conduct the verification and socio-economic profiling process for MNLF members in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte and North Cotabato in the coming weeks. ###