Duterte’s ‘urgent’ edict on self-rule for Muslims

Children and youth during a rally in support of the peace accord between the government and MILF in Manila. Files/AFP
Updated 29 May 2018
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Duterte’s ‘urgent’ edict on self-rule for Muslims

  • The decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao that caused more than 120,000 deaths
  • The commission has also agreed that control of the defense, police and coast guard will be retained by the national government

MANILA: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has given an “urgent” certification to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will give wider autonomy to the country’s Muslim minority.

The president’s decision on Tuesday came one day after he held separate meetings with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), led by its chairman, Murad Ibrahim, and leaders of Congress.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said he had spoken to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who told him that Malacanang would send them the certification that the BBL is an urgent measure.
The office of the presidential liaison office later announced it had sent the BBL certification to Sotto.
Jesus Dureza, the presidential adviser on the peace process, said that “after much deliberation, the president has decided to make the House and Senate versions of the BBL as urgent.”
Dureza said earlier that during their meeting with Duterte on Monday, leaders from the Senate and House of Representatives vowed to pass the proposed BBL “at the earliest possible time.”
“It was a good meeting with all leaders of the House and the Senate, including their members who expressed strongly on their views on the bill,” Dureza said.
He said that Duterte first met with the MILF leadership before organizing a separate meeting with government representatives.
“The president initially expressed his own personal views and initial assessments which resonated well to all,” Dureza said.
The meeting agreed that the two chambers would complete their work as soon as possible.
Following the commitment of leaders of both Houses to pass the BBL and iron out any disagreements in a bicameral conference, Duterte agreed to certify the bill as urgent.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas, who took part in the meeting with the president, said Duterte did not impose anything on Congress, but granted their request to certify the BBL bill to allow both houses of Congress to pass their respective versions of the measure before they adjourn on Wednesday.
“We will then have a bicameral conference committee during the break, which will resolve conflicting provisions of our bills in collaboration with the Executive Department and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission,” said Farinas. The bicam conference committee report will be submitted for ratification by the both chambers of Congress on July 23.
Once both chambers have finalized the version, Duterte is expected to sign the BBL in time for his “state of the nation” address on the same day.
Farinas on Monday said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission had agreed to most of the proposed amendments to the draft BBL, including naming the new entity that will be created by the law as the Autonomous Region of Bangsamoro (ARB).
The commission has also agreed that control of the defense, police and coast guard will be retained by the national government. “There will be a police region in the Bangsamoro, but it will still be under the PNP (Philippine National Police).”
Agreement has yet to be reached on two major proposed amendments — the opt-in clause and fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro. Once the BBL is passed and approved by the president, a plebiscite will be held within 150 days. The MILF chair told Arab News they are “optimistic that once the Bangsamoro (bill) will be in place, it will be supported by the majority of the people in the area.
“Then we can be assured that security issues will be improved and the economic activities of the people will be also increased as there will be peace in the area. So that is expected in the future,” Murad 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.
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 assumed presidency in 2016, 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.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 32 min 30 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”