OPAPRU chief Carlito Galvez Jr. (PNA file photo) 

MANILA – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) on Thursday said that both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed to use a third-party body, the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), to maintain the integrity of the process.

"To ensure the integrity and maintain a high level of trust and confidence, the GPH and MILF parties agreed to designate a third-party body, the Independent Decommissioning Body, to specifically oversee the decommissioning of MILF forces," OPAPRU chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a statement on Thursday.

The IDB is composed of international experts from Turkiye, Norway, Brunei Darussalam, Japan and the designation of competent and local experts from the GPH such as retired Lt. Gen. Rey C. Ardo, former commander of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command, and former congressman and Prof. Mario Aguja of Mindanao State University, and other local representatives.

Galvez also said the implementation of the decommissioning process of the MILF forces is guided by the roadmap of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) specifically in the Annex on Normalization, which is agreed upon by the GPH and MILF.

"Under the roadmap, the MILF shall undergo a graduated and gradual decommissioning in four phases by percentage: ceremonial in Phase 1, 30 percent in Phase 2, 35 percent in Phase 3, and remaining MILF forces in Phase 4," he said.

The OPAPRU chief said the decommissioning process is the first step that enables the MILF combatants to smoothly transition from conflict to peaceful, productive and civilian, and consequently allowing them to leave behind their guerrilla identity.

The decommissioning process also involves the turning-in and putting weapons beyond use.

Meanwhile, Galvez said that they would like to set the record straight that it is inaccurate to claim or allege that there is a missing list of MILF forces.

"The list of decommissioned combatants is safely secured and maintained by the IDB and the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). The list is covered by the non-disclosure agreement and the Data Privacy Act of 2012, which provides for the protection of individual personal information as part of their constitutional rights," he said.

Galvez also said the MILF submits its list of validated combatants and weapons to the IDB.

"The IDB shall conduct verification, registration, validation and inventory of weapons and forces of the MILF with the assistance of the Verification and Monitoring Assistance Teams (VMATs). The VMAT, which is composed of an international representative from Turkiye/Brunei/Norway, representative from the AFP/PNP, and representative from the MILF, conducts a careful validation process through interview and stringent vetting process at the decommissioning site," he said.

Galvez also said that each combatant is validated and registered through biometrics by the IDB, with their photos and fingerprints taken and printed in the IDB-issued ID or the decommissioned combatant's ID. Information derived from the same interview and registration is handled through an IDB database system and is treated with utmost consideration for security and confidentiality."

To further enhance the process of validation, the GPH and MILF established a pre-Assembly and Processing Area (Pre-APA) to jointly conduct a pre-screening and pre-registration of MILF combatants scheduled for decommissioning.

The identities of MILF combatants are further verified through civil registration and provision and processing of certificates of live birth to establish their legal identities with the support of the international community," the OPAPRU chief said.

After the decommissioning process, the validated and registered combatants will be turned over for social-intake interview under the Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities and DSWD.

Each decommissioned combatant receives PHP100,000 as transitional cash assistance with a DSWD-issued ID (biometric system) as part of their transformation to productive civilian lives.

Galvez said decommissioned combatants undergo a case management process of the DSWD to ensure that the transitional cash assistance is properly utilized to aid them in their transformation.

The OPAPRU through DSWD hired case workers to monitor and manage the status of all decommissioned combatants and assess their status which is essential in programming socioeconomic interventions tailored fit to their needs.

"To guarantee effective and efficient delivery of commitments in the normalization program including the decommissioning process, the parties have created the Third Party Monitoring Team to adequately monitor, assess and evaluate the implementation of the CAB," he added.

Galvez said the processes, protocols and mechanisms established in the decommissioning program of the MILF forces were crafted under the peace agreement to ensure integrity, professionalism, and level of trust and confidence in the process.

It is a product of careful and several consultation processes with various stakeholders, taking into account the best practices from disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes from other peace processes in other countries.

The complete transformation of combatants, wherein they will be leaving behind their guerilla identity involves the different tasks and contributions from other government agencies and other branches of the government.

"In fact, while the normalization is still ongoing, the MILF as a party of the peace agreement is helping the government in its fight against lawless elements and violent extremism as demonstrated through the efforts of the MILF during anti-illegal drugs operations in Liguasan Marsh in 2016, operations against BIFF in 2016, Marawi siege in 2017, and other major law enforcement operations in Basilan, Sulu and Maguindanao," Galvez said.

He added that the decommissioning process along with other interventions such as socioeconomic development program, transitional justice and reconciliation, and confidence-building measures which forms part of the normalization process of the CAB ensures the holistic transformation and healing towards normalcy, and the attainment of just and lasting peace in the Bangsamoro. (PNA)