Marawi crisis highlights need to achieve peace in Mindanao – official

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2017 06:32 PM

A woman covers her ears after an explosion as fighting between government forces and the Maute Group continues in the center of Marawi City on Friday. The fighting has now reached a full month with the end nowhere in sight as the Islamic militants entrenched themselves in pockets of the city. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA – The Marawi siege should give the government impetus to address the Bangsamoro question, as young Muslims frustrated with the government’s peace efforts have apparently turned to Islamist extremism, an official said Friday.

Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority, said the Marawi siege should serve as the final wake up call for the government to help the country's Muslims achieve their aspirations.

“The Marawi City tragedy ought to jolt us out of our smug complacency and oblivious treatment of the Bangsamoro question,” Alonto said in an impassioned speech at a news conference in Davao City.

Alonto said the failure of successive administrations to fully implement peace agreements with various Moro groups has been exploited by militants who have been recruiting young Muslims disenchanted with the peace process.

“[The] failure to address the Bangsamoro question has invited the invasion of foreign Daesh extremism such as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), which feeds on the frustration of the Bangsamoro people towards failed peace processes with mainstream liberation fronts, as well as the Moros’ desperation in the face of historical and current injustices that have bred entrenched poverty and institutionalized social, political, economic, and cultural marginalization under the status quo,” Alonto said.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) recently finished its final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the enabling measure of the 2014 pact signed by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which seeks to establish an entity with enhanced political and economic powers. 

President Rodrigo Duterte is now reviewing the proposed measure.

The Duterte administration is also holding talks with the faction of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari for the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

Misuari led a siege in Zamboanga City in 2013, complaining that the Aquino government had neglected the 1996 peace pact after choosing to engage only the MILF in fresh talks. Over 200 people died in the 20-day crisis.

Former Ateneo School of Government dean Tony La Viña, who hails from Cagayan de Oro City, said passing the BBL has never become so important until the Marawi siege erupted on May 23.

He said, Duterte must ensure that the BBL is passed in Congress, where he enjoys the support of a super majority.

“Everyone I’ve talked to who really knows this religious extremism issue says that the reason why it has become so attractive to young Muslims is because they’ve lost hope on the peace process,” La Viña said in a forum in Makati City on Thursday.

“Peace process wasn’t able to deliver what they thought would be delivered," he said.

The 16th Congress had failed to pass the BBL during the final months of the Aquino administration amid questions on its constitutionality.

The bill also had a hard time hurdling Congress after some MILF fighters got involved in the killing of 44 elite police operatives in an anti-terror operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.

The current BTC used the same bill as basis for the new BBL. But Irene Santiago, chair of the government implementing panel for Bangsamoro peace pacts, said some “practical” provisions were introduced to the new bill, which shall address issues on the transition between the passage of the measure and its ratification.

Alonto acknowledged that there were “two conflicting tracks” in the separate peace process involving the MNLF and MILF, which was why he proposed an “all Moro convention. ” 

He said the body shall “consolidate a comprehensive Moro law based on consensus, inclusivity and convergence in line and in preparation for federalism.”

The Duterte administration has been working to make the country’s form of government federal.

Alonto agrees with this setup, saying the current unitary system “has absolutely failed to address the root cause of the Bangsamoro question, which invariably fuels the conflict and continues to fester Mindanao and Sulu.”