Some Abu Sayyaf members seek to join Bangsamoro decommissioning: BARMM chief

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 29 2021 02:13 PM


MANILA - Several Abu Sayyaf members "have manifested" interest in joining the decommissioning process in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the region's chief minister said Friday.

The BARMM has completed the first phase of the decommissioning process and continues to hold "dialogues with all the groups including the Abu Sayyaf in the island provinces," BARMM chief minister Ahod Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said in an online forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

"Some of the Abu Sayyaf have manifested their possible joining in the parliament and the decommissioning process," he said.

Murad did not give a specific number of terrorists who plan to lay down their arms and be reintegrated into society.

As of January 2021, 13,500 former combatants or 30 percent of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have surrendered their arms in exchange for P1 million each in cash aid as well as livelihood and economic assistance.

But so far, each former MILF member has only received P100,000 each, Murad said.

"The economic component is not yet delivered to them," he said.

"Their plan is they will take it out from the programs of the different departments... That is the challenge because it takes time before these departments can extend the necessary assistance to combatants," he said.

The BARMM leadership has been talking to former MILF fighters to assure them that the remaining 90 percent of the promised P1-million assistance would be delivered, he said.

Bangsamoro leaders have been urging the national government to extend the transition period by 3 years to 2025 as the decommissioning process and other transition targets have yet to be met. It has been 2 years since the region was established as the fruit of peace negotiations between government and the former secessionist group. 

BARMM needs more time to decommission 70 percent of MILF's 40,000 combatants and continuously roll out services that were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Murad said.

"The call for extension is not about our politics, our political power," he said.

"We see that we need this extension in order to complete the implementation of the agreement," he said.

Five bills seeking to extend BARMM's transition period have been filed at the House of Representatives, while 2 counterpart measures were lodged in the Senate.

"By March, we hope to have the second reading and the certification of the bill as urgent by the president," Bangsamoro's chief minister said.

"This timeline is very short... but we hope to complete it," he said, acknowledging observations that the current Congress only has about 30 session days left.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte urged the national government to "give full support" to the Bangsamoro.

"Be assured that this administration would remain determined in its commitment to support self-determination, uphold human rights am advance social welfare in the Bangsamoro region," he said in a speech that marked the commemoration of the establishment of the Muslim-led Bangsamoro region.

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