POSTSCRIPT / June 16, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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There’s cash for MILF, but not for SAF heroes

IT PAYS to take up arms against the government.

Or so it seems to many people who heard reports that President Noynoy Aquino will grace the program today in Cotabato City where Muslim rebels will be given Philhealth cards, P25,000 cash each and other benefits for turning in their weapons.

The so-called “decommissioning” is provided under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that Malacañang signed in March 2014 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that has been demanding to have its own Moro nation in the MinSuPala region down South.

The cash-out is aside from the P70 billion that the national government will give in the first year of the MILF-dominated Bangsamoro. Half (P30 billion) of the amount will be a block grant to be released without its having to be justified.

Malacañang’s generosity — aside from its giving the Bangsamoro whopping wealth-sharing ratios on local revenues and income from mineral resources — has evoked wry comments on the flow of massive funding for the rebels.

A typical remark was one posted by Ronald Redito on Twitter: “May pera sa terorista, sa biktima ng Yolanda wala.” (He was referring to the super typhoon that ravaged the Visayas in November 2013 and left at least 6,340 dead before the government stopped counting).

By coincidence, the radio was crackling yesterday with complaints of the families of some of the 44 PNP Special Action Force commandos who were massacred last Jan. 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. They said they were still waiting for the President’s promised aid to them.

• 7,000-strong MILF to yield 75 weapons

PRESS Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said about 55 high-powered and 20 crew-served weapons are expected to be turned over by the MILF to the Independent Decommissioning Body with President Aquino and other officials as witnesses.

Malacañang chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the rebels turning in their weapons will also be given “medium to long-term socio-economic packages” by the Task Force on Decommissioned Combatants and Communities.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said the decommissioning “should be commensurate to the process of instituting the Bangsamoro government, addressing other security concerns such as the private armed groups, and transforming MILF camps into productive, civilian communities.”

The process will be in stages, as in a poker game, with the MILF laying aside certain types and number of weapons depending on positive steps taken by the government to show good faith in moving toward establishing the Bangsamoro entity.

As we understand it, the weapons are not actually surrendered to the government but only placed under the care of an international third party that will help monitor and ensure compliance with the terms of decommissioning and normalization.

Every time the government — like a kindergarten kid — moves toward fulfilling its commitments, the MILF will turn over certain weapons to the third party group. Only when the government opens a card will the MILF open its own.

In theory, practically all MILF weapons, except those supplied by the national government to the upcoming Bangsamoro police and armed forces, will be out of the reach of the rebels by the time the Bangsamoro is fully established.

Foreign governments are involved in all aspects and stages of the so-called peace process, from the negotiations, to refereeing a ceasefire when hostilities erupt, the enforcing of the final agreement, and the bringing in of foreign aid and investments.

Malacañang lost full control after it allowed the gradual internationalization of what is actually a domestic problem.

•What about law-abiding gun-owners?

WHILE Malacañang prepares for the laying aside of rebel weapons, anxious owners of licensed firearms wonder what will happen to the guns of law-abiding Filipinos who are patient enough to go through the process.

Whenever media members start talking in forums about the guns in their possession, we hear nothing but whining about the unreasonable and complicated process of licensing and the issuance of permits to carry.

With firearms processing suspended until a new computerized procedure is adopted, many guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens may be rendered illegal when their expired licenses are not renewed after the extension or grace period given until Dec. 31 this year.

But what is this we hear that the registration certificate of the gun will be distinct from the license to own/possess and also separate from any permit to carry the firearm outside of residence? That is too much paperwork and red tape.

With PNP Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, PNP officer-in-charge, retiring in a few weeks, the incoming chief is likely to lay down his own rules ad procedure that, we hope, may clear the air.

One question we have long wanted to ask the PNP and the administration is: Why is the government afraid to enforce the same law and imposed the same gun rules on everybody holding firearms?

We responsible and law-abiding gun owners are willing and ready to follow the rules provided the same procedures and requirements are applied to everybody else, including gun-toting Moros and MILF fighters.

If the government is afraid to confiscate illegally owned firearms in the Bangsamoro, it has no good reason to require licensing of other Filipinos possessing guns.

Records show there are 1.7 million licensed firearms registered with the PNP. The licenses of some 621,000 of them are set to expire this year.

After the new rules and procedures are adopted and a computerized system set up, a great number of license and permit applicants are expected to flood the PNP firearms and explosives office.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 16, 2015)

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