PNoy: Trust the MILF

By Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 16 2015 02:02 PM | Updated as of Jun 17 2015 03:01 AM

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao – President Benigno Aquino III asked the public to trust the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as the Moro group takes the crucial step of decommissioning its firearms and combatants despite the uncertain fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress.

Setting foot in Mindanao for the first time after the bloody January 25 Mamasapano clash, Aquino acknowledged that it is hard for the MILF to turn over some of its firearms and decommission its combatants even if it is not yet sure that a favorable version of BBL will pass in Congress.

''Suklian naman natin ang pagtitiwalang ipinakita nila sa atin. Sikapin nating umabot sa puntong masasabi natin na talagang ibingay natin ang lahat ng pagkakaton upang mabago nila ang kanilang buhay at maabot ang pangarap,'' the President said.

Aquino said today's event, where the MILF will turn over 75 firearms to a third party and decommission 145 combatants, demonstrates the MILF's sincerity.

''Alam nilang nariyan pa rin ang banta ng karahasan mula sa private armed groups, pero sa ginawa nilang ito, sinasabi nila sa atin, 'kapatid itong pantanggol namin sa sarili, 'di na namin kailangan dahil buong pagtitiwala naming pinapabuaya sa inyo ang aming kaligtasan,''' he said.

Trust with the MILF eroded following the Mamasapano clash, where 44 elite police commandos were killed by MILF fighters and other armed men.

The BBL's passage has since suffered delays, with the proposed measure being put under heavy scrutiny in Congress.

Several lawmakers have also vowed to block the key measure which was meant to establish a more powerful autonomous region for the Bangsamoro people.

Some of them believe that the BBL is riddled with unconstitutional provisions, while some have expressed distrust with the MILF and are wary about the kind of powers they would be wielding through the BBL.

An ad hoc committee at the House of Representatives has already produced a substitute bill for the measure, while its Senate counterpart's head, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said he might just revise the existing organic law of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in lieu of the BBL.

Aquino appealed to lawmakers opposed to the BBL to reconsider their choices, saying the proposed measure will ensure prosperity in the restive Mindanao region.

''Nakakalungkot na ang gustong isagot ng ilan sa ating mambabatas sa imbitasyong ito ay itigil ang BBL, imbis na itanong kung paano mapapabuti ang BBL para matugunan ang hinaing ng mga kababayan natin,'' he said.

LONG WALK TO TRANSFORMATION

MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the decommissioning process is one of the toughest commitments that the MILF had to enter in the name of the peace.

''The road to this symbolic decommissioning has not been an easy one… This decision, however, is rooted in our firm commitment to comply with the agreements we signed with the Philippine government,'' he said.

The MILF leader said the decommissioning process is a significant step in the group's ''long walk towards transformation from being an armed revolutionary organization to a political group ready to govern and serve the Bangsamoro people."

Murad again reiterated the MILF's position that the group can only accept a BBL ''that is compliant with the letter and spirit of Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro."

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, meanwhile, criticized personalities who want to maintain a Bangsamoro homeland where ''fear and insecurity reign and tyranny continues."

''It is a sad and terrible wasteland. This is the preferred scenario painted by those who do not want a good BBL to pass into a law,'' he said.

''Which Bangsamoro do we choose? A dark and insecure Bangsamoro or a Bangsamoro that is happy and peaceful? We in the MILF have made a choice."

BIG DECISION

Government peace panel chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the MILF's 75 firearms will just be the first set of firearms from the many more that the group will decommission.

"Maski dry run o symbolic ang phase 1, hindi matatawaran ang intensyon at layuning ipinihihiwatig natin,'' she said.

''The turning in of these weapons to the Independent Decommissioning Body represents the big decision that the MILF has made," she said.

The decommissioning of the firearms will be staggered and the progress dependent on the delivery of the commitments between the MILF and Philippine government under the normalization annex agreement.

The next phase will occur once the BBL is ratified. Another set of firearms will be decommissioned once the Bangsamoro government and its police force are established.

The last tranche of firearms will be turned over once an exit agreement has been signed certifying that all agreements have been met.

Ferrer said the initial set of firearms will be supervised by the Joint Verification and Monitoring Team and guarded by the Joint Peace and Security Teams.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, meantime, said the government will take care of the needs of the MILF combatants who will be decommissioned, noting that the government allotted P2.4 billion in the 2015 budget for this purpose.

The 145 combatants decommissioned in today's ceremony were mostly veterans of the 2000 war waged by the Estrada administration against the MILF.