Philippines

Gov't, MILF create normalization bodies

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MANILA, May 7 -- The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels returned from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia recently following a discussion on the composition of the different bodies that will oversee and implement the normalization process.

Among these is the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) that will take the lead in the gradual process of decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons.

The creation of the IDB can be found specifically on the Annex on Normalization, one of the key documents of the CAB. The IDB shall be composed of three (3) foreign experts including the chairperson, and four (4) local experts jointly nominated by the Parties. The Parties shall also invite three (3) states to provide the foreign experts.

“The IDB would be the one to supervise, oversee, and basically implement the decommissioning process,” said Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chief negotiator for the GPH. “The procedure is for [the MILF] to submit a list of weapons and combatants, an inventory. After which, the IDB will verify the list and work towards the programming of the decommissioning schedule as agreed upon in the Annex on Normalization.”

The annex, signed in Kuala Lumpur on January 25, states that “normalization aims to ensure human security in the Bangsamoro. It helps build a society that is committed to basic human rights where individuals are free of violence or crime and where long-held traditions and values continue to be honored.”

“We really have to put up the body as soon as possible so that the job of verification of the inventory that would be submitted by the MILF will begin. And everything proceeds from there. Until we are able to verify the number of weapons, the kinds of weapons and also the combatants—who are they, where are they located?—we can’t actually begin, for example, the socio-economic programs that we’ll be providing for the communities of these combatants.”

There will be no wholesale integration of the forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front into the Armed Forces of the Philippines nor the Philippine National Police (PNP) similar to the integration of the Moro National Liberation Front undertaken during the Ramos administration, said Coronel-Ferrer. However, interested and qualified former combatants are welcome to join anytime, she said.

“We have a provision for the setting up of the police force for the Bangsamoro, which will still be part of the PNP, and it will be significantly provided with resources to guarantee its professionalism and capability to take charge of peace and order concerns,” Coronel-Ferrer added.

According to the Annex on Normalization, the decommissioning of MILF forces shall be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties. The MILF shall undertake a gradual program for decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use. The decommissioning process includes activities aimed at achieving a smooth transition for the members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF to productive civilian life.

Also discussed in the meeting was the formation of the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) and the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). The JNC is mandated to coordinate all components of the normalization process. It will be co-chaired by National Security Council Undersecretary Zenonida Brosas on behalf of the government, and by Mohamed Nasif on the side of the MILF.

The government and MILF panels agreed to invite the government of Switzerland to provide an expert who would chair the TJRC. The TJRC is tasked to study and recommend to the Parties the appropriate mechanisms to address legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations through land dispossession, towards healing and reconciliation.

In addition, the panels identified their respective representatives in the Joint Peace and Security Committee that will coordinate the joint teams that will be posted to assist in maintaining peace and order in conflict affected areas, and the study group that would propose the terms and criteria for the amnesty and pardon of MILF members in conflict with the law. Both panels also named the people who will work for the transformation of six previously acknowledged MILF camps in Lanao and Maguindanao into productive communities. The amnesty and transformation of the camps are the two confidence-building measures defined in the Annex on Normalization.

The Terms of References of the IDB, JNC, and TJRC were signed by the GPH and MILF peace panels on March 22, 2014, days before the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Finally, the two panels agreed to cooperate in the current review process of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that was submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to the Office of the President on April 22. The review process is being led by the Office of the Executive Secretary and Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel. President Aquino will certify to Congress the draft law as urgent after the review process is completed. (OPAPP)