MILF: Duterte’s federalism may not solve Bangsamoro problem

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The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has pitched anew for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that only federalism can bring peace to Mindanao.

“We say that federalization per se may solve the general problem of the country but we feel that it may or may not solve the specific problem in the Bangsamoro homeland,” MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told reporters following the signing of a Joint Communique for Peace with the Moro National Liberation Front at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on June 29.

“We will still push for the continuity of peace process and then the implementation (of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro), because we said practically the negotiation has already ended. It’s a matter of implementation of the agreement (through BBL),” Murad said.

The BBL seeks the creation of a new autonomous region that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the entity created after the government reached a peace deal with Misuari’s MNLF.

The BBL, however, failed to take off in the 16th Congress amid suspicion that MILF members were involved in the botched Mamasapano anti-terror operation in January 2015, which resulted in the death of 67 people, including 44 Special Action Force troopers.

Offering federalism as an alternative, Duterte, then a presidential candidate, repeatedly said his proposal will address injustices such as unequal distribution of wealth in Mindanao by allowing regions to keep most of their income, which could be used to develop poor areas.

Duterte believes that Moro rebels may like the idea of federalism as long as key aspects of the BBL are present.

The MILF and the MNLF had said they support the President’s campaign for a shift to federalism.

Also, in their joint communique, the MILF and the MNLF promised “to work at common goals and objectives to engage” with the Duterte administration.

“As they join together, they declared a cohesive stand on their efforts to regain their lost freedom and self-determination so that they will enjoy the blessings of peace, justice and development,” they said.

Duterte’s allies, led by incoming House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, have already filed resolutions to jumpstart the debate on establishing a federal system of government.

The President, meanwhile, will meet with MILF leaders next week to follow through on the peace negotiations with the rebel group.

He also plans to visit MNLF founder Nur Misuari, who is said to be hiding in Sulu to escape prosecution for the bloody Zamboanga siege in September 2013.

Duterte previously met with MILF and MNLF leaders in Davao City weeks before he assumed the presidency on June 30. —ALG, GMA News

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