‘We did not surrender, but taking up arms for long was destructive’ -MILF

By TYRONE A. VELEZ
Davao Today

Davao City – “Arms helped us in the war during Martial Law. But the frequent use of arms will be destructive as well. I’ve been fighting for forty years; I see more destruction in arms.”

Thus said Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiator Mohagher Iqbal who claimed the signing of the normalization annex to the peace agreement did not imply surrendering to the government but rather sacrificing to attain peace.

Iqbal clarified this point at a peace summit in Davao with civil society groups Wednesday, when a delegate asked if the MILF have not been wary of the past failures such as the agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front that did not lead to the attainment of peace in troubled Muslim areas.

Iqbal said for the MILF panel, the signing of the annex was a matter of sacrificing for peace.

“It’s an ultimate sacrifice, but if we want to have peace, we have to bind to it,” said Iqbal. “But we get something in exchange for what we gave up.”

Iqbal said the exchange include five points: the re-deployment of government troops out of Bangsamoro territory, the establishment of a Bangsamoro police force, disbandment of private armies, socio-economic intervention and transition justice.

The normalization annex is the last of the four annexes signed to conclude the peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF.

MILF's Iqbal
MILF’s Iqbal (Bulatlat File Photo)

A government primer on the annex defined normalization as “the process through which communities affected by the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao can return to a peaceful life and pursue sustainable livelihoods free from fear of violence and crime.”

The annex also includes the decommissioning of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) in their transition to “a peaceful civilian life.”

Iqbal said “the decommissioning has no element of surrender of laying down of arms.”

He likened the process of decommissioning as “pag-gagarahe (parking)” ones arms under the watch of an Independent Decommissioning Body composed of foreign and local experts as stated in the annex.

A news report quoted Philippine peace negotiator Miriam Colonel Ferrer that crafting the decommissioning aspect had to involve words that have no notions of surrender as Iqbal pushed for it during the negotiations.

Ferrer said this was the intention that the annex described the process as “decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use.”

The timeframe of the decommissioning shall end with the implementation of all agreements as both parties aim to sign an Exit Agreement by 2016 to certify that all commitments have been met.

With the decommissioning, six MILF camps in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur would be transformed into “peaceful and productive communities” under the charge of a joint task force between the government and the MILF.

Iqbal said the signing of the annex signaled the cooperation between the government and the MILF in matters such as security and transitional justice.

He told the forum that the time for private armies have to go with the establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Iqbal said the Moro people would benefit at the transitional justice mechanisms which he said would address various issues such as human rights violations and correcting historical injustices in the course of the armed conflict.

“Let us talk about the past, not just forgive and forget. Let us talk how we lost our land. We may not regain them, but let us talk. Our history is winding but we can straighten this out. Let this be a genuine healing process,” Iqbal said. ())

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