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With the overwhelming support for the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro land we see no reason why there will be any perceptible deterrent that would derail its fruition. Influential Catholic Bishops and other religious sectors have joined the call of politicians to support FAB. Many of these political leaders were staunch opposition to past initiatives of previous administrations but FAB obviously offered a rational resolution to end the decades of conflict in Central and the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan.  These days they are pushing for the creation of the FAB’s Transition Commission.

If at all there are apprehensions expressed by some sectors, it is on the how the decommissioning of firearms be undertaken. Both sides of the conflict, including the civilian communities are still wary that for as long as the weapons of war are still in the hands of the protagonists there is no amount of guarantee that armed conflicts and the dislocation of peace loving communities will not happen.

We consider this the most crucial item in the agenda. It will be meaningless, if not a grand folly to think about a Bangsamoro land or even an expanded autonomous region if high-powered firearms proliferate in the region.

Both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government negotiators should not sideline this extremely important issue as they move on to the next level of talks and action. As far as the stakeholders and the communities in and around the envisioned Bangsamoro Land nothing is as important as the absence of weapons of war.

We have heard the statement of the MILF that they are not averse to the decommissioning of arms that are in the possession of their combatants for as long as the same thing is going to be done on the part of the government forces and their paramilitary units. We are in full accord with this issue of concern. Still we expect the government to meet this challenge. In fact it is incumbent on the part of the government to initiate the move. Better still, both should sit down together and agree on a mechanism of how to disarm and then decommission all firearms both in the possession of MILF combatants and the paramilitary units. This is the biggest challenge in the peace negotiation and in acceding to the creation of a meaningful autonomous region or the Bangsamoro Land. For what is the statement of peace or peace accord with the fingers are still in the trigger of the guns? To argue against this issue is to render the talks of peace or FAB useless.

But if the MILF is willing why not the government take up the challenge? For our part the better option is not only to decommission the arms from either side but also make the autonomous region free of any weapon of destruction. Which not only the paramilitary units disbanded and deprive of their arms but also for the military to go back to the barracks. Which also means that only the elements of the Philippine National Police be allowed to maintained peace and order condition in the region. No other.

Of course the present element of the PNP will be inadequate. Then recruit from the ranks of the MILF, provide them the training and the discipline and then the task to maintain law and order in the region.

In the long annals of conflicts, peace is only achieved if the arms are silenced. There are creative solutions. In the case of the envisioned Bangsamoro land we expect a political solution to seal the peace accord and ultimately a true and dynamic Bangsamoro Land.  We believe that this will be realized sooner than expected. If there is any awkwardness that can emerge from this is the question of how or what to call a Christian or an Indigenous People in the Bangsamoro Land.  Moro Christian?  Moro Manobo?

By Menardo Wenceslao

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