COTABATO CITY: After the decommissioning of former rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday, the Bangsamoro government is seeking the help of local executives in dissolving private armies.
Chief Minister Ahod "Al Haj Murad" Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said they would compel the local government units (LGUs) in BARMM's core territory to help the police and the military disband local private armies.
"We will ask the local government units in BARMM to help dismantle private armed groups to complement the decommissioning of MILF members," Ebrahim said.
In keeping with the peace accord with the government, a total of 1,060 former MILF rebels turned over 940 firearms, including mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns to the Turkish-led International Decommissioning Body (IDB), which President Rodrigo Duterte personally officiated on Saturday.
Prior to the decommissioning, Ebrahim and Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman were already pushing for a firearm registration amnesty program for civilians in the Bangsamoro provinces and cities.
Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu also supported the suggested program, saying, "Having all firearms in the hands of civilians accounted for properly is good for the communities in BARMM."
"It will be easier for the BARMM government, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces to keep track of the firearms kept by non-MILF members," Mangudadatu added.
Based on the statistics of Bangsamoro regional police right in the adjoining Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces alone, there are more or less 10,000 firearms with expired licenses.
Residents of BARMM belonging to the different and opposing clans have long been gun advocates, as they used them to protect themselves from enemies, more than as a "status symbol."
The country had also seen political warlords in BARMM with armories of firearms, which they use to perpetuate their political power.
Ebrahim, who is also the MILF's chairman; Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.; and Isidro Lapeña, director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, signed an agreement on Friday to provide for the vocational training of former Moro rebels so they become productive while being reintegrated into mainstream society.
Earlier, Galvez and Ebrahim separately announced at the BARMM regional office that the government will provide each of the 1,060 MILF fighters to be decommissioned with cash assistance, housing and other humanitarian help.
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.
For his part, Galvez said the government would do its best to provide the decommissioned MILF members with needed support for them to have normal lives.