n photo- Training Director Police Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Razote speaks during the opening of the retooling session at Camp General Salipada K. Pendatun, PROP BARMM, Parang, Maguindanao

Former adversaries unite, work together for peace in the BARMM

PARANG, MAGUINDANAO, October 21, 2019 – What seemed unimaginable years ago is now a reality, as former foes are now working side by side to bring peace to communities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Seventy-seven members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and 96 personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) arrived here today to participate in the internal retooling of Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST).

They will be joined by 152 of their Moro Islamic Liberation Front – Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF) counterparts on Monday, October 21, during the start of JPST training of the second batch of JPST members.

Partners in peace

Speaking at the opening of the retooling session, training director Police Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Razote stressed the uniqueness of the JPST training wherein former adversaries in the battlefield will now work together to help maintain the peace and order in the Bangsamoro.

“The JPST training is a unique community policing training where contingents from the AFP, PNP and MILF-BIAF shall undergo a one-month training program to enable them to acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes to make them a capable and dependable force to protect the gains of the peace process,” Razote said.

The internal retooling will prepare the AFP and PNP members for the JPST training, which will be conducted at Camp General Salipada K. Pendatun, PRO BARMM in Parang, Maguindanao.

Two hundred nineteen MILF-BIAF members completed their basic military training last August 27, 2019, which was held at the AFP’s Camp Lucero in Carmen, Cotabato Province.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Director Wendell Orbeso, who heads the secretariat of the Joint Normalization Committee, emphasized the crucial role of JPST in ensuring the safety and security in their communities.

“The establishment and deployment of the JPST are very important in the maintenance of peace and order in the areas where the decommissioning processes and other normalization activities are happening,” Orbeso said.

The 6,000-strong JPSTs will be tasked to support the maintenance of peace and order and stability in areas mutually identified by the GPH and MILF, as the MILF combatants and their camps transition into peaceful and productive civilians and communities

The establishment of JPSTs are part of the Annex on Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the government and MILF in 2014.

Preserving the gains of peace

Brigadier General Cesar De Mesa, chief of the AFP Peace and Development Office, stressed that government forces and the MILF-BIAF are now peace partners who are bound by the common goal of pushing forward the Bangsamoro peace process

“Ang prosesong pang kapayapaan ang magiging solusyon sa paghinto sa matagal na nating pakikipaglaban sa kapawa natin Pilipino. Ang mga BIAF ay dating nasa kabilang panig pero tapos na ang panahon na ‘yun. Kasama na natin sila ngayon sa pagsulong ng kapayapaan,” De Mesa said.

According to Brigadier General Francisco Arial Felicidario III, chair of the GPH Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Western Mindanao Command deputy commander for administration, the various ceasefire mechanisms have been instrumental in preventing armed confrontations in the area.

Felicadario noted that since the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the government of the Philippines and MILF in 1997, there was a significant decline in skirmishes between the two parties which resulted to a more peaceful and stable region.

“Ang laki na ng difference mula nung napirmahan ang ceasefire agreement between Government and MILF noong 1997 hanggang ngayon.  Ngayon, malaya na tayong nakakalakad. Isa lang ang ibig sabihin noon, na ang peace process ay nag-work.”

Also present at the internal retooling training were Lieutenant Colonel  Merill Sumalinog from the AFP Peace and Development Office who explained the JPST’s functions and structure; OPAPP’s Carl Jerick Sol who facilitated the internal retooling of the JPST members; Ryan Dave Jungco, chief operations officer of the GPH-CCCH, who presented an overview on the activities of the body; Reshiel Sombrio of the GPH Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, who explained the functions and activities of AHJAG; and OPAPP’s Mark Sherwin Bayanito, who gave an overview of the political track of the CAB.