Philippines’ Duterte urges Congress to pass bill for self-rule in Muslim region

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, and from left: Jesus Dureza, Adviser for the Peace Process, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairperson, Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice-chairman, and Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chairman, hold a draft law of the Bangsamoro Basic Law during a ceremony at the Malacañan Palace in July 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 18 January 2018

Philippines’ Duterte urges Congress to pass bill for self-rule in Muslim region

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday urged Congress to pass a bill granting self-rule to the country’s Muslim minority, warning that its collapse would see separatist rebels abandon a peace process and declare war again.
The largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), signed a peace deal with the government in 2014 to end nearly 50 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced 2 million.
Central to resolving that is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would create a new autonomous area in the Mindanao region offering more political and economic power. Duterte is a staunch supporter of the plan.
“I am urging everybody to understand, it’s about time the historical injustices committed to them corrected,” Duterte said during the launch of a bank for Filipino overseas workers.
“If nothing happens to the BBL, there will be war in Mindanao.”
He said he could not control rebel groups if they take up arms again and seek an independent state in the south.
The Muslim parts of Mindanao are already fraught with security problems and a collapse of the peace process with the MILF would be one of the biggest setbacks of Duterte’s presidency.
Martial law is in place in Mindanao until the end of the year to allow the military to tackle rebel groups loyal to Daesh, some of which held parts of southern Marawi City through five months of war with the government last year.
The MILF is bitterly opposed to Islamic extremists and has been collaborating with government troops to fight a radical faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh.
He said he wanted the BBL passed before Congress focuses its attention on changing the constitution to create a federal system, one of his key election platforms.


New Filipino military chief vows to enforce controversial anti-terror law

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay. (Supplied)
Updated 03 August 2020

New Filipino military chief vows to enforce controversial anti-terror law

  • Gapay said his priority would be to bring an end to the New People’s Army (NPA) — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, based primarily in rural areas

MANILA: The new chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, on Monday assumed office with a vow to enforce the country’s recently enacted anti-terrorism law.
The controversial legislation took effect last month, despite legal challenges at the Supreme Court to stop its implementation.
It criminalizes acts that incite terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners, or other representations.” The new law also grants authorities broad powers to wiretap and tag individuals and groups as terrorists and detain them without charge for up to 24 days.
“We will capitalize on this very good anti-terror law. It is comprehensive, it is proactive, and it is geared to prevent occurrence of terroristic acts,” Gapay said in his first speech as army chief.
He called on Filipinos to support the military because beside dealing with terrorism and communist insurgency, the country now faced an unseen enemy in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The army, he said, was helping the government contain the deadly virus which had infected more than 100,000 people in the Philippines and claimed at least 2,100 lives.

We will capitalize on this very good anti-terror law. It is comprehensive, it is proactive, and it is geared to prevent occurrence of terroristic acts.

Lieutenant General Gilbert I. Gapay, Commanding general, Philippine Army

Gapay said his priority would be to bring an end to the New People’s Army (NPA) — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, based primarily in rural areas — and local terrorist groups — Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and factions of the Daulah Islamiyah — that operate mainly in the country’s south.
“There will be no let up as we continue to be at the forefront confronting all these threats. We are trained for this but still we need the support of other agencies; we need the support of our fellow Filipinos,” Gapay added.
He said the army would continue to collaborate with partner agencies and foreign counterparts in addressing domestic and regional threats, adding that it would suggest provisions to the rules and regulations of the new law to enhance intelligence sharing and strengthen maritime security to deter foreign terrorists from entering the country through its porous sea borders.
Prior to his appointment, Gapay, who replaces the retiring Gen. Felimon T. Santos, Jr., served as the 61st army commander.