asia - pacific

MILF calls on Philippine lawmakers to pass stalled BBL

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman criticizes some lawmakers for trying to block law that would grant Moro people greater autonomy

  | 02.12.2015
MILF calls on Philippine lawmakers to pass stalled BBL

By Ilker Girit and Satuk Bugra Kutlugun

ISTANBUL

The chairman of the Philippines’ one-time largest rebel group has once again called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would seal peace in the country’s Muslim south while granting its indigenous people greater autonomy -- legislation that has been tied up in Congress for more than one year.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency this week, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim called on the Philippines to urgently implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) into law, and underlined some of the issues it faced.

"We are facing challenges now... [challenges from] Philippine Christian lawmakers, because there are some who are trying to block passage of the law.”

He underlined, however, that he had faith in President Benigno Aquino III to pursue his goals.

"We are putting the trust to the President... [who is] also very committed to pass the law. So we hope that before it [his term] ends in May 2016, he will be able to pass the law.”

In June, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. -- the son of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines for 21 years -- rejected the original bill, saying it was unconstitutional, and will “lead us to perdition.”

He presented a substitute bill to Congress in August, which included amendments by his committee to around 80 percent of the original draft, including 115 “major and minor” changes.

The MILF has said that it will not accept a diluted version, and at one point threatened to end decommissioning if a watered down version is passed.

Ebrahim, who traveled to Istanbul to attend the International Congress of The Union of Muslim Communities, highlighted that Turkey is among the countries playing a major role in the process as a member of the International Contact Group facilitating the talks.

He also expressed his appreciation of the support of Turkish NGOs – most notably the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH – that have been undertaking projects in the Bangsamoro region, even organizing several humanitarian aid campaigns.

In October, Turkey also appointed its ex-ambassador to Nigeria as the new chair of the seven-man Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) for the peace process.

Mustafa Pulat, who succeeded another Turkish ambassador, Haydar Berk, will lead the team instrumental in guaranteeing July's smooth decommissioning of an initial 145 combatants from the MILF and 75 crew-serve and high-powered armaments.

Decommissioning is one of the important components of the CAB -- initially signed in 2014 by the government and the MILF -- which seeks to return normalcy to communities affected by decades of armed conflict in southern Mindanao.

The IDB includes two other foreign experts and four local experts nominated by the government and the MILF.

Peace advocates and stakeholders have expressed concerned that if the bill is not passed before both houses of Congress go on Christmas break Dec. 19, the legislation will not be enacted before the current administration’s term ends in 2016.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
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