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Editorial: A Farewell to Arms?

Regardless of how Lanao del Norte and other areas vote on their proposed inclusion in the Bangsamoro region in the February 6 schedule of the plebiscite, the Bangsamoro Law is already ratified after the yes vote won in the core territory on January 21. Only a Supreme Court decision declaring the law unconstitutional may stop its implementation. Barring that scenario, what are the immediate prospects for the emerging political entity?

For one, the officials that will run the region until the holding of an election in 2022 will have to address the urgent task of laying the foundation for a smooth transition. In this regard, a ticklish issue comes to mind - the gradual demobilization of MILF fighters and the decommissioning of their firearms as part of the normalization process. For, although MILF leaders have assured they will comply with this obligation under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, they may encounter some resistance from their followers.

The reasons could vary, chief of which is the feeling of vulnerability. In an environment where clan-based politics, rido (vendetta killing) and other sources of violence are a norm, having guns provide a sense of relative security. About 10 years ago, a security official estimated the number of loose firearms in Mindanao at 200,000 most of which are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Given the passage of time that figure has likely increased.

Arguably, most of these firearms belong to local politicians. And, again, given the history of politics in the ARMM, it's safe to assume that most of these firearms belong to politicians in that region.

Now, picture an election where a demobilized MILF competes against political opponents who are armed to the teeth. The Front's leadership must be thinking of the same scenario.

It's a pity that the national government has not made use of martial law to rid Mindanao of loose firearms. A sin of omission that has put in doubt the success of normalization. (BM)

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Publication:Mindanao Times (Mindanao, Philippines)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 24, 2019
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