MILF to set free ‘child warriors’ starting Feb. 18
COTABATO CITY – The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Philippines announced that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will free in a series of formal ceremonies more than a thousand children who were recruited as “child warriors” or are affiliated with the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the MILF.
In a communiqué sent to the Manila Bulletin Tuesday, UNICEFPhilippines said at least 1,782 children have been identified and validated for release.
The first batch of child warriors will reportedly be released by the BIAF in formal rites on Saturday, February 18 at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) along Crossing Simuay in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, where Camp Darapanan, the MILF’s central headquarters is located.
The release of child combatants will be until March 2017.
Under an Action Plan it signed with United Nations concerned agencies in 2009 and 2013, the MILF has committed “to end the recruitment and use of children within their ranks,” Jingjing Romero, a consultant of UNICEF-Philippines said in the communiqué.
The UN agency initiated in 2015 a six-point roadmap for the joint action plan, involving a four-step process -identification, confirmation, validation and orientation of children associated with the MILF combat ranks.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jess Dureza is expected to witness the release of the child warriors on Saturday.
Muslim Mindanao officials led by Regional Governor Mujiv S. Hataman and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael G. Mangudadatu renewed their support to the Mindanao peace process, particularly the creation of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which would craft an “inclusive” version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
President Duterte appointed recently 21 members of the new BTC which now includes representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which has a standing peace agreement with the government signed in 1996. The BTC is expected to harmonize the MILF and MNLF peace accords in drafting a legislative measure that would create an inclusive Bangsamoro political entity.
“We have high hopes that these latest developments (involving the BTC expansion and the prospected release of MILF child combatants) would finally redound to our cherished end of rebellion in Muslim Mindanao,” Mangudadatu told a press conference Tuesday.