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Aquino allies call for speeding up of BBL after MILF ‘decommissioning’

/ 06:07 PM June 15, 2015

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Allies of President Aquino renewed their calls to speed up the legislative process for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in view of the decommissioning of weapons and combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“I hope that Congress moves with urgency on the proposed BBL because the decommissioning process will move much faster with the passage and ratification of the bill, and combatants on the ground will be able to return to civilian lives much sooner,” said Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, vice-chair of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL.

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On Tuesday, President Aquino will witness the turnover of 75 high-powered weapons from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) as well as the return into civilian life of an initial 145 warriors.

With the handover, the IDB will oversee the storage of the weapons until these are put beyond use. Set for turnover are 55 high-powered and 20 crew-served weapons.

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Decommissioning of the BIAF is among the most significant aspect of the peace pact forged throughout 17 years of political negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF.

It represents the commitment of the MILF to embrace democratic and nonviolent means to pursue its political goals in exchange for the government redoing the Moro self-governance setup to embody greater political and economic powers for a new autonomous entity.

This is why the Annex on Normalization provides that the decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces will be done “parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties.”

As agreed upon, the decommissioning process will go full swing with the passage of the BBL, involving some 30 percent of the BIAF. Another 35 percent will undergo the process as soon as the police force for the Bangsamoro is established, and the balance as soon as the other provisions in the agreements are fully implemented.

“There is perhaps no greater proof that the MILF is sincere in its efforts to begin peace-building with the government than this decision to voluntarily turn over their arms and weapons especially with the heated debates and the delay of the passing into law of the BBL,” Oaminal explained.

“We understand that this will be gradual, but we are confident there is no stopping the decommissioning process in the coming months,” Oaminal added.

Gradual decommissioning is part of the Annex on Normalization signed by the MILF and the government in January last year. Firearms will be turned over to the IDB, while decommissioned combatants will serve as pioneers and help gauge the success rate of the normalization process.

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The normalization process has three main components — security, socioeconomic development, and transitional justice and reconciliation — all aimed at fostering peace in conflict-affected communities in Mindanao, which will then allow individuals to fully pursue productive and sustainable livelihoods without fear of violence or crime.

“The beginning of the decommissioning process is concrete proof of the strong commitment of the MILF to end the armed conflict in the south,” said Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

“This is a very welcome development for me as a member of Congress tackling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and personally as a Mindanaonon,” added Rodriguez who also chairs the House ad hoc committee on the BBL.

Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong, in a press release, said the MILF’s decision to begin decommissioning was “a clear message to both the Senate and the House of Representatives that it is a trustworthy partner in the Bangsamoro peace process.”

“We should all understand the security situation,” Loong said. “There are still other armed groups with weapons on the ground, yet the MILF is already willing to begin decommissioning for the sake of peace in Mindanao.”

Loong, a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who saw military action in Sulu in the 1970s, appealed to Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., “to pass the BBL in the soonest possible time as this is the foundation in the roadmap to peace.”

Marcos is widely seen as delaying the legislative process for the BBL because of his refusal to cooperate with the administration’s target of passing the measure before President Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address.

“We cannot move forward and bring the peace that our people desire and deserve without passing the BBL,” Loong said.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, BIAF, decommissioning, decommissioning of weapons and troops, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Henry Oaminal, House of Representatives, IDB, Independent Decommissioning Body, Legislation, MILF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, News, peace process, Philippine Congress, Philippine Government, Rufus Rodriguez, Senate, Tupay Loongm House ad hoc committee on BBL
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