By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to witness the decommissioning of 920 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in a formal ceremony that will be held on September 7, according to officials involved in the normalization track of the 2014 MILF-government peace accord.
“No less than President Duterte will be attending the event to demonstrate his full support to the decommissioning process and normalization,” Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. announced at the kickoff training on August 1 of 225 MILF ex-combatants processed for enlistment in proposed 200 Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs).
Galvez mentioned the old Maguindanao provincial capitol complex in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat as the venue for the “most awaited event” of decommissioning of the former rebels.
The 225 trainees, belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, will be entitled to P4,700 subsistence allowance and a kilo of rice and one 50-kilo of rice for the duration of the month-long training at Camp Lucero of the Army’s training center in Carmen, North Cotabato, reports said.
In a statement, Sec. Galvez said the month-long training would be the “gateway” of the MILF-BIAF ex-combatants to military and police services as envisioned in the normalization track prescribed in an annex of the 2014 peace pact.
Initially, the 225 trainees and succeeding batches will represent the MILF-BIAF to 200 JPSTs that will also include police and military contingents to serve as joint peace-keeping forces in the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) – the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
The BTA operation will last until 2022 upon the election of regular BARMM officials, during which the MILF and government will sign an exit agreement signifying the implementation of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
BIAF Chief-of-Staff Sammy Al-Masour Gambar, who is also known in BARMM as Abdulraouf Macacua, joined Galvez in addressing the 225 trainees. Gambar represented MILF Chair and BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod ”Hadji Murad” Ebrahim.
“Of all aspects of the annex on normalization (track of CAB), decommissioning is the hardest act to be done by our combatants,” said Macacua, who is now BARMM’s minister for environment, natural resources and energy (MENRE).
“We will be turning over our guns to the IDB (Independent Decommissioning Body) even if the security situation in our communities is not yet stable,” he said.
Authorities have acknowledged 40,000 MILF combatants, 12,000 of them fully armed fighters who are subject of the decommissioning process in three phases. The first, second and third phases will cover 30 percent, 35 percent and another 35 percent of the MILF fighters, respectively.
Reports indicated that the September 7 ceremony was within the first phase, which was supposed to commence shortly after the formal inauguration of BTA-BARMM operations last March by President Duterte.
Ebrahim had once said that officials implementing the CAB provisions were “lagging behind (timetable in) the political track,” which covers the decommissioning aspect.