219 ex-MILF combatants finish military training as peacekeepers

CAMP LUCERO, North Cotabato Two-hundred nineteen former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) completed their 26-day basic military training (BMT) here Tuesday (Aug. 27) to serve as peacekeepers.

The training is a requirement for the former combatants to become part of the composite Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST). The graduates will now form the 6,000-strong JPST contingent that will be composed of 3,000 MILF, 1,600 Philippine National Police (PNP), and 1,400 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) members.

The 6,000-member JPST will be divided into several teams whose main task is to maintain peace and security in the MILF communities that will undergo the normalization process within and outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The Normalization Track is part of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro which the government and the MILF signed in 2014.

At the heart of the Normalization Track is the decommissioning of 40,000 MILF combatants wherein their weapons will be put beyond use. The MILF camps will also be transformed into peaceful, progressive, and resilient communities.

The entire process is expected to be completed within a three-year period, starting this year until 2022 in time for the signing of the Exit Agreement between the government and the MILF.

On September 7, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is expected to lead the public launching of the decommissioning process of the MILF combatants and their weapons.

Historic event

Speaking on behalf of the BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, Al-Hajj Murad, Minister of Finance, and Budget and Management Eduard Guerra described the graduation ceremony as a historic event for the Bangsamoro peace process.

You are now part of history as you will be the first batch of JPST to be deployed where you will be joining your comrades from the PNP and contingents from the Army, Guerra said.

I am really impressed. This is beyond my expectations. You really persevered in your training. You keep that perseverance and patience in your hearts and minds, he added.

Joint efforts as one security force

Though the participants belong to different organizations MILF, AFP, and PNP being members of the JPST has united them as one peacekeeping force.

Wala na tayong pinagkaiba, iisa na tayo ngayonNapakahalaga ng inyong gagawing tungkulin sa decommissioning process na magpapatuloy hanggang 2022 (We are now one. Your important role in decommissioning process which will continue until 2022), said Maj. Gen. Diosdado C. Carreon, commander of the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao province.

Lt. Gen Cirilito E. Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, emphasized the crucial role of the graduates in the peace process.

You are now the new Ambassadors of Peace for successfully hurdling this milestone in your life. Your role will be as important as the role of every member of the security forces, Sobejana said.

You will help us fight against terrorism and illegal drugs so that peace will be restored in the Bangsamoro communitiesI am confident enough that with our convergence, nothing is impossible, he added.

Police Brig. Gen. Marni C. Marcos Jr., who represented the Police Regional Office of BARMM, said he considers the former MILF combatants as comrades.

The product of our strength, sympathy, and collective efforts is now about to be realized. The stability in the Bangsamoro cannot be achieved by forcewe are happy to work with our brothers from the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) together with our military counterparts, Marcos said.

We acknowledge the efforts of our President in putting eternal end to armed conflict in Bangsamoro communitieslet us continue our commitments, strengthen our initiatives and the paradigm in waging peace in the BARMM, he concluded.

Functions of JPST

Two hundred JPSTs will be created and deployed throughout Mindanao. Each team is composed of 15 MILF members, eight policemen, and seven soldiers.

The JPST will be under the oversight of the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC), which is composed of six officials one representative each from the AFP, PNP, and Government Implementing Panel, and three coming from the MILF leadership.

Aside from securing MILF communities that will undergo the decommission process, JPSTs will also help track and document private armed groups and other lawless elements, as well as reduce and control the proliferation of undocumented firearms in the concerned areas.

Moreover, the JPST are expected to help enforce the existing ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF, and prevent the outbreak of hostilities.

MILF-BIAF ready for Normalization Process

During the graduation ceremony, the former MILF combatants reunited with their families after their almost month-long training. The graduates were also provided with financial and food assistance.

Masaya kaming lahat pati yung mga kasama ko na natapos na ang training namin pero hindi pa dito nagtatapos ang lahat. Dapat ay pagbutihan namin ang aming trabaho hindi lang pag-secure ng Bangsamoro kundi sa ikakabuti ng mamamayan dito sa Mindanao (We are all happy, including my comrades, for the training already ended but this is not the ultimate end. We have to do good in our task, not only in securing the Bangsamoro but for the benefit of the communities here in Mindanao), the top graduate of the class said, who was dressed in a crisp military uniform.

Their participation in the JPSTs will make their transition to civilian life easier said another graduate.

Napakaganda na napapanatili ang pagkakaisa at magandang pakikitungo sa bawat isa. Ito ay nagbibigay ng daan upang maging mapayapa ang ating bansa (It was really good that the solidarity and good relations among one another was maintained. This paves the way for achieving peace in our country), he said, referring to the importance of carrying out collaborative efforts to ensure the successful implementation of the normalization process.

Para po sa akin, napakabuti na sama-sama ang BIAF, AFP, at PNP upang magkaisa na i-secure at protektahan ang aming community, ang mga tao, at ang buong bansa (For me, it is really good that the BIAF, the AFP, and the PNP are working together to secure and protect our communities, our people, and the whole nation), he added.

Present during the ceremony were OPAPP Assistant Secretary David Diciano, member of the Joint Normalization Committee-GPH; Ariel Hernandez, co-chair of JNC-GPH; BARMM Minister of Transportation and Communications Dickson P. Hermoso; BARMM Minister of Finance, and Budget and Management Eduard Guerra; P/Brig. Gen. Gerardo Rosales, JPSC-GPH member; Brig. Gen. Cesar De Mesa, JPSC-GPH member; Col. Primo M. Ferrer, 38IB; Col Joel Q. Mamon, PA, head, Security Unit; and Brig. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., 602nd IB commander. (PR)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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