PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

DECOMMISSIONING THE MILF:  CASH, PHILHEALTH CARDS FOR 145 REBEL FIGHTERS
['The decommissioning process will cost the government a hefty P950 million which includes P25,000 for each surrendered arms and Philhealth cards for each of the initial 145 surrenderees.']


JUNE 14 ---The decommissioned MILF combatants will undergo registration and will be provided with cash assistance and PhilHealth cards.
- Decommissioned rebels to get other benefits. Malacañang on Sunday said cash and other benefits will be awarded to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who will undergo “decommissioning” beginning Tuesday. According to Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., President Benigno Aquino 3rd will lead the historic turnover of firearms and the decommissioning of more than a hundred MILF combatants, the initial phase of a normalization process under a peace agreement forged with the erstwhile rebel group. The firearms, Coloma said, will be turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body as provided under the Annex on Normalization signed in January last year.“President Aquino will witness the first part of the decommissioning process that is considered to be one of the strongest gestures of support and commitment by the MILF to the peace process to bring forth peace and development in areas covered by the Bangsamoro,” Coloma explained in an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan. READ  MORE...(READERS COMMENTS)

ALSO: 'No turning back on peace’, says Aquino govt & MILF


JUNE 16 ---President Aquino will lead officials of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front today in the first phase of the decommissioning of rebel weapons in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. File photo
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – With both sides saying there is no turning back on peace, President Aquino will lead officials of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today in the first phase of the decommissioning of rebel weapons in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The decommissioning of crew-served weapons and high-powered firearms of MILF combatants is seen as a significant step in the pursuit of lasting peace in Mindanao. Aquino will hand out P25,000 cash to each of the initial batch of 145 Muslim rebels as assistance for education, training and livelihood to help them start normal lives. The government and the MILF agreed to undertake the ceremonial turnover of 75 weapons of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) as part of phase one of the normalization program for the Muslim rebels under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). The decommissioning will be held amid delays in the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) following the killing of 44 police commandos by the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. “As you can see, the point of the MILF leadership is they want to stay the course of peace. That’s why we’re giving it our best shot,” government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Rebel chief says, MILF begins difficult transformation
[Seventy-five weapons, 50 of them high-powered and 25 small firearms, were symbolically turned over by the MILF to the Turkish-led Independence Decommissioning Body.]


JUNE 16 ---145 members of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces will start to transition to productive civilian life today. Photo from OPAPP Twitter account SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders described it as part of transformation and not surrender. Either way, the much-anticipated ceremonial decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces pushed through here on Tuesday, personally witnessed by President Aquino and members of the international community. A busload of MILF combatants arrived at the old Maguindanao Capitol grounds here for the rites. Seventy-five weapons, 50 of them high-powered and 25 small firearms, were symbolically turned over by the MILF to the Turkish-led Independence Decommissioning Body. Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, described the decommissioning as a “very difficult” decision which signified their sincerity in complying with agreements they signed with the government of President Benigno Aquino III. Not surrender  For the MILF, it was not surrender but a part of the normalization process, Iqbal said. READ MORE...

ALSO PLOUGHSHARES: Statement of ARMM Gov Mujiv Hataman on MILF decommissioning


JUNE 16 ---Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista inspect the weapons turned over by the MILF for decommissioning. (OPAPP photo)
InterAksyon.com
This is the statement of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman at the ceremonial decommissioning of MILF weapons and fighters in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. The statement was sent by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. We welcome the President, Benigno S. Aquino III to Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. This visit, the president's third during his term, is perhaps the most historic. Today, we will witness the Moro Islamic Liberation Front symbolically lay down their arms to show their commitment to establishing a lasting peace in Mindanao. This is the act of peace, the show of sincerity in the peace process, that we have all been waiting for from the MILF and the government. Beginning today, the MILF will beat swords to ploughshares as soldiers will begin to bring life to the land instead of taking from it. Today, mothers will begin to send their children to school again without fear, and welcome them home happily. Today, children will start learning to be children, and hope never to learn about war again. READ MORE...

ALSO: Nurturing a ‘peace-centered’ village in Sulu


JUNE 16 ---Photo of Silangkan, Sulu Parang Village, Philippines -DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Adversity is said to beget adversity.
But in conflict-torn Sulu province, hope beckons from a youth-led, peace-building initiative that has transformed an almost deserted village of Parang town into a vibrant community of some 300 families where people regard social harmony as equally important to their need for daily subsistence. And with the Bangsamoro transition on the horizon, the experience of building and sustaining a so-called “peace-centered community” in Parang’s Barangay (village) Silangkan provides vital lessons on how to organize and maintain law and order in the future autonomous region’s culturally diverse communities. “The Silangkan experience is a story of community folk taking care of and nurturing the peace,” said Rosemain Abduraji of the nongovernment organization Tumikang Sama-Sama (TSS), or Together We Move Forward. “While we practically need the police for law enforcement, there is no pillar stronger than the people taking responsibility for keeping the peace in their community,” she said in an interview with the Inquirer during a recent peace seminar in Davao City. The strong desire of Silangkan folk to keep the peace is borne out of a recent episode. In 2001, government forces bombed the coastal village while pursuing Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari who had gone on a rampage after falling out of the political graces of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. READ MORE...

ALSO in Mindanao: In conflict areas, peace amid noise


JUNE 14 ---CHILDREN play on one of the mobile corn shellers provided by the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development Program to farmers in Romongaob, South Upi, Maguindanao province, as part of its support for peace-building efforts of the government in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. FRINSTON LIM
As lawmakers wrangle over the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Manila, poor communities in areas of Mindanao that bore the brunt of armed conflict are enjoying the gains of development programs made possible by peace-building efforts of the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and international agencies. In the past 10 years, these programs have brought changes to the lives of over half a million people in at least 12 strife-torn areas, providing jobs, empowering communities and fostering unity and harmony. Take, for example, the upland farming village of Romongaob in South Upi town, Maguindanao province. The hilly place is home to about 5,000 people, 70 percent of whom are members of the Teduray tribe, 25 percent Christian settlers and the rest Muslims. “Before, we did not collectively receive projects. Livelihood programs from the outside were given straight to a particular (ethno-religious) group,” said resident Noel Maningula. That changed in 2013 with the entry of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the development arm of the MILF. READ MORE...

ALSO STANDARD EDITORIAL:  Ceremonial sincerity
[It’s a good start, but we would like to see other acts which tell us the MILF is sincere not just about putting on a show of peace but achieving it, not only for its members but for all the people of Mindanao. It can start with acknowledging its role in the Mamasapano massacre – especially since the terrorists had been living in its lair for years and since an autopsy of many of the 44 killed showed they were shot at close range.]

 

JUNE 16 ---The Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will turn over 38 high-powered firearms to the Independent Decommissioning Body as part of the peace agreement it signed with the Philippine government.
The body is still determining the total number of firearms that should be turned over and whether or not those firearms are owned by the government. It is said that part of the rebel group’s cache of firearms were obtained from slain soldiers and policemen, including the 44 police commandos killed in Mamasapano in January. President Benigno Aquino III will lead the first phase of the decommissioning process in a ceremony today. MILF panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said the decommissioning process was one of the most difficult decisions of the MILF, but was quick to add that “for the sake of peace, for the sake of having real peace in Mindanao and for the sake of the need for normalization [of] the lives of the people including the combatants, we have to undertake decommissioning and put them [arms and forces] beyond use.” We understand how difficult getting rid of their firearms could be for the MILF, which is why we also doubt whether Iqbal speaks for the many other leaders and members of their organization. The administration is upbeat. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Decommissioning: Cash for MILF fighters


The decommissioned MILF combatants will undergo registration and will be provided with cash assistance and PhilHealth cards.

MANILA
, JUNE 22, 2015 (MANILA TIMES) June 14, 2015 by JOEL M. SY EGCO
SENIOR REPORTER - Decommissioned rebels to get other benefits.

Malacañang on Sunday said cash and other benefits will be awarded to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who will undergo “decommissioning” beginning Tuesday.

According to Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., President Benigno Aquino 3rd will lead the historic turnover of firearms and the decommissioning of more than a hundred MILF combatants, the initial phase of a normalization process under a peace agreement forged with the erstwhile rebel group.

The firearms, Coloma said, will be turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body as provided under the Annex on Normalization signed in January last year.

“President Aquino will witness the first part of the decommissioning process that is considered to be one of the strongest gestures of support and commitment by the MILF to the peace process to bring forth peace and development in areas covered by the Bangsamoro,” Coloma explained in an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

READ MORE...
The MILF combatants will undergo registration and will be provided with cash assistance and PhilHealth cards.

Other medium-to-long-term aids like livelihood projects will be administered by the Task Force on Decommissioned Combatants and Communities, Coloma said.

The normalization process has three phases: security, socioeconomic development and transitional justice and reconciliation.

Earlier, government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the peace panel had sent out invitations for the ceremonial decommissioning of MILF weapons to everyone involved in the peace process, especially members of Congress.

“Although it’s a ceremonial program, it signals something that took a long time to prepare both the hearts and minds of the people who are involved in this process,” she added.

The decommissioning of 75 weapons and of 145 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) is part of the normalization program under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Ferrer said Phase 1 of the decommissioning process important because the 145 MILF combatants who have agreed to be part of the initial stage will serve as pioneers and help gauge the success rate of the normalization process.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal had given assurances that even if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is delayed, they will comply with the initial phase of the graduated decommissioning of MILF forces and their weapons.

“We will see to it that we will comply with our obligations. We have to undertake this whether the BBL is moving in Congress or not,” Iqbal said. “Honestly, there’s no other way but to have peace in Mindanao.”

13 Responses to Cash for MILF fighters
ricelander says:
June 15, 2015 at 9:25 am
75 weapons… hahaha that’s a lot. Most likely non-functional ones which have been already rusting away. The cash could procure them with better ones.
Reply
Herrera Law says:
June 15, 2015 at 9:08 am
Isusuko ng MILF ang pinakaluma at pinakabulok nilang armas at bibigyan ng pera ng lintik na gobyernong ito ang mga MILF na magsusuko ng mga pinakaluma at pinakabulok nilang armas para ipambili ng makabagong armas na ipampapatay sa mga sundalo at nananahimik na mamamayang Pilipino. Anong tingin nyo sa ganitong uri ng katangahan?
Reply
sea eagle says:
June 15, 2015 at 8:50 am
175 BIAF – 75 arms=70,anong armas noong 70 tirador,another moro-moro by coward P-NOY,youre BBL will never pass because it will bring in more trouble than peace.It will be only youre friend the terrorist MILF will benefit on this devilish BBLSill no justice for the fallen 44 after P-NOY betrayed and abandoned them to protect his friend the terrorist MILF.You should be arrested for treason selling out part of the country to Malaysia
Reply
don vantrees says:
June 15, 2015 at 8:28 am
Aquino is a disgrace to the Filipino people. The Commander and Chief of the Philippines is giving money to terrorist that used these weapons to kill his countrymen. What a disgrace. I thought Obama was a disgrace for trading for Berdahl, Apparently Aquino is trying to one up the American President.
Reply
Lord Chimera says:
June 15, 2015 at 8:19 am
Do I need to point out that the obvious flaw in this whole exercise is that the rebels can just buy more and better weapons with the money given to them for surrendering their old weapons. Its basically a stupid move, but then again that what BSA is..stupid.
Reply
ferdinand Micos says:
June 15, 2015 at 7:47 am
cash agad sa milf? di pa nga ata nababayaran ang saf 44
Reply
apolonio reyes says:
June 15, 2015 at 7:23 am
First why will our government pay or give cash incentives to MILF rebels who surrender their fire-arms to an independent body when those retired AFP soldiers and PNP policemen could not even get the pension benefits?
Why will Pnoy himself attend this decommissioning when he did not even attended the Honor Arrival of our 44 SAF HEROES who lost their lives because of their Commander-in-Chief inefficiency?
Sikwatary eh Sec. H, Coloma, please explain to us WHY?
Reply
vg says:
June 15, 2015 at 6:32 am
This is a propaganda effort to show that the MILF is sincere in disarming. The problem is that they are not disarming, just putting on a show.
Reply
MPnoy says:
June 15, 2015 at 4:31 am
Where does our President get his advice.Is these how you give justice to those killed by these rebel group? This is a pile of horse manure coming from Malacanang.Tax payers should not let these people get the money they do not deserve.Aquino will do everything to win the hearts of these MILF group.He will do everything to release money to that region before his term is finished and that makes him the most dangerous person of the state.
Reply
Inocent says:
June 15, 2015 at 1:30 am
Exactly like what happened during the Corazon Aquino years when all arms were supposed to be surrendered and paid for by the government but was never a success because the rebels had more arms. They simply received tdhe money and pretended to be all for peace but later went back to the mountains.
Reply
I Remember... says:
June 15, 2015 at 1:30 am
“75 weapons and of 145 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces”
hahahaha… how can Manila Times let this article run??? 75 weapons!!!??? Ridiculeous…
and what about the weapons of the fallen 44? where are they?
Reply
Mario Escobido says:
June 15, 2015 at 12:41 am
decommissioning of ONLY 75 weapons. BALIW! decommissioning tawag nyo diyan?
Reply
Mario Escobido says:
June 15, 2015 at 12:40 am
tatanggalan ng baril pero bibigyan ng pera na pwede ring ipambili ng baril. sira.
Reply


PHILSTAR

No turning back on peace’ By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 16, 2015 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


President Aquino will lead officials of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front today in the first phase of the decommissioning of rebel weapons in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. File photo

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – With both sides saying there is no turning back on peace, President Aquino will lead officials of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today in the first phase of the decommissioning of rebel weapons in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The decommissioning of crew-served weapons and high-powered firearms of MILF combatants is seen as a significant step in the pursuit of lasting peace in Mindanao.

Aquino will hand out P25,000 cash to each of the initial batch of 145 Muslim rebels as assistance for education, training and livelihood to help them start normal lives.

The government and the MILF agreed to undertake the ceremonial turnover of 75 weapons of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) as part of phase one of the normalization program for the Muslim rebels under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The decommissioning will be held amid delays in the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) following the killing of 44 police commandos by the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

“As you can see, the point of the MILF leadership is they want to stay the course of peace. That’s why we’re giving it our best shot,” government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said.

READ MORE...

She noted that if peace negotiations would not be completed within this administration, at least they would not be accused of neglect because they have pushed for everything, “even on all the other components like decommissioning.”

For his part, MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal described the decommissioning process as “one of the most difficult decisions (of the) MILF.”

“For the sake of peace, for the sake of having real peace in Mindanao and for the sake of the need for normalization (of) the lives of the people including the combatants, we have to undertake decommissioning and put them (arms) beyond use,” Iqbal said.


LACIERDA

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the event marks a significant step forward in the peace process, not only because it fosters mutual trust, but also because this decommissioning is in itself unprecedented.

“Apart from the MILF, no other armed organization in conflict with the Philippine government has voluntarily agreed to turn over its weapons as part of a peace agreement. With this, we remain optimistic that the future will bring more positive developments, cognizant that – together with our brothers and sisters in Mindanao – we can achieve peace and inclusive prosperity through unity,” Lacierda said.

In simple ceremonies to be held at the old provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat, the MILF will undertake the registration and “turning in” of 75 weapons to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB).

Likewise, 145 combatants will be registered and processed to formally commence their return to full civilian lives.

Aside from Aquino, legislators from both chambers of Congress, the international community, among others were invited to witness the historic event at the Old Maguindanao provincial capitol in Simuay Crossing.

The turnover ceremonies will likewise be attended by MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, members of both peace panels and other stakeholders.

The IDB is headed by Turkey’s former ambassador to North Atlantic Treaty Organization Haydar Berk.

Its other members are Jan Erik Wilhemsen from Norway, Maj. Muhammad Aiman Syazwi Bin Haji Abdul Rahim from Brunei and local experts AFP retired Lt. Gen. Rey Ardor, Mario Aguja, Von Al-Haq and Janati Mimbantas.

Ferrer noted several steps that would be followed during the decommissioning.

“Prior to the actual decommissioning process, there will be an initial registration of MILF combatants and weapons at Camp Darapanan. The combatants will be filling out forms with the supervision of the IDB local expert from MILF,” she said.

“On June 16, the weapons will be transported to the Old Provincial Capitol, the event site for the actual registration process and verification.”

After processing, the decommissioned weapons will be transported to a mutually agreed upon weapons storage area located inside Camp Iranun (Abubakar) in Sitio Bombaran, Barangay Tugaig in Barira, Maguindanao.

“The secured area will be monitored by 30 members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST) who will be supervised by the Joint Verification and Monitoring Team (JVMT) of the IDB,” Ferrer said.

The JVMT is headed by an independent foreign expert with a member each from the government and MILF.

Three JVMTs will take turns administering the site round the clock. Meanwhile, the JPST is made up of 15 members from the government army and police, and an equal number from the MILF.

Teams of 10 JPST persons each will be on guard duty at all times.

Ferrer said the decommissioning should have taken place in late January or early February but the Mamasapano incident occurred.

She said they also had to agree on some protocols to guide the decommissioning.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will be playing an important role in the decommissioning of firearms and weapons.

PNP officer-in charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said the PNP has designated three police commissioned officers who will assist the four-member IDB that shall oversee the process of decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons.

Chief Insps. Randall-Lyon Bueno, Filmore Abdulsalam Calib and Christopher Muego will form part of the JVMT.

“By (today) we will have one of the big steps taken by the government and the MILF towards lasting peace. The PNP will be participating by deploying its components in the joint peace and security teams,” said PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilfredo Franco.

Ferrer added in an interview over radio dzBB on Sunday that this first phase of decommissioning was further delayed by military operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for almost two months.

MILF and BIFF members along with a private armed group engaged PNP-Special Action Force members in a clash while on their way out of Mamasapano where they tracked down two international terrorists, resulting in the deaths of 44.

New life According to Ferrer, this is a chance for MILF members to experience quiet and hopefully prosperous life in the future.

Ferrer told dzBB that the assistance to be provided would be made through the careful profiling of those who really want to lead normal lives as individuals and also as a community.

For instance, Ferrer said on average, the age of MILF rebels who fought during the Estrada administration in the year 2000 was “46.4 years old” and all male.


THE 144 MILF combatants who will receive cash at decommissioning rites

“So that is their profile, because profiling is being done even before, to ensure socio-economic intervention will be appropriate to their background,” Ferrer said.

She said the Department of Social Welfare and Development would be in charge of the cash assistance and the beneficiaries would be offered various options or forms of assistance. For those who wish to go back to school, especially the young ones who dream of college, there will scholarships provided, Ferrer said.

Those who want to directly acquire vocational and technical skills can avail of the different programs at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, she added.

Ferrer said those in need of literacy skills could go to the alternative learning centers to be provided to them.

After attending schools or training programs, Ferrer said livelihood package in kind would be made available to them.

“So, for example, if their track is to finish vulcanizing... that is part of the socio-economic livelihood package that may be in kind... in order to put up a vulcanizing shop,” Ferrer said.

“If the men want to stay in agriculture, there may be cattle or other livestock and other farm implements (to be given to them). But the good thing here is that the MILF is emphasizing that they should not be getting help individually but as a whole community,” Ferrer said, adding the Department of Agriculture would be in charge of the agricultural needs of the beneficiaries.

Ferrer said they identified other ways to help Muslim rebels, like improving the schools where their children study and assist them with their educational needs.

As regards to housing, Ferrer said there was nothing concrete in the pipeline yet but it would be possible through partnerships with various companies or organizations like Gawad Kalinga.

She explained housing projects would not be easy to deliver because the sites have to be identified and be given overall transformation.

“In some areas, it is possible that roads and electricity are more needed. These kinds of projects are separate from the transformation of the camps or the communities (but these) interventions will benefit the whole community,” Ferrer said.

Because of the ceasefire, she said various groups like the Japan International Cooperation Agency, World Bank and Asian Development Bank were able to undertake community-based projects in conflict-affected areas over the years.

Ferrer said the assistance for the rebels had been incorporated in the 2015 budget and their progress would be monitored.

She said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process would form a joint task force composed of personnel in charge of socioeconomic component to do the monitoring.

“Because we want to make sure that what will happen is not a one-shot assistance. You give an immediate cash assistance, later on you don’t know anymore if the lives really progressed or at least if the children are able to study to achieve qualitative change, not only for the individuals but the whole families and communities,” Ferrer said.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for his part, downplayed the decommissioning of 75 firearms of the MILF.

Marcos is chairman of the Senate committee on local government, which is crafting a substitute bill for the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“Seventy-five (firearms) is not even a 10th of a percent of that. So kagaya ng sinabi ko, it’s good that we get started. I’m not saying that they should not do it. It’s a very small start,” Marcos said.

“And again, in terms of true material substantial reduction in firepower of the MILF, it’s really not meaningful,” he added. “But again, 75 out of 15,000 is a very, very small fraction.”

“In terms of confidence building , as I said, it’s a small step, but it’s a very small step. It’s not a major step,” Marcos stressed.

Senate President Franklin Drilon aired his optimism that the decommissioning process of MILF rebels would go a long way in restoring the confidence of the public in the peace process.

The MILF lost a significant amount of trust from the public after the Mamasapano clash that resulted in the death of 44 members of the PNP-SAF, 18 rebels and five civilians last Jan. 25.

With the decommissioning, Drilon said that this would be a welcome display of the MILF’s sincerity and help build confidence in the peace process.

Sen. Ralph Recto welcomed the decommissioning and aired his hope that the pace would increase in the months to come.

“Finally, to institutionalize it, decommissioning should be included in the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) in order to set a deadline and dictate the pace,” he said. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jaime Laude


INQUIRER

MILF begins difficult transformation—rebel chief @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Mindanao 01:54 PM June 16th, 2015


145 members of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces will start to transition to productive civilian life today. Photo from OPAPP Twitter account

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders described it as part of transformation and not surrender.

Either way, the much-anticipated ceremonial decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces pushed through here on Tuesday, personally witnessed by President Aquino and members of the international community.

A busload of MILF combatants arrived at the old Maguindanao Capitol grounds here for the rites.

Seventy-five weapons, 50 of them high-powered and 25 small firearms, were symbolically turned over by the MILF to the Turkish-led Independence Decommissioning Body.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, described the decommissioning as a “very difficult” decision which signified their sincerity in complying with agreements they signed with the government of President Benigno Aquino III.

Not surrender

For the MILF, it was not surrender but a part of the normalization process, Iqbal said.

READ MORE...

“If you look at the (MILF) struggle, it’s about arming ourselves,” he said. “Now, it’s decommissioning. It’s a difficult decision to make but part of the overall and comprehensive peacemaking in Mindanao.”

Iqbal said the turnover of their weapons was not a loss but a gain for the MILF.

“It shows that MILF is a force that can be trusted because we comply with our agreement,” he said, adding that “if you want peace, prepare for peace; the symbolic turnover is the MILF’s first step to prepare for peace.”

Iqbal said people would think that firearms were the source of the MILF’s strength. In reality, however, its strength is the love, affection and faith of the Bangsamoro people.

“The Bangsamoro people are the beginning and the end of our struggle,” Iqbal said at the turnover ceremony.

‘Long walk to transformation’

For his part, MILF chair Murad Ebrahim said: “Today, we begin the long walk to transformation, not surrender. (This is) the start of (the) transformation of MILF from (an) armed organization to (a) political organization ready to serve the Bangsamoro people.”

He said the decommissioning also signaled the start for the MILF’s shift to self-governance.

“This symbolic decommissioning signals the start of an old arrangement and control toward partnership of autonomy,” he said.

“We proclaim our commitment to peace not by words but by action,” Murad said.

It was not even a sign of weakness on the part of the MILF as propagated by some groups, he said.

“This is to show the MILF is sincere in attaining peace for the Bangsamoro people.”

BBL based on CAB

He also said the MILF position on the BBL was clear: “We will accept the BBL which is in compliance with the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro).”

“This is the official position of the MILF central committee,” he added.

Ebrahim thanked President Aquino and all those who contributed to the success of the Mindanao peace process.

“We thank the President for his continued support to the Midnanao peace process, third party facilitator, international communities and all who contributed to (its),” he said.

Basilan-based MILF commander Hadji Laksaw Dan Asnawi said it was difficult for most of them to let go of their firearms, but they had to move on.

Asnawi said it was hard to be “separated from a long-time companion,” referring to their firearms.

“The Moro adage that the firearm is more important than a wife is no longer true. What is more important for us now is the future of our family,” said the commander of the 114th MILF Base Command.

Guns in working condition

All 75 firearms handed over by the MILF were “whole and in working condition,” according to retired Army Gen. Rey Ardo, the head of government’s decommissioning body.

Ardo said the firearms turned over included 50-caliber Barret sniper rifles and mortars.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who arrived ahead of President Aquino, said he hoped that more disarmament rites would follow.

In a statement, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles said she was confident that the start of the decommissioning process would have a “positive effect on the legislative process” on the proposed BBL.

“We are just awaiting the eventual passage of the BBL, the establishment of the Bangsamoro government, and the election of its leaders in order for the full decommissioning of the MILF to push through,” Deles said.

Phased decommissioning

Under the CAB, the full decommissioning process will take place with the passage of the BBL. As soon as the law was passed, the MILF would deactivate 30 percent of its combatants and their weapons turned over.

After the plebiscite for the BBL, the MILF will again decommission 35 percent of its forces and weapons. The remaining forces and weapons will be decommissioned when the Bangsamoro government starts functioning.

“We are happy the MILF continues to be a partner of the government in its objective to bring peace in Mindanao through the reduction of firearms in the area despite the delays in the BBL passage,” Deles said.

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said President Aquino’s third visit to the region was most symbolic.

“This is the act of peace, the show of sincerity in the peace process, that we have all been waiting for from the MILF and the government,” Hataman said.

Hataman said the decommissioning would transform MILF rebels from being soldiers of war into soldiers of food production as they “beat swords to ploughshares.”

“As soldiers (they) will begin to bring life to the land instead of taking from it,” he said.

Hataman said mothers would now also “begin to send their children to school again without fear, and welcome them home happily.”

“Today, children will start learning to be children, and hope never to learn about war again,” he said. Germelina Lacorte, Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Señase and Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao


INTERAKSYON |  The online news portal of TV5

PLOUGHSHARES: Statement of ARMM Gov Mujiv Hataman on MILF decommissioning By: Mujiv Hataman, ARMM governor June 16, 2015 10:56 AM


Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista inspect the weapons turned over by the MILF for decommissioning. (OPAPP photo)
InterAksyon.com

This is the statement of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman at the ceremonial decommissioning of MILF weapons and fighters in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. The statement was sent by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

We welcome the President, Benigno S. Aquino III to Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

This visit, the president's third during his term, is perhaps the most historic.

Today, we will witness the Moro Islamic Liberation Front symbolically lay down their arms to show their commitment to establishing a lasting peace in Mindanao. This is the act of peace, the show of sincerity in the peace process, that we have all been waiting for from the MILF and the government.

Beginning today, the MILF will beat swords to ploughshares as soldiers will begin to bring life to the land instead of taking from it. Today, mothers will begin to send their children to school again without fear, and welcome them home happily. Today, children will start learning to be children, and hope never to learn about war again.

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We silence the guns today and our voices will drown the songs of war; our voice will echo the calls for peace. We have been doing so for the past 17 years, culminating in a document we now know as the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

This Law, the fruit of many legal minds, both Moro and non-Moro, will be the rock on which lasting peace and eventual economic progress in Mindanao can be built.

The BBL has suffered much under the hands of those who have studied it, as well as those who have not, but it has been passed by the House Ad Hoc Committee, though it is now going through what might be called an obstacle race in the Senate. We pray that this race will soon end and the BBL be hailed as victorious.

The peace panel has done its part. The Bangsamoro will continue to do what is necessary, this decommissioning of arms not the least, in order to make our dream of lasting peace a reality.

We hope that the President, who has been its champion since its inception, will do everything that is possible for the BBL to come to its fruition.

Members of the Independent Decommissioning Body inspect the high-powered weapons turned over by the MILF. (OPAPP photo)


INQUIRER

Nurturing a ‘peace-centered’ village in Sulu SHARES: New VIEW COMMENTS By: Ryan D. Rosauro @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Mindanao 02:55 AM June 16th, 2015


Silangkan ,Parang ,Sulu Parang Philippines Village

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Adversity is said to beget adversity.

But in conflict-torn Sulu province, hope beckons from a youth-led, peace-building initiative that has transformed an almost deserted village of Parang town into a vibrant community of some 300 families where people regard social harmony as equally important to their need for daily subsistence.

And with the Bangsamoro transition on the horizon, the experience of building and sustaining a so-called “peace-centered community” in Parang’s Barangay (village) Silangkan provides vital lessons on how to organize and maintain law and order in the future autonomous region’s culturally diverse communities.

“The Silangkan experience is a story of community folk taking care of and nurturing the peace,” said Rosemain Abduraji of the nongovernment organization Tumikang Sama-Sama (TSS), or Together We Move Forward.

“While we practically need the police for law enforcement, there is no pillar stronger than the people taking responsibility for keeping the peace in their community,” she said in an interview with the Inquirer during a recent peace seminar in Davao City.

The strong desire of Silangkan folk to keep the peace is borne out of a recent episode. In 2001, government forces bombed the coastal village while pursuing Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari who had gone on a rampage after falling out of the political graces of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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The assault on Silangkan left a deep sense of insecurity among the villagers.

After the manhunt for Misuari had long ceased, many villagers chose not to return except to tend to their farms during the day.

Soon, the village became a halfway route for Abu Sayyaf bandits, whether for escaping toward island hideaways or getting into the Sulu mainland.

In 2012, the Jolo-based TSS staff went on a 45-minute drive to Silangkan to enjoy its pristine white-sand beach. There, they had a chance encounter with Abdtazir Tingkasan, a former MNLF commander and among the few residents who remained in the village.

What was supposed to be a weekend getaway turned out to be a deep and engaging conversation about an aging man’s dream for his family.

“The commander told us how much he wanted his children and grandchildren to acquire an education so that they would have a bright future,” TSS staff member Khamar Alama said.

“We didn’t expect to have a very emotionally touching exchange with him.” Alama and TSS colleagues, who are trained in conflict mediation, began planning how they could help fulfill Tingkasan’s dream. “We started with a community dialogue. We had people express what they wanted to see happen in their community and how they could help achieve these goals,” Abduraji said.

Simple rules

“Mainly, the Silangkan villagers don’t want a repeat of the 2001 experience when they were bombed by the military. They also resolved to address a host of family feuds which had resulted in the displacement of involved parties, hence lessen their opportunities for earning income, thereby perpetuating poverty,” Abduraji recalled.

The Silangkan villagers agreed on a set of seemingly simple rules to keep the peace:

— Monitor people entering their community to guard against the intrusion of bandits.

— No public display of firearms to prevent unintended provocation.

— Organize households into clusters of 10 led by an elder to whom problems were first referred, and if unresolved, were elevated to the higher leadership layers—barangay officials or local police.

“These three basic rules are contained in a community covenant that the households signed,” Alama said.

Bonding

With peace taking root, the displaced families returned. Soon government service came, like medical and dental missions. The village’s elementary and high schools were repaired. The community’s peace infrastructure has been maintained.

After every congregational prayer, people hold a community dialogue presided by the elders whereby issues and problems are openly discussed and resolved, said Alama.

“This makes the bond among villagers stronger,” he added.

Three years on, with peace in their midst, Silangkan folk are able to look forward to a more hopeful and promising future like developing the village’s ecotourism potentials.

Silangkan also hosts schoolchildren from at least three neighboring villages that have no schools. “For its role in maintaining access to education, Silangkan is becoming a lighthouse for other areas,” Alama said.

Experiences like that of Silangkan are rich models for lessons on community policing “that hopefully can be mainstreamed and become the norm,” according to Kathline Tolosa of the Security Reform Initiative.

Pieter Cronje, consultant to the Bangsamoro Community Policing Project of the British Council, said that such an approach was fitting for postconflict situations.

“In the 21st century, you cannot conduct policing in a military manner,” Cronje emphasized.

The concept of community policing was developed more fully by the United Kingdom after riots rocked south London in 1981.

It sought to address racial discrimination in the conduct of law-enforcement work. Tolosa said that her group was hopeful the emerging approach to community policing in the future Bangsamoro would be a mix of international and local experiences.

To ensure a high degree of success, the policing approach that must be developed for the Bangsamoro should be “along the grain of local practices and culture,” said Nicholas Thomas, British Council country director for the Philippines.

Alama and Abduraji, who are in their early 30s, hope law and order issues in the province would be resolved by Sulu folk who know more about its solutions than anyone else.

For the long-standing and seemingly intractable problem of community conflicts in Sulu, it bodes well for the entire Bangsamoro that the innocence and fresh perspective of youth, if harnessed, can make a difference.


INQUIRER

In conflict areas, peace amid noise SHARES: 46 VIEW COMMENTS By: Frinston Lim @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Mindanao 12:20 AM June 14th, 2015


CHILDREN play on one of the mobile corn shellers provided by the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development Program to farmers in Romongaob, South Upi, Maguindanao province, as part of its support for peace-building efforts of the government in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. FRINSTON LIM

As lawmakers wrangle over the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Manila, poor communities in areas of Mindanao that bore the brunt of armed conflict are enjoying the gains of development programs made possible by peace-building efforts of the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and international agencies.

In the past 10 years, these programs have brought changes to the lives of over half a million people in at least 12 strife-torn areas, providing jobs, empowering communities and fostering unity and harmony.

Take, for example, the upland farming village of Romongaob in South Upi town, Maguindanao province. The hilly place is home to about 5,000 people, 70 percent of whom are members of the Teduray tribe, 25 percent Christian settlers and the rest Muslims.

“Before, we did not collectively receive projects. Livelihood programs from the outside were given straight to a particular (ethno-religious) group,” said resident Noel Maningula. That changed in 2013 with the entry of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the development arm of the MILF.

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Farmers displaced by Maguindanao massacre get UN help Farmers of Sitio (sub-village) Masalay in the village of Salman here, who were traumatized and displaced after the massacre of 58 people five years ago, are inching their way back to normal life by planting corn and vegetables. Parida Pananggulon-Amolan, president of the Salman People’s Organization, said local farmers have received some assistance from the United Nations-World Food Program (UN-WFP) in restoring their livelihood. INQUIRER FILE

The BDA, through the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP), helped the community put up a warehouse with solar dryer, providing farmers with mobile corn shellers and additional farm machinery.

Foreign funds The projects cost some P3.4 million. With funds pooled from the European Union, and the governments of Sweden, Australia, Canada, United States and New Zealand, the MTF-RDP has poured in P1.3 billion since 2006 in conflict-affected villages in Mindanao.

It has supported projects giving access to basic services, such as roads, water supply systems and even toilets, as well as livelihood projects like post-harvest facilities and farm equipment.

The World Bank administers the fund on behalf of the Philippine government, the MILF and international donors.

Matthew Stephens, MTF-RDP program manager, said the program’s community-based approach “has fostered social cohesion among diverse Muslim, Christian and [indigenous peoples] communities in Mindanao.”

Communities are chosen based on how much they have suffered from the conflict and how poor they are, Stephens said.

Even areas in the core territories of the Bangsamoro, such as Pantukan, Compostela Valley, and Tarragona, Davao Oriental, were included.

Unique feature

Motoo Konishi, World Bank country director, said the MTF-RDP “is in many ways a unique project.”

“The most unique feature of the program is that it supports the [BDA]. It’s very rare for a revolutionary group to have a dedicated development arm, least of all for the development arm to cooperate directly with the government and the international community,” Konishi said.

How did the MTF-RDP-funded projects benefit the residents of Romongaob?
Isidra Batitao, who owns a hectare of cornfield in Sitio Eking, said the corn sheller had made farm work more efficient.

She said farmers paid only P10 per sack for the use of the corn-shelling facility. Traders in the town charge the farmers P160 per sack for the same service, “or else we do the shelling manually.”

A group called Romangaob Tri-People’s Organization (RTPO) administers the service fees and uses the money for repair and maintenance of the farm machinery.

People’s roles

Stephens said the beneficiaries were the ones who chose the projects for their community. People’s organizations, such as the RTPO, are responsible for maintaining the projects, he said, “so that [villagers] will feel it’s their project and not someone else’s.”

To ensure sustainability, the MTF-RDP enters into agreements with local government units (LGUs) that require the LGUs to provide counterpart funds or materials.

Of the over 311 sub-projects already completed in 214 villages in 75 municipalities across Mindanao, three out of four (75 percent) are community-based infrastructure, such as access roads, footpaths, water systems, electrification and post-harvest facilities.

At least 21 percent are income-generating programs, while the rest include shelter-related projects.

The MTF-RDP has established enough safety nets to ensure the projects are properly implemented and answer the concrete needs of communities, Stephens said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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