Duterte Approves ‘More Inclusive’ Body for Muslim South

Zambonga City, the Philippines, 08 Safar 1438/08 November 2016 (MINA) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order Monday to make a body tasked with drafting a new autonomy law on the country’s Muslim south more inclusive.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said in a statement that the order reconstitutes the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to increase the number of members from 15 to 21.

Of the 21, 11 will be nominated by the country’s one-time largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the other 10 by the government, Anadolu reported.

Since Duterte won the May 9 election, his administration has been engaged in efforts to consolidate present and past peace agreements with all indigenous Moro groups in the Mindanao region in an effort to end a decades-old conflict in which around 100,000 people have died.

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The BTC is tasked with crafting a new Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is aimed at sealing a 2014 peace deal signed by the MILF and the government and paving the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The MILF agreement is still to be completed, however, having been shelved for the 2016 election.

Duterte stressed Monday the importance of a peace deal in Mindanao.

“My only desire is that peace in Mindanao would finally come and if that can be done peacefully without a fight, we will be grateful to God that not a single drop of blood has been shed in this new undertaking of giving a country finally the deliverance from violence,” he was quoted as saying by news broadcaster ABS-CBN.

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Creature of Mindanao

The president — who called himself a “creature of Mindanao” and has pledged to develop the impoverished region — recalled how he had been “appalled” during campaigning by the lack of discussion among presidential candidates regarding Mindanao.

“Every one of them [talked about] the usual infrastructure project, but never, not one of them ever said that we will take a second look at what will happen in Mindanao,” he said.

Duterte added his aim of establishing a federal system of government would be the “best structure that will be acceptable” to all indigenous peoples including the Moro.

Duterte has vowed to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro and other indigenous peoples, proposing to amend the country’s constitution to grant regions more federal autonomy.

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His government is in the process of consolidating all agreements with all Moro groups, including the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from which the MILF broke away, in an effort to finally achieve peace in the south.

Both the MILF and the MNLF, however, have maintained that the new Bangsamoro region should be created before the administration pushes its plan to change the form of government into a federal system. (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)