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150 more MILF soldiers join Bangsamoro security team

MANILA, Philippines – Another 150 former rebel soldiers of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) joined members of the police and military in the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) tasked to secure certain areas of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

On Friday, November 22, the fighters from the MILF's armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), completed a month's training along with 90 personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and 77 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to comprise the second batch of the JPST.

Members of the first batch of the Bangsamoro security force, with 255 coming from the BIAF, were trained and deployed in August.

The JPST secures civilian communities within MILF camps recognized by the government, and areas of the BARMM mutually identified by the government and the MILF, which leads the region's provisional government, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

The security force also serves as an entry point for BIAF members to join the AFP or the PNP, as it will be dissolved in 2022, when the BARMM is expected to be fully established with an elected regional government.

"'Ni minsan ay hindi po sumagi sa isipan ko na darating ang ganitong pagkakataon, na ang dating magkatunggali sa armadong digmaan ay magiging magkasangga sa pagpapalaganap ng kapayapaan," said BIAF member Mujahid Asghar Omar, during his JPST graduation ceremony, as quoted by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in a statement on Sunday, November 24.

(I never imagined that an opportunity like this would come, that former foes in armed battle would become allies in spreading peace.)

The establishment of the BARMM with former rebels from the MILF as its leaders caps off decades of on-and-off fighting and negotiations with the government for a "homeland" for Mindanao's Moro Muslim minority.

A major part of the agreement is the gradual decommissioning – or disarmament – of the 40,000-strong BIAF, which officially began in September.

According to the agreement, 30% or 12,000 of BIAF fighters would be disarmed by early 2020. The remaining combatants are expected to be decommissioned by 2022.

"Kayo ang bunga ng prosesong pangkapayapaan na tinuldukan ang apatnapu't apat na taon ng kaguluhan sa Mindanao.... Magkakapatid na kayo ngayon," said Joint Peace and Security Committee co-chair Dickson Hermoso, a retired Army colonel, former OPAPP assistant secretary, and currently BARMM minister of transportation.

(You are the result of the peace process that ended 44 years of violence in Mindanao.... You are now brothers.)

"Tandaan lamang po natin na ito ay simula pa lamang ng inyong napakahalagang misyon – protektahan ang Bangsamoro laban sa mga gustong magdulot ng kaguluhan dito, at tulungan ang pamahalaan ng rehiyon na isulong ang pangmatagalang kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa inyong lugar," OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr said in a statement delivered at the ceremony by Hermoso.

(Let us remember that this is just the start of your very important mission – to protect the Bangsamoro against those who sow chaos, and to help the regional government promote lasting peace and prosperity in your homeland.) – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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