The proposed peace agreement between the Philippine government and the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) need not be declared dead. Amidst the din of chatter around what happens next following the horrific massacre of 44 Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) troopers by the MILF, Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr who heads a Senate committee reviewing the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law has mapped a way forward.
In a series of tweets with the first one articulating the key context of the exercise; that “trust has been lost on both sides”, Marcos asserts that to recover the lost trust between the MILF and the Philippine government, the MILF leadership is requested that the following be done:
1) Return the arms, equipment and personal effects of the PNP SAF troopers who were killed in the massacre.
2) Provide assistance in finding and arresting bomb-making expert Basit Usman, the secondary target of the PNP SAF contingent deployed to Mamasapano.
3) Demonstrate that disarmament has actually begun and show willingness to surrender arms to the government or third party.
4) As a sign of good faith, identify the commanders whose units were involved in the massacre of the PNP-SAF officers.
5) Explain fully the true relationship between the MILF and BIFF.
6) Include the BIFF in peace talks as their presence is essential for the BBL to succeed.
Senator Marcos, had earlier suspended scheduled committee hearings on the BBL immediately after news of the massacre broke. However, investigations continue amid uncertainty over whether or not the prime target of the PNP-SAF operation, Malaysian national Zulkifli bin Hir (a.k.a. “Marwan”) was actually killed. The Philippine military sticks to its position that they haven’t been included in the loop during the planning activities and any communications when the team was first inserted into the terrain. For their part, the MILF are claiming that they too were taken by surprise by the PNP-SAF operation and had merely responded after members of the SAF teams “fired first”.
Nonetheless, the MILF leadership has agreed to guidelines for the laying down of arms of their combatants. A ten-page “implementing guidelines” document was signed in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday, the 31st January 2015 symbolising both parties’ “commitment to achieve the objectives of the normalization process”…
According to the Protocol, four batches of MILF combatants and weapons will be processed and registered in six to twelve selected Assembly and Processing Areas (APAs). The collected weapons will be placed in secured containers in guarded storage areas until such time that these are put permanently beyond use.
The decommissioning will be done in four phases. Under Phase 1, a ceremonial turning in of 75 high-powered weapons will signal the actual start of the process. By the time of the ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, 30 percent of MILF weapons and combatants would have been decommissioned. Another 35 percent will follow under Phase 3 and the balance, under Phase 4.
For now, any probe into what actually happened will have to explore decisions made at every level in the command chain. The Philippine Army and Air Force are being criticised for not coming to the aid of the beleaguered SAF teams despite having facilities and personnel ready within striking distance. Of particular interest is the way the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Mar Roxas, to whom the PNP command reports to had been left unaware of what was being planned. There are also reports that American government personnel had been involved in the operation.[Photo courtesy Yahoo! News.]
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