Monday Sep, 23 2019 09:18:25 PM

Gov't to disband private armies in Bangsamoro region

BANGSAMORO NEWS UPDATES • 14:45 PM Sat Sep 7, 2019
John M. Unson
Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. and Chief Minister Hadji Ahod Ebrahim together presided over Friday's forum in Cotabato City. (Photos by John Unson)

COTABATO CITY  ---- The Bangsamoro government will enlist the help of local executives in neutralizing “private armies” to complement the decommissioning of Moro rebels in five southern provinces.

More than a thousand Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels will turn in today assorted firearms and crew-served weapons, such as machineguns and mortars, to the Turkish-led International Decommissioning Body, or IDB, in keeping with the MILF’s peace accord with Malacañang.

Chief Minister Hadji Ahod Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao told reporters Friday they will compel the local government units in BARMM’s core territory to help the police and the military disband local private armed groups.

Residents of BARMM have a strong culture of love for guns --- both as status symbol and as protection from adversaries.

Big Moro clans in BARMM led by political warlords have stockpiles of firearms that they use to perpetuate political power.

There are thousands of Muslim, Christian and Lumad civilians in BARMM who also keep guns in their homes.

In BARMM’s adjoining Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces alone, there are no fewer than 10,000 firearms with expired licenses, according to the Bangsamoro regional police.

Ebrahim, who is MILF’s figurehead, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. and Isidro Lapeña of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority forged here Friday an agreement to provide the Moro rebels listed for decommissioning with vocational schooling for them to become productive while being reintegrated into mainstream communities.

“We will ask the local government units in BARMM to help dismantle private armed groups to complement the decommissioning of MILF members,” Ebrahim said.

The MILF is turning over 940 firearms, including mortars, rocket launchers and machineguns during a symbolic event today at Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao that President Rodrigo Duterte will personally officiate.

Galvez and Ebrahim separately told reporters during a media forum at the BARMM capitol here Friday that the government will provide each of the 1,060 MILF fighters to be decommissioned today with cash assistance, housing and other humanitarian interventions.

The group is part of the 12,000 MILF fighters to be decommissioned in batches in a process to last until first quarter of 2020.

“Decommissioning does not mean surrender. That should be clear to all. Our forces will turnover their weapons to the IDB. The BARMM and the national government will initiate interventions to improve the condition in the local communities to eliminate that need for keeping firearms, Ebrahim said.

Galvez said the government will do its best to provide the decommissioned MILF members with needed support for them to have normal lives.


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