By Ali Macabalang
KIDAPAWAN CITY – Former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) have started basic police and military training to help maintain peace and order in the new region in accordance with the peace accord between the MILF and the government.
The first batch, comprising 225 MILF-BIAF members kicked off their training at Camp Lucero in North Cotabato last July 31 along with counterparts from the police and military service to compose the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST), Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a statement.
The training would be the “gateway for former combatants to serve and join the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police in maintaining peace and order in the Bangsamoro,” Galvez said.
About 200 JPSTs (teams) will be established to secure residents within the six state-acknowledged MILF camps across Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and adjacent areas during the decommissioning process which will start on September 7, Galvez added.
President Duterte, Cabinet members and security officials are expected to witness the “highly-anticipated decommissioning process.”
The JPSTs will be composed of the AFP, PNP and MILF-BIAF members to serve until the BARMM interim government – the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) – ends its term in 2022.
Galvez and BARMM officials have underscored the crucial role of JPSTs, particularly as the main security force for the decommissioning in the different assembly and processing areas (APAs), assist in settling disputes, and efforts on counter drugs and terrorism.
“More importantly, these teams will also support the work being carried out by the existing ceasefire mechanisms, particularly in addressing pressing issues on security and maintaining order,” he added.
The decommissioning process is part of the Normalization Track’s goal of putting MILF fighters and their weapons beyond use, and enabling them to achieve their desired quality of life through sustainable livelihood and political participation in a peaceful and deliberative society.
The Normalization Track constitutes an annex of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the MILF in 2014. It focuses on security, socio-economic development, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation.
Based on the Normalization Track, 30 percent (12,000) of MILF fighters and their weapons will be decommissioned this year. At least 35percent will undergo the same process next year, while the remaining fighters will be decommissioned by 2022 in time for the signing of the Exit Agreement under the CAB.
BARMM’s Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo told Manila Bulletin that the decommissioning process is “very vital” in the successful administrative operations of the BTA.
Sinarimbo said some top MILF-BIAF leaders have occupied positions in the BARMM interim period, but their former combatant followers might be disgruntled if not given employment or sources of livelihood in other public entities and endeavors.