Gov’t eyes special scholarship program for decommissioned MILF combatants

Robie de Guzman   •   November 7, 2019   •   659

Agents of an independent decommissioning body inspect surrendered firearms in the town of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Philippines, 07 September 2019 (issued 08 September 2019). More than six months after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified in a plebiscite, Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) turned over close to a thousand high-powered firearms to an independent decommissioning body, reports said.

MANILA, Philippines – The government is eyeing to provide a special scholarship or capacity development program for decommissioned members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their families.

The program is among the key points provided in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

CHED chairman Prospero de Vera III said the MOU, which was signed last Oct. 30, aims to provide assistance and ensure access to quality tertiary education in the BARMM.

The MOU was inked by De Vera, OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., and BARMM Technical Education Minister Mohagher Mohammad Iqbal.

“We are assisting the BARMM consistent with the policy of President (Rodrigo) Duterte that all young Filipinos must have access to quality education and that no qualified student is denied access to education on account of poverty,” De Vera said in a statement.

He added that the implementation of initiatives relating to higher education is consistent with Executive Order No. 79 or the Implementing Annex on Normalization Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Aside from providing special scholarship program, the MOU also seeks to do the following:

  • Determine the areas to extend technical assistance to the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) in relation to BARMM higher education institutions (HEI) and the CHED Registry;
  • Capacitate MBHTE in monitoring the compliance of BARMM HEIs with the standards of quality education;
  • Communicate to DSWD the importance of ensuring the inclusion of underprivileged BARMM students and the children of decommissioned MILF combatants and selected beneficiaries from the Six MILF camps in Listahanan 3.0;
  • Encourage the deputized Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) HEIs in Mindanao to help children of decommissioned MILF combatants and selected beneficiaries from the six MILF camps to complete their undergraduate study;
  • Offer study grants and capacity-building programs to target beneficiaries, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations and procedures
  • Propose professional development programs to faculty and staff of BARMM HEIs through the available CHED and other national government funds;
  • Mobilize leading HEIs to provide technical assistance to BARMM higher education needs identified by MBHTE;
  • Provide MBHTE with necessary assistance in the creation of a tribal university system;
  • Assist MBHTE with the necessary technical assistance in the crafting of the Education Code.

Galvez, for his part, said they are requesting Congress to allocate funds for the implementation of the scholarship program for the decommissioned combatants.

“I hope that through this agreement, we shall be able to reach out to those students residing in the ‘last mile’ areas, the underserved and most especially, the children of decommissioned MILF combatants. We are committed to supporting them until they achieve their full potentials,” he said.

Galvez believes the recipients of this program will eventually become the next leaders of the BARMM and strong advocates of peace and moral governance.

DOLE, OPAPP allot P100M employment fund for ex-Moro fighters

Robie de Guzman   •   October 21, 2019

Agents of an independent decommissioning body inspect surrendered firearms in the town of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Philippines, 07 September 2019 (issued 08 September 2019). More than six months after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified in a plebiscite, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) turned over close to a thousand high-powered firearms to an independent decommissioning body, reports said. EPA-EFE/STR

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday said it has signed an agreement with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) that would create an initial P100-million emergency employment fund to assist returning rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The agreement was signed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

DOLE said the agreement will extend its Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Program aimed to assist the socio-economic development and confidence-building of estimated 7,000 decommissioned MILF combatants.

“This partnership is focused on assisting former rebels to transition into civilian lives, and facilitate their transformation and the six MILF camps into peaceful and productive communities through employment facilitation, and sustainable livelihood assistance,” Bello said in a statement.

DOLE said that under the agreement, the department will assist in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) Normalization Program through the provision of emergency employment under its Tulong Panghanapbuhay Para sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displace Workers (TUPAD) program.

TUPAD is an emergency employment program for displaced workers, underemployed, and seasonal workers.

DOLE will also provide employment facilitation programs and services to the former rebels under the Government Internship Program and Special Program for Employment of Students.

The labor chief said this initiative is in support of the Duterte administration’s agenda of achieving just and lasting peace by reaching out to former rebels and provide them with sustainable livelihood and employment opportunities to address the root causes of violent extremism.

Galvez, for his part, expressed hope that this partnership will help in transforming six MILF camps into peaceful and resilient communities.

“We hope that through this collaboration, DOLE will continue to provide support during the succeeding stages of the normalization program and bring us closer to our vision of achieving ensuring peace and sustainable development in Bangsamoro,” Galvez said.

Gov’t vows justice for MILF fighters slain by local terrorist group

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2019

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

MANILA, Philippines – The government on Monday vowed to bring to justice the perpetrators of an attack that killed seven members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In a statement, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. expressed his apologies and sympathies to the families of the former MILF combatants who were slain by an attack claimed to have been carried out by an Islamic State (IS)-linked terror group.

“In solidarity with the leadership of the MILF, the government will assist in every way possible the families of these slain MILF fighters,” Galvez said.

“We will exert all efforts to make sure that justice will be served to the perpetrators of this dastardly act,” he added.

The MILF members were killed after the IS-linked group, Turayfe-Dawla group attacked their camp near Shariff Saydona in Maguindanao last week.

The Turayfe-Dawla is a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which opposes the peace agreement that the MILF signed with the government.

Galvez said the attack demonstrates the “brutality of these terror groups, and the violent methods they will utilize to sow fear, anger, and discord among the populace.”

“Their twisted ideology does not recognize ethnicity nor religion. They have no place in a humane, peaceful society,” he added.

The Cabinet official further said the government recognizes the gallantry of these former MILF fighters who fought against the terror group.

“For us, they are heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice so that their people can live in peace,” he said.

In the previous weeks, the MILF began the decommissioning of its weapons and combatants as part of the peace treaty they forged with the government aimed at ending the decades-long separatist insurgency in Mindanao.

During the second phase of the decommissioning held in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao last month, thousands of weapons were turned over to the government.

Decommissioned MILF fighters also received socio-economic assistance.

“As we sympathize with our Moro brothers and sisters for their loss, I would like to call on the Filipino to unite so that we can address the roots of violent extremism, and bring enduring and long-lasting peace to our nation,” Galvez said.

DILG mapping out ways to help in BARMM transition process

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte inspects the decommissioned firearms from the former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during their decommissioning at the Old Provincial Capitol Compound in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on September 7, 2019. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday said it is currently mapping out ways on how to effectively provide technical assistance to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as it undergoes transition.

In a statement, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año assured his department will provide assistance to the interim regional government of BARMM especially police support for the maintenance of peace and order as it undergoes the normalization phase.

“We have prepared a road map on how best we can assist the BARMM. We want to help in meeting the objectives of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and that is to allow the Bangsamoro to have a meaningful self-governance within the framework of the Constitution and territorial integrity of the country,” he said.

“We will make sure that the DILG exercises judiciously its general supervision over BARMM,” he added.

The DILG said normalization is the process through which communities affected by the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao can return to social life and pursue sustainable development livelihoods free from fear of violence and crime.

“The DILG will see to it that we implement what the law mandates, particularly the BOL, which says that the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall create a Police Regional Office in BARMM for the primary purpose of law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order,” Año said.

“We shall also see to it that members of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front shall be admitted to the police force within five years of the BOL’s ratification,” he added.

Last Saturday (Sept. 7), President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the decommissioning of more than 900 guns and 1,060 combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

During the decommissioning rites as part of a peace treaty, Duterte urged the MILF to set aside differences and avoid further conflict with the government.

He also provided socio-economic assistance to decommissioned MILF fighters and assured support for former Moro rebels’ transition to civilian life

DILG chief Año hailed the MILF’s sincerity in the peace agreement with the government.

“I am honored to witness the realization of peace in Muslim Mindanao that seemed elusive and bleak in the past decades. The clamor before was to give peace a chance,” he said.

“Now, we can finally move on to the development phase of the region for its people to catch up with the rest of the country,” he added.

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