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ENDING ARMED STRUGGLE

MILF will disband guerrilla force, Murad assures gov’t

MILF will disband guerrilla force, Murad assures gov’t

WELCOMING PEACE Former fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front flash the victory sign to symbolize peace during the decommissioning rites for members and weapons of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces in Maguindanao province. —RICHEL V. UMEL

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao, Philippines — Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Murad Ebrahim gave his personal firearm, an Israeli-made Tavor assault rifle, to President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday to show his group’s resolve to give up the MILF’s firearms as part of its journey to peace.

The MILF began decommissioning its 40,000 combatants and 7,000 weapons on Saturday, under the supervision of the Turkish-led Independent Decommissioning Body.

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First to go were 1,060 fighters, mostly based around its administrative base, Camp Darapanan, and 920 assault rifles and weapons like mortars and .50-caliber machine guns, and hundreds of rocket propelled grenades and launchers.

About 12,000 fighters and at least 2,000 weapons are expected to be “put beyond use” by March 2020 as the second phase of the decommissioning process is completed.

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“We will continue to uphold our part of the bargain,” Murad said.

He thanked the President for “his steadfast support” for the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and its ratification during a plebiscite early this year.

The President lauded the MILF for honoring a commitment to put its weapons beyond use and disbanding its revolutionary army as stipulated in the peace deal the group signed with the government in 2014.

“This is a huge step to achieving lasting peace in Mindanao,” the President said in his message to the former fighters.

Saturday’s historic ceremony marked the start of the series of similar processes in various locations in Mindanao.

He assured the decommissioned MILF fighters that the government would assist them to become productive members of society.

The government is providing at least P1 million worth of assistance for every decommissioned combatant, spread across three to five years, said Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

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A one-time cash assistance of P100,000 was received by each former combatant during Saturday’s ceremony.

Murad said the 1,060 former MILF fighters, who were trained to fight for their homeland, would now have a chance to live peaceful and productive lives because of the government’s support.

“For many years, our training has been grounded on armed struggle. We will now face a different kind of struggle to transform ourselves into civilians,” said Murad, who is also chief minister of the interim Bangsamoro government. —With reports from Richel Umel and Sheila Mae dela Cruz

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, MILF, Murad Ebrahim, Rodrigo Duterte
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