MILF mujahideen frown on extending Bangsamoro Transition Authority

Not all those who fought for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) cause are rooting for an extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

At a small gathering in Marawi City on Wednesday, September 1, mujahideen or fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), openly aired their gripes on the peace process, and expressed their opposition to the proposed BTA extension.

“Those who have benefited now are not genuine fighters of the MILF. They are technocrats who have not dirtied their hands for the revolution,” said Tano, a 55-year-old BIAF fighter.

Another mujahideen, 42-year-old veteran Aisha, told Rappler, “I patiently brewed coffee for the fighters so they could warm their stomachs during the fighting but now, I was told I will have no job” under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

These were common complaints among the 40,000-strong BIAF of the MILF, which officials of the government and the BARMM admit have become a problem.

Ariel Hernandez, a co-chair of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process’ Joint Normalization Division, said they were looking at the problems with growing concern.

“This is a problem that should be addressed by the MILF leadership. We cannot intrude, otherwise the MILF would accuse us of interfering with their internal affairs,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said that aside from that, the MILF leadership has to contend with the issue of extension of the BTA.

The Bangsamoro parliament has asked Congress to extend BTA until 2025 to allow more time for transition.

Hernandez said the issue of decommissioning the MILF fighters and their firearms are among the problems that have not yet been resolved.

He said under the second phase of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the MILF and government in 2014, 12,000 fighters or 30% of the rebel forces and their firearms were supposed to be decommissioned.

Hernandez said the third phase would see the final stage of decommissioning of MILF fighters and their firearms.

“This is one of the contentious issues. The MILF told us they will surrender only 7,000 firearms, and we do not agree with that,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said what the government wants is that a firearm should be decommissioned for each of the 40,000 MILF fighters.

Bangsamoro Minister of the Interior and Local Government Naguib Sinarimbo declined to comment on the demobilization, preferring that the MILF leadership answer them.

Sinarimbo, however, said MILF fighters should understand that BARMM is not only for them but for every resident of the region.

He said administering BARMM requires a different skillset and expertise for it to succeed.

“The skill sets and expertise needed are different from those of the fighters carrying rifles,” Sinarimbo said.

He said the MILF members should understand there are two sides to the peace process – the normalization process and the establishment of BARMM.

Sinarimbo said the complaints of the MILF fighters can be addressed by the normalization process which provided an economic package for their return to normal lives.

“The MILF leaders have continuous meetings with the fighters to explain these but these issues continue to crop up,” he said.

Abel Moya, director of the non-government organization Pakigdait, said they have conducted meetings with the MILF fighters in Lanao del Sur and have heard these complaints.

He said they have also tried to explain to the fighters that “not all of them will be entitled to the spoils of the peace dividend.”

“There is another skill set needed for running a government. They may have been good fighters but they cannot become good auditors and technicians,” Moya said. – Rappler.com