Breakaway rebels invited to south Philippines law talks

Peace process official calls on ‘moderates’ to join gov’t, one-time largest rebel group to discuss draft law on Muslim region.

Breakaway rebels invited to south Philippines law talks

World Bulletin/News Desk

An official from the Philippines’ presidential office on the peace process has called on a splinter faction of the country's one-time largest rebel group to join talks aimed at drafting a law on the Muslim south.

Lawyer Jose Lorena, Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process undersecretary, told The Anadolu Agency on Monday that the Congress' ad hoc committee on the southern Bangsamoro region had extended an invitation to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The BIFF has vowed to sabotage a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and to continue fighting for full Bangsamoro independence.

In March, the MILF signed up to a peace deal to establish a Bangsamoro entity in Mindanao, the country’s southernmost major island, to replace the current autonomous region and implement the Bangsamoro Basic Law in return for it renouncing violence and decommissioning its arms.

Lorena, however, clarified to AA that the invitation was extended to the BIFF in general rather than a specific leader in the organization.

“If the moderates want to participate, it will be very good for them,” he told AA, explaining that the group’s members have helpful knowledge about communities in the region.

In September, self-proclaimed BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama rejected invitations to participate in congressional hearings on the draft law, telling radio station dxMS the group would not join any process falling short of its bid for an independent state.

The congressional committee had earlier invited members of the Moro National Liberation Front to partake in talks, with some Mindanao lawmakers expressing wishes for the input of the rebel group’s fugitive leader Nur Misuari.

Misuari is wanted on charges of rebellion, violation of international humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity after his faction laid siege to the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga to protest the MILF-government peace process. The siege left 300 people dead and thousands displaced.

Lorena told AA invitations had been extended to the BIFF and MNLF “as part of the government's efforts to engage these groups in discussions relative to the Bangsamoro law.”

The House of Representatives, which is scheduled to resume talks Jan. 16, is expected to pass the draft law in March.

Turkey has a leading role in the peace process, in particular the decommissioning of the MILF’s weaponry. During a November visit, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pledged his support.

If ratified, the Bangsamoro Basic Law will bring much needed wealth to a region that is among the most underdeveloped in the country due to the decades-old conflict.

Under the new agreement, the MILF will get a 75 percent share of income derived from the exploitation of metallic minerals in the area -- reported to include gold and copper. It will also receive 75 percent of tax revenue, while any income derived from fossil fuels -- like petroleum, natural gas and coal -- will be split 50-50 with the central government in Manila.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Aralık 2014, 15:35

Muhammed Öylek

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