MILF rebels lay down arms to govt in Maguindanao rites

As Mamasapano massacre victims’ kin decry injustice

COTABATO CITY -– All is set for the historic decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) firearms as the first phase of the decommissioning program which aims to put the arms and forces of the rebel group beyond use kicks off.
Government negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the decommissioning is part of the agreement of both the government and the MILF contained under the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
The ceremonies for the decommissioning of firearms were set inspite of the failure of the MILF to return firearms of police operatives who figured in the Mamasapano massacre in which 44 police commandos were killed.
Also, the relatives of the Mamasapano fatalities continue to denounce the failure of government to bring to justice the rebels and all those who were involved in the killing of the police special action force members. The government promised benefits for the survivors of the slain police officers and men have not all been delivered, they stressed.
“All is set, President Aquino will witness the historic and vital part of the Mindanao peace process,” Ferrer said.
To be held at the old provincial capitol compound in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province, the simple ceremonies dubbed “Ceremonial Turnover of Weapons and Decommissioning of the MILF Combatants” to be held at the old provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, will once again prove the MILF’s sincerity in the peace process even as the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law hit a snag at the country’s legislature.
Ferrer said the MILF fighters will undertake the registration and turning-in of 75 weapons to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB).
Turkey’s former ambassador to NATO, Haydar Berk heads the IDB with members Jan Erik Wilhemsen from Norway, Maj. Muhammad Aiman Syazwi Bin Haji Abdul Rahim from Brunei, and local experts, AFP ret. Lt. Gen. Rey Ardor, Dr. Mario Aguja, MILF spokesperson Von Al-Haq and Janati Mimbantas.
Under the mechanics of the decommissioning as agreed upon by both sides, 145 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) will register and processed to formally return to civilian lives.
According to Ferrer, prior to Tuesday’s formal decommissioning, members of the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) have inspected and conducted ocular inspection of the serviceability of the guns.
”The IDB has reported the guns appeared to be good and working but the final determination whether these guns still works will happen tomorrow,” Ferrer said.
”It was one of the most difficult decisions on the part of the MILF combatants,” Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said. “A sacrifice for the sake of peace, for the sake of having real peace in Mindanao,” he added.
Aside from President Aquino, Ferrer said expected to attend are House and Senate members, Peace Adviser Sec. Teresita Deles and MILF chieftain Murad Ebrahim, representatives from the international community helping in the Mindanao peace process and local officials.
“This is just the beginning of the whole process of normalization, the decommissioning is the first important step,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer added that after the decommissioning process, the decommissioned guns will be kept will be brought to an agreed area, the Weapons Storage facility located inside Camp Iranun (Abubakar) in Sitio Bombaran, Barangay Tugaig in Barira, Maguindanao.
Camp Iranun, now home of the 603rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine military, used to be the biggest MILF homebase – Camp Abubakar, which fell to government hands in the 200 all out war waged by former President Joseph Estrada.
About 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 will be backed by close circuit TV cameras.
”The idea is to put these weapons beyond use, that is what this thing all about,” she said.
Ferrer said aside from international representatives, 15 members from the Philippine military and police and equal number of representatives from the MILF will compose the JVMT.

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