Philippines: Inside the MILF Camp

Jason Gutierrez and Jojo Rinoza
Camp Darapanan, Philippines

A uniform patch identifies this soldier as a member of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, June 22, 2019. (Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews)


Moro Islamic Liberation Front soldiers pray at a mosque in the camp near Cotabato City in the Philippines, June 21, 2019. (Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews)


A woman prepares food for MILF troops at Camp Darapanan, June 21, 2019. (Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews)


A member of the camp’s perimeter security detail waits for his lunch, June 22, 2019. (Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews)


A guerrilla fighter rests in a hammock inside Camp Darapanan, June 22, 2019. (Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews)


While an adult rests, children of MILF fighters play inside the camp, June 22, 2019. (Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews)


MILF soldiers carry their M16 rifles inside the camp, June 22, 2019. (Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews)


A faded sign at a Camp Darapanan outpost shows the MILF insignia, June 22, 2019. (Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews)

Five years after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a peace pact with the Philippine government, the group’s main camp in Maguindanao province looks like a typical farm town – except that men in fatigues with assault rifles are everywhere.

This is where MILF leader Murad Ebrahim returns on weekends after spending the work week in an office in Cotabato City, serving as interim chairman of the new Bansamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The new Muslim autonomous region was ratified by a majority of voters in at least five southern provinces at the beginning of the year – a half decade after MILF and the government in Manila signed a peace pact to end decades of fighting.

Many members of the MILF have known no life other than war, yet now the organization is transitioning from insurgent force to governing force, and faces the challenge of securing the peace while also gradually giving up its weapons.


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