mpwThe Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW), a ‘network of peace networks’ accompanying the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF) negotiations since 2003, is extending its profoundest respect to the principals of the talks for keeping the hand of peace at this critical juncture of the peace process.

The de-commissioning of 145 mujahideen from the MILF and turnover of some of their high powered firearms yesterday at the old provincial capitol in Maguindanao is not only a symbolic ‘peace offering’ from the MILF, but an evidence of its sincerity in keeping faith with the implementation of the peace agreement despite the legal tussle over the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

This “Ceremonial Turnover of Weapons and Decommissioning of the MILF Combatants” initialized the decommissioning process as stated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) wherein MILF registered and turned in 75 weapons (50 high-powered and 25 crew-mounted weapons) to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB).

For the MPW, the physical turn over of weapons and decommissioning of 145 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), not only marked the MILF’s continuing commitment to realize the CAB – but also highlighted a significant step in the continuum of reclaiming the trust in the Bangsamoro promise.

MPW considers that decommissioning the 145 BIAF combatants is a powerful symbol how the MILF is serious about the political settlement with rebels transitioning themselves to ordinary civilians – generating hope for themselves, their families, and thousands of victims of war; sending a message that peace is already at their doorsteps.

MPW calls on the esteemed members of Congress in both chambers as they review and address infirmities in the BBL – to keep their avowed commitment to their constitutional mandates and to perform the twin task of legislating and peacebuilding since what they will enact is not only a social justice instrument for the Bangsamoro but also a peace and change agenda for the indigenous peoples and Christian inhabitants of the Bangsamoro region.

Legislators should bear in mind that the next major phase of decommissioning the 30% of MILF combatants and weapons as stipulated in the CAB is determinant upon the passage of the BBL.

Moreover, the decommissioning event was serendipitously held when Muslims in the country and all over the world sighted the ‘hilal’ (slender crescent moon) to determine the start of the holy month of Ramadhan. MPW believes that the power of prayer, reflection and sacrifice can reach discordant voices, hearts, mindsets in the light of the tumultuous legalization process of the BBL currently stalled in Congress.

In the advent of the month of Ramadhan, MPW appeals to the legislators to embark on a reflective dialogue and realize that the imperative of according meaningful autonomy to a people with historical and structural hurts entails a lot of compromises and even breaking the norms and rules we are used to. Moreover, MPW challenges the key stakeholders, the GPH and MILF to stay the course of peace, and the Filipino majority to offer the ‘hand of solidarity’ as the Bangsamoro goes through a period of fasting and reflection.

MPW joins all our Muslim sisters and brothers in their deepest prayers towards the envisioned genuine autonomy so that finally, sustainable peace and development will reach especially the poorest communities in the region.