07/12/2017, 15.41
PHILIPPINES
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Mindanao, Duterte presses for the approval of the 'Bangsamore Law'

The goal is to create a political entity for the majority Muslim region to replace the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The measure is based on the 2014 peace deal. For Mgr Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, autonomy is better than federalism.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Duterte administration is pushing for the ratification of the Bangsamore Basic Law (BBL). The bill aims at setting up a political entity and government in Bangsamoro, an historic region for the Muslims of Mindanao Island (southern Philippines), thus replacing the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Despite claims of unconstitutionality, the bill was approved by the House of Representatives in 2014. The BBL is based on the Bangsamoro Global Agreement, a peace deal signed by the preceding Filipino government and the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on 27 March 2014.

Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential advisor to the peace process, said yesterday that he intends to send the latest version of the BBL to Congress as soon as possible, certifying it as an urgent bill without a prior revision by the president.

“[O]ur recommendation is that as soon as the President receives it, he will turn it over to the Speaker of the House and the Senate President,” Dureza said.

Mohagher Iqbal, who was chief MILF peace negotiator, told the Inquirer that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) was ready to submit the draft BBL to the president on 17 July.

BTC member Iqbal was hopeful that Mr Duterte would keep his promise of a “homeland” for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao in three years’ time.

The BTC, which includes government and Moro rebel representatives, hopes the president will certify the bill as urgent in his State of the Nation Address on 24 July.

The BBL defines the basic structure of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous state in Mindanao, a key feature of the federal form of government being pushed by Mr Duterte.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate committee on local government, on Tuesday said they were optimistic of Congress’s support for the measure.

The previous Congress failed to pass the first proposed BBL under the Aquino administration in the wake of the fallout from the Mamasapano massacre in early 2015.

In a speech in Iligan City last month, Mr Duterte promised to push the passage of the new BBL.

“That’s the truth,” he said. “I’m not joking … On the third year [of my term], God willing, it will be there and you will see how we will build our country.”

In an interview with Églises d'Asie, Mgr Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, and cardinal of Mindanao Island, expressed his position on the president’s federalist reform and its implications for Mindanao.

"Presenting the federalist option as a solution to Bangsamoro fails to understand the historical injustices suffered by Muslim Moro. This is because federalism places all federal states at the same level, with equal powers and autonomy. The idea of ​​a Bangsamoro autonomous region, endowed with its own economic and political powers, is more desirable."

Speaking about the ongoing crisis in Marawi, the archbishop said that without an autonomous province of Bangsamoro, the Islamic State will remain a threat to peace in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

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