MILF warns of heightened extremism if Congress does not pass law

MILF warns of heightened extremism if Congress does not pass law
Murad Ebrahim, chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), gestures as he speaks during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum in Manila on February 20, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 February 2018

MILF warns of heightened extremism if Congress does not pass law

MILF warns of heightened extremism if Congress does not pass law

MANILA: If the Philippines Congress does not pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), extremism could rise in Mindanao, the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) warned on Tuesday. The BBL follows the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in 2014.
Foreign fighters continue to arrive in Mindanao, said MILF Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim.
“They’re coming in from the porous borders in the south (Mindanao), from Malaysia, Indonesia,” he added.
“And it’s not only Malaysians and Indonesians… There are some Middle Eastern people coming in.”
The MILF received information that a Canadian of Arab origin, not older than 25, entered recently and went to Patikul in Sulu to join the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Ebrahim said.
“So this challenge with extremism is really very high, and… we really need to cooperate, everybody, in order to counter extremism,” he added.
Daesh continues to be a threat to the Philippines because it is being displaced in the Middle East, he said.
“We’re all aware of what happened in the Middle East. I think nobody wants it to happen here,” he added.
The chances of another Marawi siege cannot be ruled out because extremists “can still partner with many other small groups, like Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF),” Ebrahim said.
“We’ve seen the destruction in Marawi. In more than 40 years of conflict in Mindanao, this never happened,” he added.
“There has been no city or community that was turned into rubble completely. And this happened… when we’re already in the final stage of the peace process.”
While the MILF is doing its part to prevent terrorists from gaining ground on the island, “the best and most effective counter to them is when the peace process will succeed,” he said.
“We can’t decisively win the war against extremism if we can’t win the peace in the halls of Congress.”
The assistant secretary for peace and security, Dickson Hermoso, told Arab News that the BBL “will be passed based on the reaction of the majority of the people on the ground.”
He added: “They want the BBL, based on consultations by the Senate and congressional committees. There’s overwhelming support from the Bangsamoro people.”
The Senate plans to pass the bill by March 22, before it goes on recess, Hermoso said, expressing hope that it will be signed into law by the president before the end of next month.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said he expects the BBL to be passed soon, but warned that if not, another Marawi siege is possible.
The president may call for a special session of Congress just to see the bill passed, Casiple added.