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Former guerrillas undergo basic military training

In Cotabato, MILF fighters begin journey as peacekeepers

CARMEN, COTABATO—From warriors to peacekeepers.

This was the journey that 225 former combatants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) began on Aug. 1 at the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade camp here.

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BIAF is the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which has ended a four-decade fight for independence after inking in 2014 a peace pact with government and settling for greater self-rule powers over what remained of the Bangsamoro homeland.

The erstwhile guerrillas, age 18 to 55, are undergoing a month of basic military training that will mold them to be peacekeepers during the transition to the new Bangsamoro region.

If they hurdle the training, they will form the first batch of the region’s joint peace and security team (JPST).

The team will help secure former MILF strongholds that will be transformed from guerrilla bases into normal civilian communities, assist in settling disputes and take part in ridding the villages of drug users and terrorists, according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

The team will be composed of contingents from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and MILF-BIAF. It will function until mid-2022.

“This training is the gateway for former combatants to serve and join the AFP and PNP in maintaining peace and order in the Bangsamoro,” Galvez said.

6,000 trained men

Von Al Haq, BIAF spokesperson, said the JPST would employ some 6,000 trained personnel that would come from the government’s security sector and the MILF.

“Of course, the JPST members will be armed. They will be required to register their firearms,” Al Haq told the Inquirer.

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Galvez said 200 such teams would be formed to secure residents within the six MILF camps that the government would transform into peaceful and productive zones in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Normalization

The key component of the CAB is the creation of the Bangsamoro, now known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), that replaced in February the 29-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

With the BARMM established, the government and the MILF are now moving toward normalization, which includes the decommissioning of MILF combatants and putting their weapons beyond use.

This year, 12,000 BIAF members, representing 30 percent of its military force, are set for decommissioning.

On Sept. 7, 210 former fighters are scheduled to take the final stage of transformation from combatants to civilians, Galvez said.

Normalization also provides an opportunity for former MILF fighters to join the Army or the police.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, MILF, rebel surrenderees
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