Philippines to Grant Amnesty to Muslim Rebels

Government of the Philippines (GPH) chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferer shake hands with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal (R) as they exchange peace agreements between both parties at the GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talk in Kuala Lumpur Jan. 25, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

MANILA — The Philippine government will grant amnesty to Muslim guerrillas who are facing or have been convicted on rebellion-related charges under a newly signed peace pact, which calls for the 11,000-strong rebel force to be deactivated, an official said Sunday.

Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said the amnesty, which still needed congressional approval, would only cover fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and exclude guerrillas who broke off from the group and continue to endanger peace.

According to the pact that was signed by Philippine government and rebel negotiators in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday, the granting of the amnesty and pardon was aimed at facilitating “the healing of the wounds of conflict and the return to normal life.”

The conclusion of the Malaysian-brokered talks has been the most significant progress made over 13 years of negotiations to tame a tenacious insurgency that has left more than 120,000 people dead and derailed development in Muslim-populated southern regions that are among the most destitute in the Philippines.

Under the peace deal, the Moro insurgents agreed to end violence in exchange for broader autonomy. An existing five-province Muslim autonomous region is to be replaced by a more powerful, better-funded and potentially larger region to be called Bangsamoro.

Despite the milestone, both the government and the rebels acknowledged that violence would not end overnight in a region that has long grappled with a volatile mix of crushing poverty, huge numbers of illegal firearms, clan wars and weak law enforcement.

Like other amnesty programs, only rebellion-related crimes could be absolved. Others like rape would not be covered, Deles said.

“It’s not a blanket amnesty,” Deles told The Associated Press, adding that the details still have to be threshed out.

Rebel spokesman Von Al Haq said dozens of guerrillas were currently detained on rebellion-related charges and that his group would draw up a list of fighters eligible to benefit from the program.

Under the “normalization” pact, the government and the insurgents also agreed to establish a joint task force to turn six main guerrilla camps in the southern Philippines into “peaceful and productive communities” although no timetable was mentioned.

“There will be no more camps, they will become peaceful, unarmed communities,” Deles said. “Camp Abubakar will no longer be known as such,” she said, referring to one of the Muslim rebels’ largest strongholds.

An independent Decommissioning Body to be led by foreign experts would oversee the deactivation of rebel forces and collection of their weapons. The huge military presence in the autonomous region would be scaled down and a joint assessment would be made for an orderly redeployment of troops and “avoid a security vacuum,” according to the pact.

The government also pledged to disband private armies, mostly of politicians and warlords, and encourage the Moro rebels to give up their own weapons—a decades-long concern past presidents have failed to fully address.

“They need to be assured that they will be secure even if they are decommissioned and their weapons put beyond use,” Deles said.

Saturday’s pact was the final component of a peace agreement, which is expected to be signed soon by both sides in the Philippine capital, Manila.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague congratulated the Philippines and said his country would continue to back the difficult peace process.

“As we know from our own experience, many of the most difficult challenges will emerge as the parties work toward implementing the agreement,” Hague said. “But the courage and leadership shown by the parties gives great hope that these can be overcome.”

2 Responses to Philippines to Grant Amnesty to Muslim Rebels

  1. Thein Sein government and Burman nationalistic politicians should learn how peace is achieved in ASEAN countries (Ache rebels vs. Indonesian govt; Moro rebels vs. Philippines govt). The Burman leaders should come to sense that systematic marginalization of non-Burman ethnic groups is not a way to keep country together and achieve peace before too late.

    Everything is possible including disintegration of the country if minds are put into it. Likewise, peace is extremely easy to achieve if Burman nationalistic mindset is put aside and if the people of Burma oppose the business monopoly of a few of the military generals’ and their cronies.

    The biggest obstacle to peace in Burma is the mindset of Burman nationalistic leaders and greed over resources in ethnic lands of a handful of Burman elites. The duty to prevent the country from disintegration is the pretext of protecting the economic interests of the military generals and their cronies.

  2. Congratulations to Filipinos. They witness “Love” mentioned By Jesus is beyond ideologies and faiths.
    Burmese people should also witness that
    “Compassion” described in Buddha’s sermon is beyond race and religion.
    It doesn’t matter whether you worship him or not, Buddha said every one has to reap whatever he or she sow.

    Dhamma Chit Thu

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