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MILF fighters refuse to surrender arms.

A handout picture made available by the Malacanang Photo Bureau of President Benigno Aquino exchanging a memento with chief negotiator for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Mohagher Iqbal, during a courtesy call at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila yesterday. Manila Times/Manila The fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not turn in their weapons despite the signing of the final annex of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement that calls for the decommissioning of the MILF force.

An MILF ground commander said half of MILF's forces want to hold on to their firearms on the chance that the peace deal will eventually fail, in the same way that the 1996 agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government was left unimplemented.

"Of course we don't want to surrender our firearms because if they [government] fail to implement what the MILF had been fighting for, we will still have our firearms and we can fight again for our cause," the commander, who wanted to be identified only as Malik, said.

Malik told The Manila Times majority of his comrades will likely defy orders to lay down their arms.

"What happens to us when our arms are taken away?" said Malik, who claims to lead 200 men.

Malik said not all MILF fighters follow orders from their leaders. He said there are three factions in the group--one loyal to Salamat, the second to Murad and the third to Umbrakato.

He said the prevailing suspicion among MILF fighters is that only their leaders and the people close to them will benefit from the peace agreement.

Under the normalisation annex signed last week, a decommissioning body of three foreign and four local experts nominated by the two parties will oversee the disarming of MILF.

A foreign expert will head the panel that will make a headcount of MILF fighters and weapons and decide how to collect and stockpile of the surrendered weapons.

The MNLF has denounced the signing of the Bangsamoro agreement, insisting that the government must first guarantee that the peace pact signed by his group in 1996 is implemented.

Presidential communications secretary Herminio Coloma Jr explained the decommissioning of MILF troops does not mean that the group has surrendered to the government.

"We emphatically explained that this is not surrender. There was no notion or element of surrender that was discussed ever since," Coloma said.

He defined decommissioning as "a voluntary deactivation of arms." "The MILF recognises the new image and form of their participation in the development of the region...They have acknowledged that they will have to actively, purposively transform themselves into a social movement; and they will take on the added responsibility of law enforcement in the area," Coloma said.

Under the normalisation process, the MILF will organise its own law enforcement and police forces.

"They will assume the bigger responsibility of enforcing the law and keeping peace and order in their area. They will assume the responsibility of taking on, law enforcement and police duties in the area," Coloma said.

Groups of social democrats headed by a non-government organisation called the Panaghugpong Mindanao urged President Benigno Aquino not to sign the final peace agreement with the MILF, saying it will create more serious problems in Mindanao.

The group, a regional movement under the Ang Katipunan ng mga Samahang Maharlika (Ang KaSaMa Inc), said signing the final agreement may spark a bigger conflict that could engulf Mindanao.

Ang KaSaMa Inc national co-ordinator Deo Palma told The Times his group will hold a 'peace and development' summit in University of the Philippines in Diliman where the participants will plan how to convince the president to give priority to the full implementation of the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF.

Palma warned that disregarding the pact with the MNLF could lead to a full-scale war.

"It's not President Aquino or the Manila people who will suffer but the people in Mindanao who will bear the consequences if the 70,000 forces of the MNLF wage a wider war against the Aquino government," Palma said.

On Wednesday, President Aquino vowed to crush "peace spoilers," particularly the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the MNLF which continue to oppose to the pact with the MILF.

The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo defended the so-called "spoilers of peace." Abraham Idrijani, secretary general and spokesman of the Sultanate, said groups which the president call "spoilers of peace" are not against peace in Mindanao but want only equal protection from the government.

"They wanted peace to reign but it has to embrace and transcend ideological lines and groups affiliations," Idrijani told the Times. "Both the MNLF and the BIFF are Filipinos who deserve the protection of their ancestral and political rights by the Aquino government." Idrijani said the MNLF felt that the Aquino administration violated the three international treaties signed by the MNLF and the government during the time of president Corazon Aquino in 1987.

He pointed out that the agreement with the MILF covers the same territories covered by the international treaties already signed and mutually agreed upon.

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jan 31, 2014
Words:862
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