Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim, Al Haj has appealed to news media in particular to refrain from calling the decommissioning of the front’s weapons and fighters as a “surrender”.
“To allay the mistaken notion of some members of our society and the gross misreading of information that some elements of the media seem to be invariably predisposed to, this event today is not a process of ‘surrender’”, Murad said in his speech at the ceremonial turnover of 75 high-powered and crew-served armaments in Maguidanao province yesterday.
Pres. Aquino witnessed the historic ceremony where 145 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) submitted themselves to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) to qualify to join the first batch of rebels who have given up armed fighting and instead avail of socioeconomic alternatives to rebuild their lives and communities. The event was held at the old provincial capitol of Maguindanao province in Sultan Kudarat town, witnessed by members of the diplomatic corps, high –ranking national officials, including of Congress and the Armed Forces, leaders of the MILF, and architects of the peace agreements.
The decommissioning is one of the components of the normalization annex which is one of the four annexes in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). The agreement was reached last year by the GPH and MILF peace negotiators after 17 years of talks in Malaysia with plenty of support from the international community, including laying the rebuilding the lives of the 40-year war’s victims, implementation of a well-observed ceasefire, establishing institutions that have since started implementing Bangsamoro socioeconomic development projects.
“What we have today are the stories of the whole Bangsamoro – oppression, tyranny and yes, liberation. The road to this symbolic decommissioning has not been an easy one”, Murad said.
“This decision (to demobilize) was helped in part by the fact that we know that the President understands and feels what we have been going through – how it is to be under an oppressive regime, to thirst for justice and to have a firm resolve that it should never happen again”, Murad further said. The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would serve as the legal enabling law to implement the CAB has been undergoing a rigorous deliberation in Congress. Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., under whose father’s dictatorship the Mindanao war started, has said he is submitting his own version of the basic law in place of the BBL, which has caused outrage among peace advocates.
Murad in his speech again said the MILF will not accept a watered down BBL that does not contain the spirit and essence of the CAB.
The decommissioning will be made in three incremental phases after the ceremonial turnover yesterday – 30 percent more of the MILF weapons when the BBL is enacted into law, a second 35 percent when the organic act is ratified and the Bangsamoro police force is formed, and the final 35 percent when the GPH and MILF peace panels shall have signed the exit memorandum that will signal the full fulfillment of the CAB.
The MILF has an estimated standing force of 10,000 armed fighters headquartered in several camps mostly in Central Mindanao and fewer in southwestern region as well. These camps will also be disbanded under the normalization plan.
“Today, we begin the long walk towards transformation, not surrender, to a higher struggle – the start of the transformation of the MILF from an armed revolutionary organization to a political organization ready to govern and serve the Bangsamoro people. We are talking about the transformation of the Bangsamoro from a state of conflict and underdevelopment to state of peace and prosperity’, Murad said.
Pres. Aquino said establishing peace in Mindanao is of vital to the nation’s progress and stability.
“This is also about the transformation of the Philippines to become more than just, more inclusive and to granting space to the Bangsamoro People to direct our lives, as we want it in accordance with their deepest spiritual values. This symbolic decommissioning signals the start of the transformation of an old arrangement of control towards partnership and authority. This symbolic decommissioning symbolizes the return back to normal of the lives of the simple Bangsamoro”, Murad explained. | PR