MILF decommissioning on track, Galvez tells senators

By Wilnard Bacelonia

February 6, 2024, 3:55 pm

<p>Decommissioned MILF combatants <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Decommissioned MILF combatants (File photo)

MANILA – Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Tuesday assured the Senate Committee on National Defense that the ongoing decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants will be finished by 2025.

Galvez made this remark in response to Senator Imee Marcos' concern about a report that only 12,000 of the 40,000 MILF combatants have been decommissioned.

He informed the panel that 26,132 MILF combatants were decommissioned and 4,625 firearms had already been surrendered as of August last year.

The Department of Budget and Management, he said, has released PHP448 million to fund the decommissioning of around 6,000 combatants.

"I would like to clarify that the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) was signed in 2014 but the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) was only ratified in 2019," Galvez said in a Senate hearing.

He said the decommissioning started in 2019 and was pushed back again because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MILF decommissioning is being led by the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), a third party created under the GPH-MILF peace agreement, that conducts inventory, verifies and validates MILF members and weapons, and develops and implements a schedule of MILF decommissioning.

IDB is composed of representatives from Brunei, Turkiye, Norway, MILF, and the Philippine government.

In 2019, Galvez said around 12,000 MILF combatants were decommissioned and an additional 14,000 last year after the pandemic.

Along with the decommissioning process, he said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Reconciliation (OPAPRU) also implements Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and the Disbandment of Private Armed Groups (DPAGs) with the help of various government agencies and the local government units.

Meanwhile, the Advancing Human Security in BARMM (ASPIRE), a program that helps address loose firearms in the Bangsamoro region, was also launched to encourage the registration and stenciling of loose firearms in the region with the help from the government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme.

When asked why there are only 4,625 surrendered firearms, MILF peace panel member Raissa Jajurie told the senators that the peace agreement did not state the number of combatants and firearms that needed to be decommissioned.

"Yung (The) weapons, as mentioned by the good Secretary, are not really one-is-to-one. Many of the weapons that the combatants used are not the organization's property," Jajurie said.

Jajurie said the commitment between the national government and the MILF only cited the firearms that were owned by MILF as an organization excluding the personally owned and the ones that were lent by sympathizers.

These firearms that were not included in the decommissioning, she said, are being worked out to be included in the SALW, DPAGs, and ASPIRE programs.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who chairs the panel, asked Galvez to submit needed documents to assure that there are no irregularities in the ongoing MILF decommissioning. (PNA)