MILF firm on demand for wider Muslim autonomy

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF will not back down from its original demand of Muslim autonomy greater than the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.

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The MILF signed an interim peace deal with the government in 2014 and has been pushing for the approval and ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL.

The BBL languished in Congress during President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s administration as some of its provisions were said to be unconstitutional.

The MILF said it would not revisit the BBL and insisted on the original draft submitted to Aquino.

MATTERS OF STATE President Rodrigo Duterte talks to Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, the government’s top negotiator with Moro rebels, in Davao City on Friday. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

Many politicians and residents in the proposed Bangsamoro areas have rejected the BBL and want out of the deal.

The original BBL was drafted by the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission appointed by the MILF and the Aquino government.

If ratified, it will pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro region that will replace the ARMM, which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, including the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

The establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous region will be decided in a referendum in the ARMM and in areas where there are large Muslim communities.

“The position of MILF is very clear. First, MILF will never accept an autonomy that is lower than the ARMM; secondly, the MILF will not accept an autonomy that is equal to the ARMM. The MILF only accepts an autonomy law that is better than the ARMM,” said MILF Vice Chairman Mohagher Iqbal.

He said the government offered the ARMM thrice to the MILF and three times it was rejected by the rebel group.

The ARMM was the result of a final peace deal signed by the rival Moro National Liberation Front with the Ramos administration in 1996.

Iqbal said the BBL should be passed as it is, and let the Supreme Court decide on its supposed constitutional infirmities.

“Congress may…amend the Constitution to accommodate unconstitutional substances on the proposed Moro law,” he said.

In the draft law, the following areas will be included in new political entity – the towns of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte and all villages in the towns of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap.

Also included are the cities of Cotabato and Isabela. Other areas may join the ARMM through a petition signed by 10 percent of residents.

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