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Gov’t, MILF sign pact to decommission Moro rebels’ firearms

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 05:02 AM January 31, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR—One lock for each of six storage areas for firearms, a detailed list of personnel and weapons, redeployment of troops.

These are some of the protocols for the decommissioning of the firearms of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that were agreed upon by the MILF and the government in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, four days after a fierce clash between their forces took the lives of 44 police commandos and 11 MILF guerrillas in Maguindanao province.

The government and the MILF peace panels signed the 10-page protocols and expressed “deep sympathy and grief for the loss of lives.”

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Moro Islamic Liberation Front. AFP FILE PHOTO

Moro Islamic Liberation Front. AFP FILE PHOTO

The peace panels were scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur to finalize the protocols for the decommissioning of firearms, an essential part of the normalization annex of the peace agreement, when members of the Special Action Force (SAF) and MILF fighters engaged in a gun battle in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, early on Sunday, throwing the peace agreement into doubt.

Before Sunday’s incident, it had been more than two years since government security forces and Moro fighters had clashed, and both parties credited it to an effective ceasefire mechanism.

The SAF commander, Police Director Getulio Napeñas, admitted that the plan to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” was kept from the ceasefire committee because he did not trust the MILF.

Marwan was killed in the operation, but a secondary target, local terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, got away.

Separate investigations

The peace panels supported the separate investigations being conducted by the government and the MILF, as well as extended the mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which is part of the ceasefire mechanism, until March next year.

Talks are expected to continue into the weekend at an undisclosed location as procedures are hammered out.

In an earlier statement, chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the meeting in Kuala Lumpur was held despite doubts about the implementation of the peace agreement after the Maguindanao clash.

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Both the government and the MILF vowed to pursue the peace process despite the incident.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said the Kuala Lumpur meeting was a “slap in the face of politicians” who wanted to use the incident to derail the peace process.

“Everything is OK. The peace process will not be affected by the clash, most especially as the MILF has not violated any provisions of the [peace agreement],” Jaafar said.

The peace agreement signed in March last year would create a Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao by mid-2016.

A basic law that would establish the new Muslim autonomous region is under discussion in Congress.

End of conflict

The MILF’s decommissioning of forces and firearms signals the end of the group’s four-decade insurgency in Mindanao that has cost more than 150,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Parallel to the decommissioning would be the redeployment or repositioning of the units and troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), including weapons, ammunition, equipment and installations.

The guidelines were the fruit of three months of deliberations between the parties and the International Decommissioning body (IDB), drawing lessons from the experiences of Nepal, Northern Ireland and Aceh.

The IDB is chaired by Hayder Berk of Turkey. The members are retired Brig. Gen. Jan Erik Wilhemsen of Norway, Maj. Muhammad Ayman Syazwi bin Haji Abdul Rahim of Brunei, retired Army Gen. Rey Ardo, professor Mario Aguja, Von al Haj and Isah Bato.

The IDB will set the schedule for the decommissioning of the MILF’s firearms, believed to number in the thousands.

First phase

The first phase will be a ceremonial decommissioning of the first 25 crew-served weapons and 55 high-powered firearms.

This will be followed by the turnover of 30 percent of the MILF’s forces and weapons for the second phase, another 35 percent for the third phase, and the remaining batch for the fourth phase.

The remaining stage of the decommissioning will be evaluated by the panels and the Third Party Monitoring Team and Malaysian peace talks facilitator Datu Tengku to determine that all commitments of the parties have been completed.

Weapons storage

All weapons and ammunition will be kept in safe storage areas under the “supervision, monitoring and control” of the IDB.

Aside from being fenced and restricted, the storage areas will each be provided with a single lock by the IDB. There will be 24-hour surveillance cameras and floodlights that will automatically turn on at night.

The MILF combatants will be assigned to six to 12 assembly and processing areas for registration, verification, and decommissioning of forces and weapons.

It will be the responsibility of the commanders of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) to provide the IDB with their command structures, the names of all their commanders and personnel, list of weapons with pertinent details, and their ammunition inventory.

The Joint Normalization Committee-Joint Peace and Security Committee (JNC-JPSC) will facilitate the movements of the MILF forces to the assembly areas.

Development programs

Socio-development programs will be set in place for the MILF combatants, who have been fighters all their lives, and their families for a smooth transition back to civilian life.

Amnesty and pardon will be made available as “legal forms of confidence-building measures, which shall be immediately undertaken as agreed upon in the Annex on Normalization by the government toward the speedy resolution of cases of persons charged with or convicted of crimes or offenses connected to the armed conflict in Mindanao.” With reports from Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao, and AFP

 

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, Getulio Napeñas, Maguindanao, Mamasapano, MILF guerrillas, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro rebels, Philippine National Police, PNP-SAF, Special Action Force
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