Crunch vote in troubled southern Philippines could bring peace, say residents

Security forces check identification at a checkpoint in Cotabato on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on January 20, 2019, a day before a vote on giving the nation's Muslim minority greater control over the region. (AFP / Noel Celis)
Updated 21 January 2019
0

Crunch vote in troubled southern Philippines could bring peace, say residents

  • Decades of insurgency could end on Mindanao island
  • People urged to forget ‘bitterness of the past’

COTABATO, Philippiness: Residents on a troubled island in the southern Philippines have told Arab News that peace is within reach, as they prepare for a crucial vote taking place on Monday.

They said they hoped the poll would end decades of conflict on Mindanao and usher in development and progress.

More than 120,000 people have been killed on the island and 2 million have been displaced, as armed groups battle government forces to win independence for the Muslim minority living there.

Nearly 3 million people in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARRM) are expected to vote on ratifying a law that will create a bigger region called Bangsamoro, which will have its own domestic legislation, more funding and get to keep a greater share of locally generated taxes.

A second round of voting will be held on Feb. 6.

Jim Lan lives in Sulu province, a known stronghold of the Daesh-inspired Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

He used to be in a group that was fighting for an autonomous Muslim state, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
 
“I will vote yes to the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL),” Lan told Arab News. "This law, it’s like being semi-independent. It will bring peace and order and generate projects for the people of Mindanao which is what the Tausugs (an ethnic group of the Philippines) have been praying for. Once development will set in, it will help eliminate the ASG and other such groups. Because that's what they also want for their family, so their children can go to school.”

Last month Congress backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s bid to extend martial law on Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2019, after he said terrorism was still a problem on the island. He first imposed martial law there in May 2017, after Daesh-inspired fighters seized the city of Marawi.

Duterte flew to Cotabato City on Friday, where he joined thousands of people to make a final pitch for the ratification of the BOL.

“The fact we have reached this point after so many years of negotiations and interruptions, we are here,” the president said, referring to the decades-long peace process between the government and the Moro Independence Liberation Front), which wants an autonomous region for the Moro people.

“Let us forget the bitterness of the past and look forward to the future, which means ladies and gentlemen... vote yes,” he said, adding: “Your approval of this law will not only serve as an expression of your desire to end more than half a century of armed struggle in the region, it will also serve as a testament to your determination to bring peace.”

Yusop Jikiri, chair of the MNLF, said the BOL would have a significant impact on current and future generations.

“Our president is seriously concerned for the ratification of the new autonomy law for Bangsamoro because it is the legacy of his administration to put an end to the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people,” Jikiri told Arab News, adding that while the law was not perfect it was “the only available solution to the aspirations of our people.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana led a delegation of high-ranking government and military officials to Sulu to stress the importance of ratifying the BOL.

“This is our chance to make our present situation better. We shall pass on a more prosperous Mindanao to the next generation,” he told more than 10,000 people who had assembled at the gymnasium of Mindanao State University. “What is happening right now is history in the making.”

Mindanao resident Hussein Dalindin was optimistic about the future, saying there would be greater respect for Islam and recognition of people’s demands for independence because of the BOL.

He also used to be part of a group fighting for independence.

When asked what would happen if the BOL was not implemented, he told Arab News: “I am willing to go back (to war) and continue our struggle.”


Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

Updated 24 April 2019
0

Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

  • An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996
  • The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time

TOKYO: Japan’s government apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law and promised to pay compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims.
His apology comes just after the parliament enactment earlier Wednesday of legislation to provide redress measures, including $28,600 (¥3.2 million) compensation for each victim.
An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law was designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants” and allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.
The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time.
The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends for the victims.
The plaintiffs are seeking about ¥30 million each ($268,000) in growing legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government’s implementation of the law violated the victims’ right to self-determination, reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are too small for their suffering.
In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses, according to Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to them for its forced isolation policy.