Duterte vows for self-rule in volatile region to counter Daesh

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, holds the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) together with MILF and other leaders Monday in Manila. (AP)
Updated 17 July 2017
0

Duterte vows for self-rule in volatile region to counter Daesh

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday to fast-track new legislation for autonomy in the country’s most volatile region, advancing a protracted process to end decades of rebellion and thwart rising militancy.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted to Duterte on Monday is the culmination of a rocky 20-year peace process between the government of the Philippines and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
It aims to turn predominantly the southern island of Mindanao into an autonomous region with its own executive, legislature and fiscal powers.
“May I say to you my brothers ... I will support and hasten this instrument as it goes to the legislature,” Duterte said in a ceremony for the handover of the bill, drawing loud applause.
“There will be no objections of the provisions of all that is consistent with the Constitution and aspirations of the Moro people.”
Passage of the bill would be a major achievement for Duterte, who was a mayor in a Mindanao city for 22 years and has made peace deals with separatists and Marxist rebels a priority for his year-old government.
The bill’s submission comes at a critical time for the Philippines, as fears grow that militants allied with Daesh have exploited disillusionment over the failure of the previous Congress to pass the law, and have used it to recruit fighters and further a radical agenda.
Rebels inspired by Daesh have occupied the commercial heart of Marawi City, on Mindanao, through seven weeks of air strikes and battles with government troops that have killed more than 500 people and displaced 260,000, marking the country’s biggest security crisis in years.
Dangerous times
“We live in very dangerous times ... we watch with utter disgust of the destruction that violent extremism has inflicted in the city of Marawi,” MILF chairman Al-Haj Ebrahim Murad said.
“These misguided people have filled the vacuum created by our failure to enact the basic law and (they) feed into the frustration of our people.”
The law, details of which were not immediately available, calls for the creation of a self-administered territory within what the Philippines called Bangsamoro, meaning “Moro nation,” referring to the southern Muslims that Spanish colonialists called “Moros.”
The bill, agreed by a panel of representatives from government, the MILF and religious groups, prescribes an elected legislative assembly, a chief minister, a Cabinet, with an agreement to share natural resource revenues, stacked largely in favor of the new Bangsamoro government.
In a recent interview with Reuters in Cotabato City, Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s top peace negotiator, said the hope was for Congress to pass the law and a transition period to start in 2019, with elections in 2022 for an 80-seat assembly.
Iqbal said he feared the Marawi siege could complicate the passage of the law if there was a perception that the MILF and the radical Maute group fighting in Marawi were associated with each other because both hail from the same region.
“Right now we don’t really know the thinking of the people,” he said.


Japan minister apologizes after ‘sexy yoga’ claims

Updated 7 min 25 sec ago
0

Japan minister apologizes after ‘sexy yoga’ claims

TOKYO: Japan’s education minister apologized Wednesday for using an official car to visit a yoga studio, but denied claims that the facility was offering “sexy private yoga.”
The row is the latest headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which is already under fire after two cronyism scandals and sexual harassment claims against a top finance ministry bureaucrat.
The Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine on Wednesday reported that Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi visited a yoga studio in the hip Ebisu district in Tokyo using a state car and took private lessons there.
“I apologize for creating confusion amid a tense parliamentary situation,” Hayashi told reporters.
“As the government is facing severe rebuke and criticism, I will serve the public in a more disciplined manner,” he said, in an apparent reference to various scandals involving the cabinet in recent weeks.
“I should have drawn a line between the public and the private, even though this case was in line with rules,” he added.
Ministers are permitted to use government vehicles for private use in between public engagements, local media said.
The magazine described the yoga studio as a “sexy private yoga” studio run by a former porn actress that offers private lessons and oil massages.
But Hayashi said he was simply taking “regular yoga lessons and massages with finger pressure” for better health.
The president of the yoga studio has denied that she was ever a porn actress and is demanding a correction and an apology from the magazine.
“I firmly deny the article which presents an indecent image and is completely different from the facts,” she said.
The studio’s website says it offers private lessons for men or couples.
Support for Abe’s government has flagged due to two cronyism scandals and criticism of the way the finance ministry has handled claims that its top bureaucrat sexually harassed female reporters.
Around half of voters now disapprove of Abe’s administration, and a similar number want his Finance Minister Taro Aso to step down, polls published Monday found.
The polls bode ill for Abe’s bid to be reelected party chief in September in a vote he was once expected to win easily.