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Philippines: Congress fails in sealing peace with Muslims

29th Feb 2016
Philippines: Congress fails in sealing peace with Muslims

By Hader Glang


ZAMBOANGA CITY, (AA): The government’s chief adviser to a peace process with the country’s one-time largest Moro rebel group admitted Sunday that there is huge disappointment over Congress’ failure to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) — a failure which could be used by extremist groups to recruit new members.

However, Teresita Deles, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, underlined in a statement Sunday that “cease-fire mechanisms are working closely to prevent this from happening.”

“[But] certainly, the huge disappointment over the non-passage of the BBL provides more enticing, fertile ground for recruitment to radical, extremist thought and action.”

She added that thankfully, cease-fire mechanisms — particularly, the government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group with the International Monitoring Team — are working closely and robustly with the security sector to maintain peace and order on the ground, including curbing the spread of extremism.

Deles issued the statement in response to comments from MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar who claimed that armed groups who have been engaged in clashes with government troops in the countries’ south since the beginning of the month are dismayed by the failure of President Aquino’s administration to pass the BBL.

The military has claimed that government troops had killed at least 42 suspected members of a Moro group (formerly known as the Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao) with alleged ties to the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah in the last week, but on Sunday military spokesman Brig. Gen. Resituto Padilla, corrected the report to 24.

No explanation has been given for the discrepancy, but he added that as of yet they only have a physical body count of 12.

MILF vice chair Jaafar said that the MILF leadership cannot prevent its fighters from reinforcing such groups due to blood relations, adding that only the BBL’s passage will prevent similar skirmishes in Mindanao.

The BBL would have implemented a 2014 peace deal signed by the government and the MILF on Mar. 27, 2014 — encompassing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro — bringing 17 years of peace negotiations in southern Mindanao island to a close.

However, the agreement has been shelved during the duration of the country’s presidential elections, leading to fears that such “terrorist” groups may try and take advantage of local frustrations to move into the territory.

Deles reiterated in her statement Sunday that even after the failure of Congress to pass the BBL the government continues to work for peace in Mindanao.

“We continue to work hard and with hope to ensure that the legal-political track to the full implementation of the CAB successfully crosses over to the next administration.

“It is the position of this administration that‎ it is this comprehensive social justice-based approach that would deter the rise of violent, extremist groups in southern Philippines and comprehensively sustain past and present efforts for peace and development in Mindanao and the rest of the country,” she said.

In response to the misleading death toll, Padilla said a directive has been issued to all commands to be careful in issuing statements to avoid confusion.
Bangsamoro Basic LawPhilippines


[Philippines Moro Islamic LIberation Front emblem by Jaume Ollé/Creative Commons]

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