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ANALYSIS - Remarks by ally of Philippines leader-to-be baffle MILF

ANALYSIS - Remarks by ally of Philippines leader-to-be baffle MILF
MILF leaders perplexed by comments suggesting peace bill be overridden by plans to introduce federal system

By Hader Glang

- The writer is a long-time Muslim resident of Mindanao, recently worked on Sen. Grace Poe's presidential bid, and has worked as correspondent covering the Philippines for Anadolu Agency for two years

ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) - Leaders of the Philippines one-time largest Muslim rebel group have been left perplexed by remarks made by a political ally of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte about a years-in-the-making autonomy bill geared to bring peace to the country's south.

Davao Del Norte representative-elect -- and Duterte's choice for Speaker of the House of Representatives -- Pantaleon Alvarez, has suggested that the bill -- shelved in parliament for the presidential election -- be overridden by plans to introduce a federal system.

"Without doubt is a non-starter. It does not build confidence that the Duterte administration understands the Bangsamoro problem," said an editorial titled "A non-starter statement posted" on Luwaran.com, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) official website, Tuesday.

The statement refers to Alvarez's claim that "there’s no more need for a Bangsamoro Basic Law [BBL] and that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro [CAB] had been rendered moot by the new government and its plan to federalize the political system."

The BBL is the legal sign-off of the CAB, which was inked between the government and the MILF peace panels March 27, 2014.

It proposes to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), establish a more inclusive Bangsamoro autonomous region, and brings to a close 17 years of negotiations to end a decades-old armed conflict in the country’s south.

However, the BBL -- which would have sealed the deal but critics claimed was unconstitutional -- was stalled earlier this year as Congress adjourned for campaigning for the May 9 election.

"We asked ourselves who are shocked by such sweeping statements?" wrote the MILF on Tuesday.

"Did Congressman Alvarez ever think deeply of the consequence of his statement? Did he confer with presumptive president-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte before making them?"

The MILF announced itself "baffled" at Alvarez' claim, saying it runs contrary to statements by then candidate Duterte during visits to the MILF’s administrative base in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Feb. 27 and during the third and last presidential debate on April 24.

On both occasions, Duterte assured those present that he was behind the implementation of the CAB and the passage of the BBL and said he would consider the BBL as a template for federalizing the whole country.

In Tuesday's statement, the MILF said that there are three ways to consider the statements of Congressman Alvarez:

- One, that he is already telegraphing the policy of the next administration under Duterte which is the setting aside all the agreements, including the CAB and the BBL as moot and academic.

"This is going to be a cause of grave concern," it underlined.

- Two, that he is completely unaware of the nuances and realities of the government and MILF peace process, wherein both parties have their respective obligations to comply with.

"This mindset will be problematic especially once Alvarez sits as Speaker," it said.

- Three, he is expressing his own thinking and did not mean the setting aside of peace agreements but only expressed his belief that federalism is symmetrical in all its forms and applications.

"It is good to note that Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak have governors, although symbolic, while the rest of the 11 states have state sultans," the MILF wrote. "We choose to treat Congressman Alvarez's statements under the third reading. Thus, we hope to see him come with a more definitive clarification of his statements."

The MILF sought to underline that federalizing the Philippines will not solve the Bangsamoro question.

"There are peculiarities that are unique to the Bangsamoro but are not present in the other possible federal states, which are predominantly Christians, such as the issues of Shariah, madrasah systems, [the] need for Bangsamoro police [which is still part of the Philippine National Police], etc.

"Even in terms of narrative, the Moros have their distinct history."

In particular, the MILF asked: "How would he address the issue of MILF’s weapons and combatants and the need to normalize the situation?"

The CAB has all the answers to these concerns, it answered

"All that is needed is for the Duterte administration is to implement the signed agreements, including the passage of the BBL, according to the MILF."

In March 2014, the MILF signed a peace deal with the government (GPH) that brought to a close 17 years of negotiations and ended a decades-old armed conflict in the country’s south.

However, the BBL -- which would have sealed the deal but critics claimed was unconstitutional -- was stalled earlier this year as Congress adjourned for campaigning for the May 9 election.

"As incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congressman Alvarez's voice will be an important voice in the next administration," the MILF concluded.

"We hope to engage him more constructively for peace in Mindanao. We hope that he will come up with a more definitive articulation of his ideas on the GPH-MILF peace process."

source: News Feed
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