12,000 MILF fighters to be decommissioned under Philippines’ peace pact

Fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) man a checkpoint along a road leading to the group's main camp in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. (AN file photo)
Updated 09 March 2019

12,000 MILF fighters to be decommissioned under Philippines’ peace pact

  • The Philippine government and the MILF signed a peace pact last year to end the decades-long conflict
  • Under the peace pact, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was expanded and the MILF plays a main role in governance

MANILA: With the new autonomous Bangsamoro government in place in Mindanao, south Philippines, the implementation of the peace process between the government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces is now underway, which includes the decommissioning of 12,000 combatants “within this year,” according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

The normalization track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) has four major components: Security, a socio-economic development program, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation. 

It is one of two primary tracks of the CAB, the final peace agreement signed between the government and the MILF in 2014 after four decades of conflict that killed over 120,000 people.

Last Monday, an executive order (EO) on the execution of the normalization track was approved by President Duterte and Galvez said both sides are working double time to finalize its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) which include the decommissioning of MILF combatants, surrendering their weapons and the transformation of several camps into productive communities.

"The IRR will contain the work plan and other activities covering the three-year period. It will also cover critical timeline, the scope of work, and all the programs for the security, socio-economic programs, and transitional justice," Galvez said.

Right at the heart of the security component is the decommissioning of MILF combatants and the disbandment of private armed groups, and at least symbolically, that phase began back in 2015 when 145 former MILF rebels turned over their weapons to the International Decommissioning Body.

According to Galvez, 35 percent of remaining combatants will be decommissioned in 2020, and the rest in 2021-22 before the signing of exit agreements.

In an interview with Arab News in 2018, MILF's Eduardo Uy Guerra, chairman of the Joint Normalization Committee, said the MILF had trained more than 100,000 fighters. 

Most notably, he said most of the firearms were owned by the combatants themselves, and that even when MILF members were towing their buffalos, they kept their guns on hand — just one example of the deep-rooted nature of the decades long civil conflict.

According to Galvez, there were planned rehabilitation programs to transform “combatants and camps into peace-loving individuals and productive, sustainable villages and communities.”

Roman Catholic priest Eliseo Mercado, policy adviser at the Cotabato-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance, cited the importance of the decommissioning process, but said it was less about how many fighters were decommissioned, and more about the building of confidence.

"After decommissioning, where do you put them? It's important for the government to ensure they will not be dislocated. They must have livelihood, have the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, or give them employment in the BARMM. Without this, what will you do with those thousands of people? They will go back to lawlessness," he said.

UK race to succeed Theresa May heats up with focus on Brexit

Updated 1 min 10 sec ago

UK race to succeed Theresa May heats up with focus on Brexit

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Saturday he is seeking to replace May
  • The best-known contestant for the Conservative leadership post is former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

LONDON: The race to succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May is heating up, the field of Conservative contenders is quickly growing and the focus is squarely on how to handle Brexit.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Saturday he is seeking to replace May, joining several others who have announced they will run to become the Conservative party’s next leader, and by default, Britain’s new prime minister.
May announced Friday she plans to step down as Conservative Party leader on June 7 and remain as a caretaker prime minister while the party chooses a new leader in a contest that officially kicks off the following week.
She plans to remain as party leader through US President Donald Trump’s upcoming state visit and the 75th D-Day anniversary celebrations on June 6.
Her successor will have to try to complete Brexit — a task that May failed to deliver during her three years in office. While she succeeded in striking a divorce deal with the European Union, the plan was defeated three times in Parliament by British lawmakers from across the political spectrum.
The EU extended Britain’s departure date to Oct. 31 but there still is no consensus among British lawmakers about how or even if the country should leave the bloc.
Even before a new leader is chosen, the Conservative Party is expected to fare poorly when the results of the European Parliament election in Britain are announced Sunday night.
The best-known contestant for the Conservative leadership post is former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has said he will take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 even if no deal has been reached with EU leaders.
Johnson’s willingness to back a no-deal Brexit is already causing some ripples.
Another Conservative contender, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, said Saturday that he could not serve in a Cabinet under Johnson if Johnson wins. Stewart says he could not work for a leader who is comfortable with the idea of a no-deal Brexit.
Stewart complained that Johnson said in a private meeting several weeks ago that he would not push for a no-deal departure but appears to have changed course completely.
Many economists and business leaders have warned that a no-deal departure would have a drastically negative impact on Britain’s economy and also hurt its European neighbors.
The field is likely to grow to about a dozen candidates, with a winner expected to be chosen by mid or late July. Senior Conservatives including Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom are among those considering a leadership run.
The Conservative Party chooses its leaders in a two-step process. First there’s a series of votes among the party’s legislators to establish two top contenders, then those names are submitted to a nationwide vote by about 120,000 party members.
The winner becomes party leader and prime minister, although the opposition Labour Party is warning of an immediate challenge to the new leader with an eye toward forcing an early general election.
John McDonnell, Labour’s economic spokesman, told the BBC on Saturday the party would push a no-confidence vote against the new prime minister right away.
“We believe any incoming prime minister in these circumstances should go to the country anyway and seek a mandate,” McDonnell said.
An earlier Labour Party attempt to force an early election failed in January when May’s government survived a no-confidence vote.
The UK’s next general election is set for 2022 unless there is a government collapse.