Indian Catholic News

Prelate warns of resurgence of extremism in Mindanao

Philippine President Duterte is expected to sign a law creating a new Muslim region in the southern part of the country.

Muslim women show their support for the passage of a law that will create a news autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao during a demonstration in Manila on July 11. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)
South Cotabato: 

A leading Catholic prelate in Mindanao has warned of a possible resurgence of extremism if the Philippine government creates a Muslim region not acceptable to the people.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato called on legislators to weigh the consequences of a law that might veer away from the essence of the Moro people's struggle.

The Philippine Congress is expected to finalize in the coming week the final draft of a proposed law that will facilitate the creation of a new autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao to replace.

The bill outlines authority in the region by assigning jurisdiction of reserved powers for the central government, exclusive powers for the Bangsamoro government, and concurrent powers for both the central and Bangsamoro governments.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law, as it will be called, is one of the provisions of a peace agreement signed in 2014 by the Philippine government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The peace deal aims to end almost 50 years of conflict in the southern Philippines that has already cost thousands of lives.

Cardinal Quevedo has earlier endorsed a draft of the proposed law that was written by a transition commission headed by the MILF.

"A good [basic law for Bangsamoro] will be an antidote to Islamic radicalization," said Cardinal Quevedo told in an interview on July 12.

He was warned that if a law that will be approved by Congress does not address what he described as "historical injustices" against the Moro people, it will only fuel radicalism.

"In their hands is history, in their hands is peace," said the cardinal, referring to the members of Congress.

"If they don’t realize that opportunity, it will be sad not only for the Bangsamoro but also for the country," he added.

Asked how deeply rooted is extremism in Mindanao, Cardinal Quevedo said its supporters are busy recruiting young people, adding that "it will be accelerated if the [proposed law] fails."

The prelate said Congress should not squander the opportunity of "bringing definitive peace in the south."

A bicameral conference committee of Congress that was tasked to harmonize various versions of the proposed law that will create a new autonomous region concluded its deliberations on July 13.

The joint committee will meet again on July 17 to approve the final version of the proposed law and forward it to President Rodrigo Duterte.

If the president approves the bill, both chambers of Congress will have it ratified on July 23 for Duterte to sign it into law.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman and head of the transition body in Mindanao, said the version passed by the committee was "not watered-down."

He said the final version of the proposed law "will establish a new Bangsamoro region better than [the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao established in 1989]."

President Duterte has repeatedly said the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law will help satisfy the Moro people's aspirations for real autonomy.

Source: UCAN

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