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President Duterte checks out mortars that were decommissioned along with the 920 firearms owned by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front at the gymnasium of the old provincial capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao Saturday. (photo by Froilan Gallardo)

MILF chief lays down his own gun to show ‘peace has come’

By FROILAN GALLARDO
Special Correspondent .

COTABATO City — Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad gave his own personal firearm, an Israeli-made Tavor assault rifle, to President Duterte to show that “peace has finally come to Mindanao” with the implementation of decommissioning of firearms Saturday.

Murad made the token gesture during implementation of the Phase 2 of the Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) at the gymnasium of the old provincial capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao.

The MILF turned over more than 920 high-powered firearms including 81mm mortars; crew-mounted caliber 50 machineguns; and RPG 7 rocket launchers to the International Decommissioning Body headed by Turkey.

The former rebel group also turned over 600 rounds for the RPG 7 rocket launchers, which presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez described as “significant considering how deadly the weapon was for government tanks and personnel.”

“We will continue to uphold our part of the bargain,” Murad said.

Murad thanked Duterte for “his steadfast support” in the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and its ratification during a plebiscite early this year.

“We are giving him this token for what he has done for us,” Murad said as he handed over the gray Pelican case containing his personal firearm to Duterte.

Murad said over 1,060 MILF combatants would now have a chance to live a peaceful and productive lives because of the government support.

He said the MILF mujahideens are trained not to live productive lives but to fight for their homeland.

“For many years our trainings are grounded by armed struggle. We will now face a different kind of struggle to transform ourselves into civilian lives,” Murad said.

Duterte said he was satisfied with the implementation of the normalization process.

Duterte said the decommissioning of firearms privately owned by the MILF is already a step in the right direction.

“This is a huge step in achieving lasting peace,” Duterte said

Duterte assured Murad and the MILF former combatants that the government  support them in the quest for productive and peace lives.

The government promised each of the MILF combatants who would be decommissioned would receive a package worth a million pesos from the government, consisting of 100,000 cash, scholarships and other socio-economic benefits for him, his family and his community.

Abdullah Yosop, 53, an MILF fighter from Camp Rajamuda in Pikit, North Cotabato welcomed this support.

“I and my brothers can go back to tilling our land which we have neglected after we became mujahideens,” Yosop said.

Yosop and four of his brothers are among the 1,060 MILF fighters that were decommissioned Saturday.

Yosop said he and his brothers chipped in money to buy an M14 assault rifle for P80,000.

He said they would take turns in their duties with the MILF, always sharing the rifle among them.

Yosop said the rifle was also useful to them to protect them from roving bandits.

Banditry and rido are among the reasons cited by MILF why many of their fighters are still holding on to their privately owned firearms.

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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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