Substitute BBL to strengthen decommissioning process of MILF arms and forces

In light of strong evidence that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has its own weapons manufacturing factory,  it is critical to regulate the process of decommissioning their  firearms, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said yesterday.

Sen. Bongbong noted that out of the 75 firearms the  MILF turned over to the government  for the first phase of the decommissioning process  last July 16, 28 were “paltik” or homemade firearms, bolstering charges that the Moro rebel group manufactures their own guns.

“Never mind kung paltik or hindi but it indicates that they manufacture firearms. So what are we going to do with that issue?” the Senator said.

Allegations that MILF have their own weapons factory came up during Senate hearing on the Mamasapano massacre but government peace negotiators categorically denied this and claimed it is the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that runs a weapon manufacturing facility.

 “What’s the point of decommissioning if I give you 100 firearms and I’m making 200 or I’m buying 200? That’s another question that has to be addressed in the BBL. Kailangang patibayin natin ang decommissioning,” Sen. Bongbong said.

“You always have to remember that at the end of the day, pag wala nang baril, walang putukan, walang giyera. So, yun ang i-focus natin,” he said.

Retired military generals present at the BBL hearing noted that while the decommissioning is the most crucial part of the peace process, it is only an annex and not a major part of the peace agreements between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Among others, the retired military generals suggested that the normalization process should be a major part of the BBL and that the MILF should disarm and turn in their weapons on a fixed date.

However, the MILF insisted that unless the BBL is passed, the decommissioning process will not push through. Under the peace pact, 30% of MILF firearms will be decommissioned once BBL is ratified.

Another 35% will be turned over when the Bangsamoro government and its police force have been established, with the remaining final 35% to be decommissioned once the exit agreement signifying that all commitments have been fulfilled is signed.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bongbong also said that in a recent trip to Lanao del Norte, he received reports the MILF is still recruiting fighters.

“I got reports from some of our officers in the military that the MILF is sending out applications to people to become fighters with the guarantee that if they  become a fighter, pag napasa na yung BBL, pulis na sila automatic,” Sen. Bongbong said.

As an incentive to recruits, the Senator said the MILF is giving them money as well as rice contained in sacks with the label “DSWD” (Department of Social Welfare and Development).

“Sasabihin nilang hindi totoo, but that’s the report. What is happening is that the assistance that the government is giving them is being used in the MILF’s recruitment program. If they are really going for peace, why are they recruiting people?” Sen. Bongbong said.

In view of this, Marcos vowed to continue working on a substitute version of the BBL that would regulate the weapons decommissioning process and at the same time, address the constitutional, economic, and administrative issues of the proposed law.

“Hopefully it can be made into a real good law that would start to promote the peace process, that will start to address the real issues such as self-government and autonomy. Then, maybe we will take a significant step towards peace,” Sen. Bongbong said.

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