MILF DECOMMISSIONING. Department of Social Welfare and Development workers interview MILF combatants (left) during the last phase of the decommissioning process of MILF combatants in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, on Tuesday (Sept. 27, 2022). Another photo (right) showed an MILF PWD being escorted to the venue by a DSWD personnel. (Photos courtesy of OPAPRU)

COTABATO CITY – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiating panel Tuesday heaped praises anew on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for his support of the Mindanao peace process and commitment to sustaining the gains of the undertaking.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair and now BARMM education minister, said this during the launch of the resumption of Phase 3 of MILF decommissioning at the old capitol grounds in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

“We thank President Marcos Jr. for his reaffirmation of support and commitment to the peace process, which he earlier demonstrated by upholding the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) where the  Bangsamoro Transition Authority shall be MILF-led,” Iqbal said.

“Indeed, not only is the peace process moving, but the BARMM is also moving,” he added.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez and BARMM chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim witnessed Phase 3 of the MILF decommissioning as facilitated by the International Decommissioning Body (IDB).

The process is among the security component of the Normalization Track of the CAB, the peace agreement forged between the government and MILF in 2014, which aims to help former combatants make the successful transition to civilian life.

The IDB was created by the Government of the Philippines and MILF negotiating panels as part of the Annex on Normalization of the CAB and composed of representatives from the Governments of Turkey, Norway, the Kingdom of Brunei, and local experts nominated by the panels.

Darwin Wee, OPAPRU’s communications and public affairs services director, said about 5,500 MILF combatants were decommissioned Tuesday.

OPAPRU said 19,345 MILF combatants have been decommissioned since the first phase decommissioning in 2015 and the second phase in 2019-2020.

The decommissioning was delayed at the height of the pandemic, which slowed down activities of the Mindanao peace process.

The Phase 3 decommissioning process began last year, Wee said, as part of the government’s goal to reform armed revolutionaries into “peaceful and productive citizens.”

Accompanying the process are provisions of financial assistance, social entrepreneurship projects, and skills development training, and scholarship programs for combatants' children, among others.

The political part of the Mindanao peace process is the passage of BOL and the creation of an expanded political entity now called BARMM. (PNA)