Category Archives: gph-milf peace talks

Gov’t, MILF start 3rd phase of decommissioning

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with the help of the International Decommissioning Body (IDB), on Monday started decommissioning the third batch of MILF combatants in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Former members of MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) patiently waited for their turn here to hand over their firearms for safekeeping and deactivation later.

The IDB will safely keep the firearms while other government agencies will attend to the reintegration process of the GPH-MILF peace agreement. READ MORE

CATAMCO, QUEVEDO SUPPORT EXTENSION OF BARMM TRANSITION PERIOD

BARMM transition extension supporters Orlando Cardinal Quevedo (left) and North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco (right). (Photos courtesy of Governor Catamco’s  office and CBCP’s FB page)

BTA term extension gets more backers

 January 25, 2021

COTABATO CITY – Peace advocacy group, Save Sulu Movement (SSM), has joined the calls for extending the three-year transition period of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The Bangsamoro Organic Law sets the transition phase of the region in 2022, but regional leaders… Read More

GOVT ASSURES MINDANAO MORO LEADERS: Anti-terror bill against terrorists not Muslims

LAW DOES NOT TARGET REGIONAL, ETHNIC GROUPS

By ROGER M. BALANZA

The Philippine government has assured that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 would specifically target terror groups, not regional or ethnic groups,  to secure the country against terrorist violence.

The bill, that replaced the Home Security Act of 2007,  seeks to sharpen  the country’s fangs to curb terrorism, which remains as a major threat to peace and order.

Duterte signs anti-terror bill into law

President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law on Friday, July 3,  the bill that seeks to give the country more teeth to curb terrorism.

Compared to the anti-terrorist HSA of 2007, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is clawed with harsher provisions that could end two evils that for years rattled peace and order and stalled economic development  in the Philippine southern island of Mindanao: the communist insurgency and the violent Moro extremist groups.

 

The New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the National Democratic  Front (NDF), the umbrella of left-leaning groups, continues to sow mayhem and terror in the countrysides of several regions.

Mindanao is also home to several Moro terror groups, including the Maute Group, Abu Sayyaf Gtoup (ASG), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP) and the local cell of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Middle East-based group considered as the most dangerous international terror group. Military said ISIS is expanding operations worldwide, eyeing the Philippines as its province (caliphate) and the center of its terrorist activities in the Southeast Asian region. The most violent terrorist adventure of the local groups, backed by the ISIS, was the 7-month siege of Marawi City, the Philippines’ Muslim capital, in 2017.

mindanao terrorists

Several groups, including the political opposition, human rights advocates, Moro leaders opposed the bill fearing potential violations of human rights.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 allows detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days sans a warrant of arrest; 60-day surveillance with an allowable 30-day extension that can be conducted by the police or the military against suspected terrorists; imposes a 12-year jail term on a person who voluntarily or knowingly joins a terrorist organization.

A day before Duterte signed the bill, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) passed a resolution appealing to the President to veto the bill to allow a review by Congress.

Parliament  Resolution 239 expressed “grave concern” over the passage of the bill but “respectfully appealing” to  the President to veto Senate Bill 1083 and House Bill  6875  to “provide Congress the opportunity to review and address the issues of vagueness, overbreadth and other concerns.”
Resolution 239 stemmed from a letter sent to the 80-member Parliament by Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Muraj” Ebrahim on June 22, stating his position on the issue and calling on the President to “exercise his veto power vis-à-vis the Anti-Terrorism Bill.”
Ebrahim said that  while we (Bangsamoro people) ” agree that a policy framework needs to be enacted to fight the menace of terrorism, we feel that the fundamental guarantees of liberty and the institutions of democracy must be protected.”
Ebrahim is chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the biggest Moro group that front-lined the latest peace talks with government that led to the approval by Congress of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL)and the creation of the BARMM.
In his letter to the Parliament, Ebrahim said the MILF  “condemn(s) terrorism and have worked consistently to fight it but as the Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro “I cannot help but be alarmed by the language and foreseeable consequences of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill,” noting that it “stems from the long history of persecution, human rights violations, and discrimination suffered by the Bangsamoro.”
Ebrahim said the Bangsamoro leaders have raised worry that the anti-terror bill, once enacted into law, would lead to the rise in “incidents of violations of human rights” and would once again subject Bangsamoro people to “discrimination and abuse.”
“As the leader of a political entity born out of the struggle against injustice and oppression, it is my moral duty to speak out in order to ensure the measures intended to address terrorism will not be used as a means to subvert the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals, in general, and normalize abuse and discrimination against the Bangsamoro, in particular,”  Ebrahim said.
But presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Anti-Terrorism Act targets only terrorists and  allayed the fears of the Bangsamoro leaders’ concerns over its passage.
Roque said the anti-terror law does not target any regional or ethnic group, like the Bangsamoro people.

“Passing a class legislation against the (people of BARMM), I would like to stress, would not even cross the minds of the proponents of the said bill. This piece of legislation is against terrorists and terrorism and not against a particular regional/ethnic group,” he said.

Roque said Bangsamoro leaders may have prejudged the measure.

“We consider the concern that the bill would lead to abuse, especially to our Muslim brothers and sisters, unfounded,” he said. (With PNA and MindaNews reports)

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New anti-terror law fixes flaws in Human Security Act: Andanar

MANILA – The new anti-terrorism law aims to correct the flaws in Republic Act (RA) 9372 or the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said on Friday.In a press statement, Andanar said the new law, RA 11479 or the… Read More

New law uses ‘comprehensive’ approach vs. terrorism

MANILA – Republic Act (RA) 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, aims to protect life, liberty, and property from terrorism deemed as “inimical and dangerous to the national security of the country and to the welfare of the… Read More

Bangsamoro looking to have representation in the Anti-Terrorism Council

Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim said that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) respects President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s decision to sign the Anti Terrorism Act of 2020.

He also said that BARMM will engage the National Government to address terrorism and recommended to have Bangsamoro representation in the Anti-Terrorism Council. “The BARMM is open to engage the National Government on preparedness against this vicious phenomenon, as we collectively explore new potential approaches to holistically protect our people from the menace of terrorism. This engagement can start with the Bangsamoro having representation in the Anti-Terrorism Council”, he said. READ MORE

TERRORIST

New law ‘powerful’ in curbing terror threats

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said the country has now a powerful law to protect the people against threats by terrorist groups, with the signing into law of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,”We now have a powerful statute that provides law enforcement agencies the… Read More

SENATE ASSURES FULL SUPPORT FOR BARMM

Bangsamoro Organic Law remains on track

Senator Francis Tolentino said that the Senate will ensure that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) gets all the resources it needs as it goes through the crucial transition phase.

The implementation of Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the ongoing transition of BARMM remains on track amidst the challenges being faced by the national and Bangsamoro governments.

Tolentino, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, underscored Senate’s commitment to help uplift the lives of the Bangsamoro people, and unleash the full economic potential of the region.

galvez opapp
 

ON TRACK. Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. highlighted the government’s peacebuilding efforts in Mindanao during the Senate public hearing on Tuesday (March 10, 2020). Galvez said the entire process is still on the track despite challenges. (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)

 

The committee conducted a public hearing on Tuesday, March 10,  to raise key issues regarding the BOL’s implementation and solicit recommendations from stakeholders on how to best address them.
“The mandate of the new Bangsamoro government is that we shall always be cooperative and collaborative with all endeavors to pursue good governance and ultimately development,” said lawyer Ali Pangalian Balindong, speaker of the BARMM Parliament during Tuesday’s hearing called for by the Senate Committee on Local Government.
At the hearing, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. highlighted the efforts being undertaken by the national and Bangsamoro sides to further strengthen relations between both two parties.
Tolentino said “the purpose of the committee hearing is really for the (Senate) to be of assistance in so far as making sure that the baby steps are correct and in the right direction.”
“We are assisting in the baby steps but we would want to ensure that these would be translated into successful adult strides because the success of BARMM is the success of the Philippines,” he said.
Naguib G. Sinarimbo, BARMM’s Minister of the Interior and Local Government, who provided updates on the status of the BOL and BARMM during the hearing, emphasized that “the transition in the Bangsamoro is a complex one.”
“It is not just a transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to BARMM but a transition of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to governance,” he said.
“What is important to remember is we are also building institutions and strengthening the institutions,” Sinarimbo pointed out.
At the present, the parliamentary-form BARMM is being run majority by the leadership of the MILF as part of its peace agreement with the government signed in 2014.
Responding to queries on the status of the BOL’s implementation, Galvez  highlighted the efforts being undertaken by the national and Bangsamoro sides to further strengthen relations between both two parties.
“There may be challenges along the way but it’s natural as we transform the region. What I am seeing here is the dedication and commitment of local stakeholders, including the foreign donor community, to create the conditions wherein the Bangsamoro people can build a better and brighter future,” Galvez said at the sidelines of the hearing.
“One thing is very clear in this hearing and that is, the entire process is still on track despite the challenges. It remains true to the spirit of the peace agreement that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed six years ago,” he noted.
Galvez expressed optimism that “with the mechanisms that are now being put in place, we can surmount all of the challenges we are facing.”
Socioeconomic assistance: A shared responsibility
He, however, clarified that the provision of socioeconomic assistance for the decommissioned combatants “is a shared responsibility of the national and Bangsamoro governments.”
“They (combatants) should understand that the government also has limitations in terms of funding, and has to balance this concern with the equally important fund requirements of other emergency programs,” Galvez said, adding, “Rest assured that the government will fulfill its promise to change the lives of the Moro people through inclusive development.”

Senator Francis N. Tolentino (center) underscores the Senate’s commitment to help uplift the lives of the Bangsamoro people during the Senate public hearing on peace process on Tuesday (March 10, 2020). Senators Imee Marcos and Ronald dela Rosa attended the hearing. (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)

 Last year, the government has earmarked PHP2 billion for the Normalization Program in which the combatants, their families and communities will receive comprehensive socio-economic packages which include social protection, sustainable livelihood programs, capacity-building training, health benefits and educational assistance.
Through these interventions, it is envisioned that the ex-fighters will be able to return to mainstream society, and the six government-acknowledged MILF camps and communities will be transformed into peaceful, productive and resilient communities.
Under the ongoing second phase of decommissioning process, at least 30 percent or 12,000 combatants will be decommissioned and their weapons put beyond use. Another 35 percent of the MILF forces will undergo the same procedure next year, while the rest will undergo the process until 2022 in time for the Exit Agreement between the government and the MILF.
IGRB: Creating greater synergy in the BARMM
According to the government’s chief peace negotiator, the Department of Finance, through the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB), is laying the groundwork for the establishment of policies and mechanisms that would capacitate the BARMM.
“Secretary Dominguez (who is the co-chair of the IGRB) is the one really pursuing the capacitation of the BARMM in terms of financial management. There were also informal meetings held regarding the creation of seven intergovernmental bodies, and on March 20, we will make sure that these will be organized” Galvez told the Senators.
The IGRB serves as the official platform that would allow the national and Bangsamoro governments to “resolve issues brought before it [IGRB] and facilitate the creation of other intergovernmental relations bodies”.
These intergovernmental to be created include the following: (1) Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum; (2) Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board; (3) Joint Body for the Zones of Joint Cooperation; (4) Intergovernmental Infrastructure Development Board; (5) Intergovernmental Energy Board; (6) Bangsamoro Sustainable Board; and (7) Council of Leaders.
Galvez said the issues raised by the local chief executives during the hearing will be tackled in the scheduled meeting of the IGRB.
The establishment of the IGRB is provided for in Article IV of the BOL. The body is co-chaired by Domiguez for the national government side and BARMM Minister of Finance Mohagher Iqbal for the Bangsamoro side.
Crucial codes for BARMM
To ensure the smooth and effective operations of the BARMM, Maguindanao First District Rep. Datu Roonie Sr. Q. Sinsuat urged the BTA to prioritize the drafting and passage of the region’s administrative, local government, civil service and education codes.
“These regional codes will directly facilitate the establishment of mechanisms for better governance of the BARMM and its constituents,” Sinsuat said.
He stressed that the BARMM needs “the support of the national government and the Filipino people to be able to succeed this gargantuan task to finally bring peace and progress to the Bangsamoro.”
BARMM Speaker Pangalian Balindong said the BTA is expected to pass the crucial codes in their succeeding sessions.
“Hopefully the drafts (of the codes) will be completed and submitted to parliament for deliberation and approval,” he said. “We expect to approve administrative code this month or early next month.”
Peacekeeping forces in the Bangsamoro
Meanwhile, Galvez highlighted the ongoing training being participated in by Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF), which will qualify them to be part of the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs).
“The 6th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other training camps of the armed forces are already ready for these [JPST] trainings,” he said.
The JPSTs are composed of representatives from the AFP, Philippine National Police (PNP), and MILF-BIAF. They will serve as peacekeeping forces as the decommissioning process is carried out, and secure the safety of communities in the BARMM.
Senator Ronald de la Rosa lauded the impressive performance of the MILF members of the JPST, saying “It was reported to me that the MILF component of the JPST are snappy and exceed the performance of the AFP and PNP contingents.”
In August 2019, 219 MILF combatants completed their basic military training which is a requirement for JPST membership. In November last year, the second batch of JPST underwent the same training.
Galvez said they are eyeing members of the MILF who underwent the JPST trainings to be part of the AFP and PNP.
Commitment of support from int’l donor community
Representatives from the international donor community who were invited as resource persons during the Senate hearing reaffirmed their continued support to the Bangsamoro peace process.
European Union (EU) Deputy Head of Delegation Thomas Wiersing noted the EU has been one of the “biggest foreign development partners to provide support to Mindanao and the peace process involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Philippines.”
“The ratification of the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region constitutes a major step. The EU is pleased to note the progress being made in the Bangsamoro Peace Process,” Wiersing said.
He also bared the EU’s upcoming initiatives to be implemented in the BARMM which includes the Peace and Development in the BARMM (PDBARMM) with a funding cost of 25 million Euros (around PHP1.42 billion), and the Support to Bangsamoro Transition (SUBATRA) with a program cost of 25 million Euros.
Wiersing explained that both programs are designed to address pressing issues that may arise during the BARMM’s transition period and beyond.
On the other hand, Ambassador of Turkey to the Philippines Artemiz Sumer said her government shall continue to carry out socioeconomic interventions that will help sustain the gains of peace in the BARMM.
“We aim to continue contributing with the socioeconomic development of BARMM via the Turkish International Development Agency…[We] would like to continue to support the transition process with this socio-economic development aid projects, in close coordination of course with relevant Philippine authorities,” Sumer said.
For his part, Embassy of Japan Deputy Chief of Mission Minister Yasushi Yamamoto commended the Philippine government for throwing its full support behind the BARMM as it makes the transition, as well as for the effective implementation of the Normalization Program.
“We also recognize how the Philippine government carries out strong support to the BTA. We highly appreciate the implementation of the normalization process including the decommissioning of combatants and livelihood programs for decommissioned combatants and communities,” Yamamoto said. “We will walk together with the Philippine Government and the Bangsamoro Government for lasting peace and development in the Bangsamoro.”
Meanwhile, British Embassy Chargé d’affaires Alistair Totty shared that his government over the years has been working with the Bangsamoro Region and the BTA to “understand from them what’s the most useful thing the British Government can do to support this process in coordination with our fellow donors and the national government.”
Totty also discussed specific areas where they can provide support to the region, which include programs to capacitate the BTA, as well as empower and educate civil society organizations. The British Government’s financial assistance for the BARMM will amount to 3 million pounds, he said. (OPAPP-PR)

PEACE TALKS: GOVT BARRACKS FOR MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT (MILF) FIGHTERS’ FIREARMS READY FOR USE

First of 11 for decommissioned weapons 

CAMP ABUBAKAR, Barira, Maguindanao — The first of eleven Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) barracks to be built in seven provinces across Mindanao was officially turned over to the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) last Wednesday in this former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stronghold.

JPST BARRACKS. Officials and members of the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) pose after the official turnover of the first of 11 JPST barracks to the Joint Peace and Security Committee at Camp Abubakar, Barira, Maguindanao on Feb. 12, 2020. The facility will serve as headquarters of the JPST team tasked to secure the decommissioned weapons. (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)

The barracks are being constructed with funding support from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through its Support to Peacebuilding and Normalization (SPAN) Program.
Newly-installed JPSC co-chair, Brig. Gen. Francisco Ariel Felicidario III, who also co-chairs the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities – Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (CCCH-AHJAG), accepted the barracks on behalf of the JPSC.
The facility shall serve as the headquarters of the first JPST team which has been tasked to safeguard weapons turned over by members of the MILF-Bangsamoro who have undergone the process of decommissioning.
The decommissioned firearms are now kept in the Secured Arms and Storage Area (SASA) inside the camp under the oversight of the International Decommissioning Body (IDB).
The JPST team, composed of 15 members each from the MILF-BIAF, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), has been deployed in the area for almost a week.
Symbol of trust in peace process
OPAPP Undersecretary David B. Diciano, head of the Joint Normalization Division and Chair of the GPH Peace Implementing Panel and Enrico Gaveglia, UNDP deputy resident representative, led the turnover of the facility.
“Today’s turnover of the first of 11 JPST barracks that will be established in mutually agreed areas symbolizes our desire to ensure the implementation of the security component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB),” Diciano said.
Diclano said the decommissioned weapons “represents the decades of armed struggle of the Bangsamoro People.”
“And now that they have been put to rest, they will serve as a reminder to all of us of the sacrifices made by our Moro brothers and sisters in order to uplift the lives of their people,” he said. “The laying down of these firearms are concrete proof of the Bangsamoro People’s trust and confidence in the peace agreement forged between the government and the MILF.”
The JPSC coordinates with the GPH and MILF implementing panels on security arrangements, develops policies and operational guidelines for creating a more effective partnership among JPST members, and carries out security arrangements for activities related to the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
Unwavering commitment to peace process
Diciano pointed out that the numerous accomplishments in the Bangsamoro peace process were achieved because of the unwavering support and commitment coming from the government’s various local and international peace partners.
“The major milestones we have achieved in the Bangsamoro Peace Process over the years are largely due to the support coming from our local and international peace partners who share our belief that the only way to resolve the armed conflict in Mindanao is by walking the path of peace,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gaveglia reaffirmed UNDP’s continued support to the government, MILF and the normalization process as a whole, as he lauded the parties for working very hard to move the peace process forward.
“UNDP reaffirms its commitment to support OPAPP and the normalization mechanism [by] helping to move the process forward through our SPAN Program,” he said.
“UNDP has been working with Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) and JPSC to support the operationalization of the JPSTs — to [gather] the needed supplies, equipment and uniforms, conduct JPST trainings, procure vehicles, and construct barracks and stations,” Gaveglia added.
He explained that the UNDP’s implementation of projects under the normalization track is being carried out in partnership with the Embassy of Japan. The agency, he said, looks forward to completing the other 10 barracks in the first quarter of 2020.
“This is actually a testimony of a wider purpose, it is the emblem of the Normalization Process. I do believe that this is just the first step of a longer journey,” Gaveglia said.
Lt. Col. Sherpor Nezam Abdul Ghapor, IDB deputy chief of staff, also reaffirmed the body’s continued commitment to the Bangsamoro peace process.
“This facility, along with JPST personnel, will provide the IDB with the assurance and security that it needs in giving protection not only to the storage area but to the personnel as well,” Ghapor said.
“I would like to reiterate the unwavering commitment of the IDB member-countries towards the implementation of the GPH and the MILF Peace Agreement,” he added.
Ghapor also thanked the AFP’s 1st Marine Brigade headed by Col. Jonas Lumawag of the Philippine Navy, which has been assigned as the “maneuver unit” that will secure the perimeter of the Camp Abubakar or Camp Iranun.
The IDB is mandated to oversee the decommissioning of the MILF combatants and their weapons. It is composed of representatives from the governments of Turkey, Norway, Kingdom of Brunei, and local experts nominated by the GPH and MILF.
Camp Abubakar: A glorious past and promising future
Camp Abubakar had been witness to some of the most memorable historical events of the Bangsamoro’s struggle for self-governance, culminating in the signing of the historic CAB.
Alex Sulay, an intelligence officer assigned to the general headquarters of the MILF- BIAF Base Command, can still recall the look and atmosphere of the area where the JPST barracks now stands.
According to Sulay, the place used to be a bustling center of trade, which also boasted of its own “university.” Aside from a market, there were also smaller schools and clinics, within the community. It was also the home of the founding father of the MILF, the late Ustadz Salamat Hashim.
The resilience of the Iranun people was tested during the outbreak of armed conflict between the government and the MILF, which forced them to abandon their homes and evacuate to safer grounds.
With the signing of the CAB and the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Iranun areas are now reaping the dividends of peace as farm-to-market roads, agriculture-based establishments, as well as other infrastructure and socioeconomic projects are being implemented in the area.
Shuaib Adam, MILF Joint Task Force on Camps Transformation (JTFCT) member, is optimistic that Camp Abubakar and all the other MILF communities will be restored to their “former glory” and may even “have greater and better opportunities than it used to have especially now that we are under the Bangsamoro Government.”
Kashmir Mohamad, JPST-MILF focal person, said the barracks will provide a big boost to the JPST and “is a testament of the effective working partnership with OPAPP and UNDP through the SPAN Program.”
Aleodin Aron, who represented Minister Von Al Haq, co-chair of JPSC MILF during the event, said “the JPST has been protecting the gates of the peace process” which began during the decommissioning process at the Assembly and Processing Area (APA) Sites, to securing the SASA and other decommissioning-related activities.
Camp Abubakar is one of the mutually-agreed deployment areas where the JPST barracks will be established. The other facilities will be located in the provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Basilan, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao Del Norte, and Lanao del Sur. (PR)