MILF chief hopes autonomy law seals deal in 2017

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hopes for autonomy and development in Muslim south under Rodrigo Duterte presidency

MILF chief hopes autonomy law seals deal in 2017

World Bulletin / News Desk

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, leader of the southern Philippines’ one-time largest rebel group, said Tuesday he hoped the nation’s Congress will submit a regional autonomy bill by July 2017 to seal a peace deal between his group and Manila.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency in Ankara, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader said they had expected that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), meant to seal a 2014 peace deal with the government, would be passed under then-President Benigno Aquino III, who was succeeded by Rodrigo Duterte on June 30.

“But that was not what happened,” he said, adding that it had exacerbated frustration among locals.

The MILF has been pushing for the passage of the BBL, which would seal the 2014 peace deal signed with the government, the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro or CAB, in the country’s Muslim south, which is underdeveloped due to decades of conflict.

However the BBL – which would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a more inclusive Bangsamoro region – was stalled as Congress recessed to campaign for the May 9 election.

Ebrahim said that the January 2015 Mamasapano clashes between Special Forces and MILF members fueled those opposed to the peace process.  

“It gives some frustration among the people. Because after the agreement in 2014 we expected that the text would be passed under the term of the previous president. And it would be implemented. It could not happen because the agreement was not implemented in the expected period. The leadership was changed and there was some fighting between our forces and the government’s special forces. It gives an opportunity to those who were ready to attack the peace process. And the last administration ended without the bill being passed. So the situation here is quite difficult,” he said.

He underlined that Duterte committed to the process even before being elected in the May 9 election that gave hope to people of the majority-Muslim provinces of Mindanao.

“Immediately after the recent election we engaged with the new administration regarding the peace deal. Even before the election, the current president promised that he would pass the agreement and implement the law regarding the peace deal. And this gives hope to our people because he was very open on his commitment,” Ebrahim said

He stated that the MILF was trying to manage the people’s frustration.

“Because as long as the agreement is there, we can hold any government to implement it. So that gives us some kind of assurance that we will continue struggling for the final implementation. We will never throw it out. We will assert that all of the deal [must be] implemented. Because this is valid, this is final that had already been signed by both parties.”

Addressing recent developments, Ebrahim said the MILF had reformed the Bangsamoro Transition Commission tasked with drafting an autonomy law.

“We have already formed the commission and hopefully they can start working to compose a draft law by January next year. So we are drafting a new law. Because this time the president wanted the law to be more inclusive. That means other Moro groups can be included [in the new law].”

“We hoped that the law will be submitted to Congress by July 2017,” he stressed.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Aralık 2016, 17:15
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