The Philippines’ largest separatist group retired nearly 150 guerrillas and handed over 75 firearms for decommissioning Tuesday to encourage parliament to pass a proposed law giving self-rule in Muslims majority Mindanao region.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino visited the headquarters of Muslim revolutionary group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to witness the weapons handover, the first concrete action by the organisation to abandon a decades-old uprising that has claimed more than 100,000 lives mostly Muslims, FMT reported.
Aquino and senior MILF leaders both said the largely symbolic activity was intended to urge parliament to pass a delayed proposed law giving Muslims self-rule in the Christian nation’s south under the terms of a 2014 peace treaty.
“This is one of the most difficult decisions we have made so far in more than 40 years of struggle,” chief MILF peace negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal said in a speech.
“We want to show the world that the MILF will always comply with its obligations set forth in the signed agreement,” Iqbal added.
Aquino, who ends his six-year term in a year’s time, wants the Muslim self-rule bill to be passed soon, fearing that his successor may not pursue the peace initiative.
“Let us show them that we are worthy of their trust,” Aquino said in his speech.
Parliament failed to pass the bill before it went into recess last week amid a public outcry over the killing of 44 police commandos by armed groups on the southern island of Mindanao in January.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal a year ago, had said its members fired in self-defence at the commandoes, who passed through a rebel camp while going after Muslim militants.
Work on the Muslim self-rule bill is expected to continue when parliament resumes on July 27, but congressional leaders have said it is unlikely to be passed before October.
The 75 MILF firearms, including 24 weapons such as mortars and machine guns, were handed over to an independent decommissioning body headed by Turkey and also comprising members from Norway and Brunei.
The haul is believed by Filipino authorities to comprise just a tiny fraction of the arsenal of the 10,000-member MILF.
Under the peace deal, 30 percent of MILF combatants and weapons will be decommissioned once parliament passes the Muslim self-rule law.
The weapons will be stored in a secure area controlled by the decommissioning body.
Another 35 percent will follow after the law is ratified in a regional plebiscite, while the remainder will be handed over once the regional government is established and its leaders elected in May next year.
The 145 separatists retired on Tuesday will return to civilian life and receive assistance from the government, peace negotiators said.
In April, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) visited to talk top Muslim leaders from the two main Moro fronts in the southern Philippines.
The meetings were first time that an OIC Head has met leaders of the country's one-time largest Muslim revolutionary group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and its former ally the Moro National Liberation Front.
The visit was to push forward a peace agreement and subsequent autonomous government in restive Muslim Majority Mindanao region.
Islam is the oldest recorded monotheistic religion in the Philippines. Islam arrived in the Philippines in the early of 14th century with the arrival of Muslim traders from the Persian Gulf, Indian sub-continent and Arab. The Muslim Philippines is estimated to be in the range of 8% - 11% of the total population.
While the Christianity introduced in Philippines in the late 16th century, with the landing of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.. Tags: #
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