Philippine president backs autonomy law on Muslim south

Rodrigo Duterte says will push for law pursued by one-time largest Muslim rebel group, minus ‘unconstitutional’ provisions

Philippine president backs autonomy law on Muslim south

World Bulletin / News Desk

 President Rodrigo Duterte has backed an autonomy bill pursued by the Philippines’ one-time largest Muslim rebel group, with the exception of certain provisions deemed unconstitutional.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would seal a peace deal signed with the government in 2014 on the country’s Muslim south.

However, the BBL -- which would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a more inclusive Bangsamoro region -- was stalled as Congress adjourned for campaigning for the May 9 election.

“I am ready to give the BBL minus the constitutional issues that are contentious and cannot be solved by an agreement between me [and the MILF],” the newly inaugurated president said Friday during a visit to a military camp in southern Maguindanao province.

Duterte -- the country’s first leader from southern Mindanao island -- said the provisions he could not push for included those on the establishment of regional military and police forces.

He warned against breaking “the chain of command” and underlined that the law must adhere to the country’s constitution and be approved by Congress.

 “In other words, the country will always, should only have one man who will control,” he said.

He praised the MILF leadership for standing by their promises under the ongoing peace process and for giving “peace another chance of talks”.

“For the people who want peace, we will go out. I am ready to concede BBL minus the constitutional infirmities," he stressed.

“I will just give that and so with Nur Misuari,” he said, referring to the fugitive leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), from which the MILF broke away.

Misuari has been in exile in the island province of Sulu since his group’s siege of the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga on Sept. 9, 2013, which left more than 200 people dead -- including MNLF members, police and military forces -- and displaced over 120,000 people.

His MNLF faction considers the MILF’s 2014 peace deal with the government a betrayal of an 1996 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)-brokered agreement.

 “What I was saying is, even if you give them that part of their territory, there is enough land in the Philippines," Duetrte underlined Friday. “The Philippines is vast… And we can establish industrial zones”.

The 2014 deal signed with the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III brought to a close 17 years of negotiations and ended a decades-old armed conflict in the country’s south.

Earlier this week, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza met with MILF chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim at Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao, the group’s main stronghold.

They announced that a 10-member government-MILF Implementing Team would resume the Bangsamoro Peace Process in Kuala Lumpur early next month.

MindaNews reported that a new peace roadmap presented by Dureza to Duterte focused on a new “more inclusive” proposed Bangsamoro enabling law that would incorporate previous peace deals as well as be conducted “simultaneous with the moves to shift to a federal set-up”.

Duterte has proposed to amend the country’s constitution to grant regions -- and their indigenous peoples -- more federal autonomy.

Dureza was quoted as saying that Bangsamoro “can be a pilot” for federalism and stressing “we would like to see this really succeed”. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Temmuz 2016, 13:10