Philip­pine Mus­lim rebels hand over weapons in push for peace

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

The Philip­pines’ largest rebel group re­tired nearly 150 guer­ril­las and handed over 75 firearms for decom­mis­sion­ing Tues­day to en­cour­age par­lia­ment to pass a pro­posed law giv­ing mi­nor­ity Mus­lims self-rule.

Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino vis­ited the head­quar­ters of the Moro Is­lamic Lib­er­a­tion Front (MILF) to wit­ness the weapons han­dover, the first con­crete ac­tion by the or­ga­ni­za­tion to aban­don a decades-old re­bel­lion that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Aquino and se­nior MILF lead­ers both said the largely sym­bolic ac­tiv­ity was in­tended to spur par­lia­ment to pass a de­layed pro­posed law giv­ing Mus­lims self-rule in the Catholic na­tion’s south un­der the terms of a 2014 peace treaty.

“This is one of the most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions we have made so far in more than 40 years of strug­gle,” chief MILF peace ne­go­tia­tor Mo­haqher Iqbal said in a speech.

“We want to show the world that the MILF will al­ways com­ply with its obli­ga­tions set forth in the signed agree­ment,” Iqbal added.

Aquino, who ends his six-year term in a year’s time, wants the Mus­lim self-rule bill to be passed soon, fear­ing that his suc­ces­sor may not pur­sue the peace ini­tia­tive.

“Let us show them that we are wor­thy of their trust,” Aquino said in his speech.

Par­lia­ment failed to pass the bill be­fore it went into re­cess last week amid a public out­cry over the killing of 44 po­lice com­man­dos by MILF rebels and other armed groups on the south­ern is­land of Min­danao in Jan­uary.

The po­lice of­fi­cers were am­bushed af­ter they passed through MILFin­flu­enced ar­eas fol­low­ing a raid that killed Zulk­i­fli bin Hir, a Malaysian mil­i­tant and one of the most-wanted “ter­ror­ists” sought by the United States.

Work on the Mus­lim self-rule bill is ex­pected to con­tinue when par­lia­ment re­sumes on July 27, but con­gres­sional lead­ers have said it is un­likely to be passed be­fore Oc­to­ber.

The 75 MILF firearms, in­clud­ing 24 weapons such as mor­tars and ma­chine guns, were handed over to an in­de­pen­dent decom­mis­sion­ing body headed by Tur­key and also com­pris­ing mem­bers from Nor­way and Brunei.

The haul is be­lieved by Filipino po­lice to com­prise just a tiny frac­tion of the ar­se­nal of the 10,000-mem­ber MILF.

Un­der the peace deal, 30 per­cent of MILF com­bat­ants and weapons will be de­com­mis­sioned once par­lia­ment passes the Mus­lim self-rule law.

The weapons will be stored in a se­cure area con­trolled by the decom­mis­sion­ing body.

Another 35 per­cent will fol­low af­ter the law is rat­i­fied in a re­gional plebiscite, while the re­main­der will be handed over once the re­gional gov­ern­ment is es­tab­lished and its lead­ers elected in May next year.


Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III, cen­ter, is briefed by Al Haj Mu­rad Ebrahim, left, the leader of the 11,000-strong Moro Is­lamic Lib­er­a­tion Front, as he wit­nesses the han­dover of 75 as­sault weapons, in­clud­ing mor­tar and rocket launch­ers, by guer­ril­las in a sym­bolic decom­mis­sion­ing cer­e­mony near a south­ern rebel strong­hold in Sultan Ku­darat, Maguin­danao province, in south­ern Philip­pines, Tues­day, June 16.

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