Gov’t eyes special scholarship program for decommissioned MILF combatants

Robie de Guzman
Agents of an independent decommissioning body inspect surrendered firearms in the town of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Philippines, 07 September 2019 (issued 08 September 2019). More than six months after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified in a plebiscite, Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) turned over close to a thousand high-powered firearms to an independent decommissioning body, reports said. 

MANILA, Philippines – The government is eyeing to provide a special scholarship or capacity development program for decommissioned members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their families.

The program is among the key points provided in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

CHED chairman Prospero de Vera III said the MOU, which was signed last Oct. 30, aims to provide assistance and ensure access to quality tertiary education in the BARMM.

The MOU was inked by De Vera, OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., and BARMM Technical Education Minister Mohagher Mohammad Iqbal.

“We are assisting the BARMM consistent with the policy of President (Rodrigo) Duterte that all young Filipinos must have access to quality education and that no qualified student is denied access to education on account of poverty,” De Vera said in a statement.

He added that the implementation of initiatives relating to higher education is consistent with Executive Order No. 79 or the Implementing Annex on Normalization Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Aside from providing special scholarship program, the MOU also seeks to do the following:

  • Determine the areas to extend technical assistance to the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) in relation to BARMM higher education institutions (HEI) and the CHED Registry;
  • Capacitate MBHTE in monitoring the compliance of BARMM HEIs with the standards of quality education;
  • Communicate to DSWD the importance of ensuring the inclusion of underprivileged BARMM students and the children of decommissioned MILF combatants and selected beneficiaries from the Six MILF camps in Listahanan 3.0;
  • Encourage the deputized Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) HEIs in Mindanao to help children of decommissioned MILF combatants and selected beneficiaries from the six MILF camps to complete their undergraduate study;
  • Offer study grants and capacity-building programs to target beneficiaries, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations and procedures
  • Propose professional development programs to faculty and staff of BARMM HEIs through the available CHED and other national government funds;
  • Mobilize leading HEIs to provide technical assistance to BARMM higher education needs identified by MBHTE;
  • Provide MBHTE with necessary assistance in the creation of a tribal university system;
  • Assist MBHTE with the necessary technical assistance in the crafting of the Education Code.

Galvez, for his part, said they are requesting Congress to allocate funds for the implementation of the scholarship program for the decommissioned combatants.

“I hope that through this agreement, we shall be able to reach out to those students residing in the ‘last mile’ areas, the underserved and most especially, the children of decommissioned MILF combatants. We are committed to supporting them until they achieve their full potentials,” he said.

Galvez believes the recipients of this program will eventually become the next leaders of the BARMM and strong advocates of peace and moral governance.

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