Manila (AsiaNews) - The situation in the Bangsamoro "is troubling, what has happened is not a good sign. These terrorists could repeat the same attacks in other places and at other times. We'll see. It's not nice what is going on, it will certainly have an impact", says Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra, PIME missionary in the Philippines, commenting on the Christmas Day attacks in Bangsamoro [predominantly Muslim region in the south of Mindanao ed] that left at least 14 dead, including some Christians.
On December 24 last, the rebels of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked some villages in Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato. The militiamen killed nine farmers who were working in their rice plantations. Two more people have died from the explosion of a grenade in a Christian chapel in North Cotabato. At least six terrorists were killed by the army in clashes that have occurred over the past three days.
Bangsamoro has long been an unstable area, the center of conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) - which demanded independence from Manila - and the government. After 45 years of war, which caused 120 thousand deaths and 2 million displaced, in 2011 the government signed peace with the MILF, starting negotiations for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (Bbl), the draft law would give "a special status" to the region. In 2008, however, the BIFF separated from MILF and declared its opposition to any dialogue with Manila.
In recent months, the signing of the agreement appeared close. But now, says Fr. D'Ambra, "the Bangsamoro Basic Law seems set to fail. There are the elections [2016 ed] and the government has postponed all of these minor deals".
According to the missionary, the uncertainty favors more radical groups, who demand total independence from Manila: "The BIFF has taken this opportunity to be heard and show that it is powerful. In other words, the strategy is to say: we are strong and you have to listen to us. The terrorists have taken advantage of the situation and have made the attacks, which occurred at different times and places. Unfortunately, the agreement between the MILF and the government has not been concluded, and these are the results”.
Fr. D'Ambra adds, "BIFF want to prove that they are linked to the Islamic state (IS). A few months ago they declared their support for the IS, like the Abu Sayyaf Group, which aims to create an independent Muslim state in the south of the country”.
"Quite often - says the priest - to impress this they only report news of attacks against Christians. It is possible that Christians are a more sensitive targeted than others, but it is good to be cautious and I would not say that the latest attacks were not officially and explicitly anti-Christian. It's an attack to demonstrate the strength of the militia and to say that their theory (of total separation from Manila and no to any deal) is valid".