British envoy: Bangsamoro disarmament must cover all paramilitaries
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2014 - 2:32pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The British government is certain a mandatory disarmament of rebels in the country’s south will give Malacañang’s truce with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) an easy take off.

British Ambassador Asif Ahmad, who was here over the weekend to meet with MILF officials, said the disarmament process must involve all sectors and armed groups that do not belong to regular government security organizations.

Ahmad said he is aware that people in the proposed core territory of the envisioned MILF-led Bangsamoro government have a strong culture of love for guns either as status symbol, or as protection from rival clans, or as tools for perpetuating political power.

The United Kingdom is a member of the International Contact Group, which is comprised of foreign governments and peace advocacy entities helping push the GPH-MILF peace efforts forward.

“Peace in Mindanao will not just mean peace in the area, but peace in other parts of the Philippines as well,” said Ahmad, a British Muslim.

The GPH and MILF panels established early this year the International Decommissioning Body, composed of representatives from the governments of Norway, Turkey and Brunei, to oversee the decommissioning and disarmament of rebels in keeping with the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

Norway and Brunei are also members of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Group, which has been helping oversee since late 2003 the implementation of the government-MILF July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

Ahmad said the disarmament process based on the GPH-MILF peace accord must have multilateral verification, trust and governance parameters.

“That’s a big challenge for the (Philippine) government and the MILF and all groups that are to be involved in the process,” Ahmad said.

He said the British government will support the decommissioning and disarmament process agreed by the GPH and the MILF.

Ahmad said other stakeholders to the GPH-MILF peace overture must also help sustain a justice system that can hasten the disarmament process.

“Justice has to be done completely,” he said.

Ahmad said even political warlords and private groups keeping firearms must also be disarmed according to security protocols set by government and the MILF.

“Especially if arms are in the hands of people that do not have authority to bear arms,” Ahmad said.

By police and military estimate, each of the more than a hundred mayors in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which the MILF want to replace with a new Bangsamoro political entity, has no fewer than 50 assault rifles in their arsenals.

Some of these local officials are locked in bloody clan wars involving big families identified with either the MILF, or the Moro National Liberation Front.

Since the five provincial governors in ARMM, which covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, are perceived to be wealthier, it is always assumed that they have more firearms than their constituent-mayors. 

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