Philippines poised to give Muslim minority self-rule

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was quoted as saying that if the law doesn’t pass, he might resign from the presidency. (AFP)
Updated 19 May 2018
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Philippines poised to give Muslim minority self-rule

  • A bill granting self-rule to the Philippines’ Muslim minority is set to be passed by Congress
  • When Duterte became president, he urged Congress to pass the bill

MANILA: After years of delays and controversy, a bill granting self-rule to the Philippines’ Muslim minority is set to be passed by Congress before the end of this month.

“We cannot but be positive,” said President Rodrigo Duterte’s adviser on the peace process, Jesus Dureza, of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“My guess is that it will be passed by the time Congress goes on recess on June 1,” he said.

Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief peace negotiator, told Arab News that he is “more hopeful now that the BBL will finally get through Congress this May.”

Earlier, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on the BBL, gave assurances that the law will be passed by the end of the month.

“They assured us that on May 29, I think that’s the last session, they will be able to pass the BBL, both in the Upper House and the Lower House,” said Iqbal.

“This is also the statement of Speaker Alvarez when we met the other day. He said they would be able to finish it.”

Dureza said that a majority in the House of Representatives supports the bill. On Tuesday, all three committees working to finalize the proposed BBL approved a joint committee report on the consolidated BBL measure.

He said the BBL has the strong backing of Duterte, who had been quoted as saying that if the law doesn’t pass, “I might just resign from the presidency.”

“That sends the strong message that he really wants the BBL passed,” Dureza said.

The BBL was the result of a peace agreement between the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III and the MILF to pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro region to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

However, passage of the bill stalled in 2015 following a clash between Philippine National Police commandos and MILF fighters in Maguindanao province that left 44 troopers and 18 MILF fighters dead.

When Duterte became president, he urged Congress to pass the bill, which is expected to address the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao that caused more than 120,000 deaths.

Asked how the BBL would change the economic and security landscape in southern Philippines, Dureza said that “if passed and entrenched, it will hopefully improve the situation of the Bangsamoro.

“But let’s manage our expectations. It will only be a start of more challenging times for just and sustainable peace,” he said.

 “It will not be as magical as some people expect.

“Government will only provide the framework and enabling environment, but everyone must all work to bring about the desired level of trust and development,” he said.

Iqbal said that while the BBL addresses the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people, “there are still many issues that remain to be ironed out and probably be resolved by the parties (involved).”

On the question of extremism, Iqbal said that once the BBL is in place, “radical elements will be left with no issues with government, so they will become irrelevant and the people will not support them.”


Philippine troops clash with remnants of defeated extremist group

Updated 18 June 2018
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Philippine troops clash with remnants of defeated extremist group

  • The military was targetting Abu Dar, who the government believes is the new “emir” of Daesh in Southeast Asia
  • Daesh-inspired militants seized parts of the southern city of Marawi in May 2017, raising concerns about the influence of the extremist group in Southeast Asia

MANILA: Philippine troops have clashed with remnants of a pro-Daesh group that held a southern city for five months last year, the army said on Monday.
Col. Romeo Brawner, the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Marawi, said security forces conducted air and ground assaults in the province of Lanao del Sur on Sunday in a bid to flush out Maute rebels and the group’s new leader.
Brawner said he could not confirm if there had been any casualties in military operations in two towns near Marawi City, which is now undergoing rehabilitation with some residents returning to their homes.
The military was targetting Abu Dar, who the government believes is the new “emir” of Daesh in Southeast Asia, Brawner said. It could not be independently verified if the Daesh has chosen Dar as its new leader in the region.
Daesh-inspired militants seized parts of the southern city of Marawi in May 2017, raising concerns about the influence of the extremist group in Southeast Asia.
The army ended combat operations after wresting control in southern Marawi in October, and has shifted its focus to the island’s marshes where other pro-Daesh militants operate.
The siege of Marawi, the country’s biggest battle since World War Two, displaced some 350,000 residents and more than 1,100 people were killed, mostly militants.
Military and security experts have said militants who escaped from Marawi are recruiting fighters using looted cash, gold and jewelry worth tens of millions of dollars.