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Decomissioning of arms, part of Bangsamoro process



SOME 1,060 combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) underwent decommissioning with some 920 weapons in a ceremony held at the Old Capitol in Barangay Timuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, last Saturday, September 7, attended by President Duterte.

The ceremony involved less than a tenth of the total 12,000-strong MILF. And the 920 firearms they surrendered were a small part of the hundreds of thousands of weapons they have wielded in the decades-long fighting and rebellion in Mindanao. There had been an initial turnover of a handful of firearms in 2015.

But more significant than the small number of decommissioned combatants and weapons in last Saturday’s ceremony was the spirit of hope that it embodied, the hope that at long last, Mindanao will now begin to have peace, especially in the region of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

MILF Chairman Ebrahim Murad, who now heads the Bangsamoro Transition Government, said the ceremony last Saturday “symbolized” that his group is “already a partner of the government in the peace and order campaign.” It will now move to disband the private armed groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf, who have long operated in the Mindanao.

In his speech last Saturday, President Duterte assured the former MILF combatants that the government will support them with economic programs to help them “reintegrate into society and productive civilian lives.”

This economic program will help but the core of the Bangsamoro program will be self-government by the Moro people. The national government will try to interfere as least as possible, the President said, assuring them that it will be up to them how they will use their resources. There will be “the least intervention o pang-istorbo galing sa itaas, sa national government,” he said.

The decommissioning process will be continuing in the coming months and years. The goal is the decommissioning of a total of 12,000 combatants by April, 2020. This is part of the peace process that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and the national government will follow in the next three years.

Governing the region will be the BTA, led by Murad as interim chief minister, and an 80-member Transition Commission, half of whose members are named by the MILF and the other half by the national government. In the next three years, the BTA will be setting up basic government services, including administration, infrastructures, natural resources, electoral services, etc.

At the end of the interim period, elections will be held for the Bangsamoro region’s officials. That will complete the historic process of change that began with the approval of the Bangsamoro Law by Congress in 2018.

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