MILF fighters can join PNP after decommissioning

Posted at 03/27/2014 5:13 PM | Updated as of 03/27/2014 5:13 PM

MANILA - Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters may soon be integrated into the Philippine National Police (PNP) but only after the decommissioning process for their firearms is finished, a Palace spokesman said Thursday.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the MILF is now a government partner and no longer a threat group in the country.

"Partner po natin sila at mai-integrate nga po ang mga-after the decommissioning, 'yon pong gustong magpa-integrate, they can be integrated into the national police," he said.

Following 17 years of negotiations, the Philippine government and the MILF will sign the peace deal to end one of Asia's longest and deadliest insurgencies.

MILF leaders will sign the pact in exchange for control of a planned autonomous region in the impoverished south of the mainly Catholic nation.

The MILF, which the military estimates has about 10,000 fighters, is the biggest remaining rebel group yet to sign a peace accord.

President Aquino and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim will oversee the signing of the peace deal during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Manila.

Meanwhile, Coloma refused to speculate on who will be the number one threat group in the Philippines after the signing of the peace pact.

Poverty and lack of opportunity remain the biggest threats to Filipinos, he said.

"You can ask our opponents, they will say the same thing. However, they have a different ideology and way of doing things..." he said.

This is why, he said, the government is bent on bringing about inclusive growth that helps the rich and the poor.

Coloma said the government is ready to address any possible spoilers in today's festivities.

"Nakahanda po ang ating pamahalaan na tumugon sa mga lilikha ng kaguluhan at ligalig. Pero nais po natin na ang maging pokus natin ay hindi 'yung spoiler kung hindi 'yung pagdiriwang, sapagkat makasaysayang araw ito, at buong-buo ang ating determinasyon na masabi natin sa buong mundo 'yung ating pakikiisa sa ating mga kapatid sa Mindanao na magtatag doon ng kapayapaan para sa kanilang pangmatagalang kaunlaran. So ang pokus natin ay doon sa positive, hindi doon sa mga spoiler, pero handa tayo para sa kanila," he said.

He also indicated the same attitude towards other Mindanao-based armed groups, including the breakaway Bangsamoro freedom fighters.

Coloma said government has already begun to live up to its commitments to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, dispelling fears the CAB will go the way of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front.

That agreement led to an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which has been characterized as a failed experiment for not being inclusive.

"Since February 2013, the government has been implementing the Sajahatra Bangsamoro development plan that provides enhanced education, health services, and community-based livelihood projects for the people of Regions IX, X, XI, and XII. An estimated amount of P434-million has been allocated, more than half of which has been set aside for livelihood projects. This is proof positive that the government and the MILF are determined to make peace and development in the Bangsamoro a concrete and enduring reality."

Coloma also pointed there was no decommissioning mechanism in the 1996 agreement.

"If you will recall, there was no similar or comparable agreement or provision in the previous agreements. And that is why building upon the lessons of the previous exercises, we have endeavored together with the MILF to establish not just a framework but a comprehensive rendering of the full metes and bounds of what would be solid foundations for enduring peace and prosperity in the Bangsamoro political entity that is sought to be established."

Govt ready to defend CAB

Malacanang also said the Philippine government is ready to defend the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro from any possible constitutional challenges before the Supreme Court.

Coloma said the historic agreement is easily one of the highlights of the Aquino administration.

"It will be fair to say that after three and a half years, this must be one of the most outstanding accomplishments of this administration. But it is not for us to claim credit because the administration simply served as the guide or facilitator. I would like to believe…We believe that it is people of Mindanao and the Bangsamoro themselves, who made this a reality, who made this possible. And it is the Filipino people who are bosses, who have long expressed their desire for peace. Kapag sinabi po natin iyong peace in the Philippine context, hindi natin mahihiwalay iyong concern for peace in Mindanao dahil iyon 'yung bahagi ng ating kapuluan ng ating bansa na pinakamatagal ng dumanas ng ligalig, ng takot, at ng karahasan," he said.

"Siguro naman po hindi lamang ang Pangulo, hindi lamang po mga miyembro ng Gabinete, lahat po tayo mayroong maganda at malaking dahilan para maging masaya at maligaya dahil gusto natin ang magandang kinabukasan"
 
As for the spoilers, Coloma appealed to their sense of patriotism.

"Hindi po ba sinasabi natin sa Panatang Makabayan na gagawin natin iyong pagmamahal sa bayan ng walang pag-iimbot at ng buong katapatan? Pangalawa po, sila ay halal, halal sila ng ating mga kababayan; at sa kanilang pagkahalal, bago sila manungkulan, sumumpa po sila, sumumpa sila Panginoon, sumumpa sila sa ating Konstitusyon, sumumpa sila makapangyarihang sambayanan na sila ay magtataguyod ng kapakanan at kaunlaran."