OIC urges passage of law on Philippines' Muslim south

Islamic inter-governmental body cautions against losing opportunity to seal peace in conflict-torn region before Congress adjourns in mid-December

OIC urges passage of law on Philippines' Muslim south

World Bulletin / News Desk

The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed grave concern for a peace process in the Philippines’ Muslim south, amid delays in passing a law to seal peace in Mindanao island that has undergone “drastic modification” by critical lawmakers.

The OIC statement, released Sunday by the Philippines’ Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, cautions that a historic peace deal signed by the government and the country’s one-time largest Muslim rebel group is under threat amid recent developments.

“These amendments restore the National Government control over many areas and they actually reduce the Bangsamoro Government to an entity similar to an ordinary local government unit,” according to the OIC’s Iyad bin Amin Madani.

In March 2014, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB), aimed to bring to a close 17 years of negotiations and end a decades-old armed conflict on Mindanao, while granting Muslim areas greater political autonomy.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be drafted to create a new region to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Passage of the bill has been delayed in Congress, prompting concerns among peace advocates and stakeholders that if it is not passed before both houses go on Christmas break Dec. 19, it will not be enacted before the current administration’s term ends in 2016.

In the statement released this weekend, Madani urged all stakeholders to cooperate “to ensure that the final BBL will ensure the ‘concept of exclusivity of the powers of the Bangsamoro political entity’ as agreed upon in the CAB.”

He also called on Philippines authorities, especially lawmakers, “not to let this historical moment become another lost opportunity” and to ensure that the law “will not come out different from the original BBL.”

In June, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. -- the son of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines for 21 years -- rejected the original bill, saying it was unconstitutional, and will “lead us to perdition.”

He presented a substitute bill to Congress in August, which included amendments by his committee to around 80 percent of the original draft, including 115 “major and minor” changes.

The MILF has said that it will not accept a diluted version, and at one point threatened to end decommissioning if a watered down version is passed.

The OIC statement also called on the MILF and its former ally the Moro National Liberation Front “to consolidate their coordination and cooperation through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF)” – a common venue joining the two Moro fronts together for discussion of issues and concerns that was organized by the OIC last year.

It assured that the OIC would maintain its efforts for peace in the region, and “will continue monitoring the situation closely until our efforts lead us to the real dawn of peace and stability and a final end to the long struggle of the Bangsamoro people.”

Last week, President Benigno S. Aquino III met with members of the House of Representatives amid ongoing efforts to pass the law before Dec. 19, resulting in deliberations on the legislation continuing onto a second day.

Congress only has between Monday and Wednesday to pass the BBL before its scheduled adjournment. Sessions for 2016 will resume from Jan. 19 to Feb. 5.

Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the government’s chief peace negotiator, and the MILF’s panel chair Mohagher Iqbal had earlier written an open letter to lawmakers asking them “to not lose time” and “to work for the immediate passage of the draft law on the Bangsamoro.”

"We are at the cusp of closing a major armed conflict that has divided our people for decades,” they said. “But we cannot reach our destination without the goodwill and show of statesmanship from our leaders in the august halls of Congress, in whose hands the legislative power lies.”

Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Aralık 2015, 12:54