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Death by neglect for Peace Process

COTABATO (UCAN): “Hatred, prejudice and bias against Muslims (are responsible) for the death of the Peace Process in Mindanao,” the archbishop of Cotabato, Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, said after too few to form a quorum turned up to the House of Representatives for the vote on the Bangsamoro Basic Law on January 28.

The well orchestrated no-show ploy ensured the Peace Process a death by neglect.

As far as this congress is concerned, the law is dead in the water, as it goes into recess on February 5 and will not convene again until July 22, although the president, Noynoy Aquino, remained upbeat, saying that all is not lost.

But when a new congress convenes, The Philippines will have a new president, so the dream of the incumbent to bequeath the Peace Process as the signature piece of legislation of his presidency now seems to be more dead than moribund.

The speaker, Feliciano Belmonte, admitted that it seems almost impossible to get the bill through the house and the senate in the dying days to this congress.

In a privileged speech, Pangalian Balindong, from Lanao del Sur, said, “Today, with a heavy heart and a disturbing sense of foreboding, I close the book of hope for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” The Inquirer reported.

He said the challenge now passes to the future generation.

“We have failed the next generation, who will obviously inherit this vicious cycle of war and conflict. The Bangsamoro Basic Law should have been our vehicle to peace,” Balindong added.

Cardinal Quevedo warned that the death of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will not just see a continuation of the status quo, but in all probability a rise in radicalism and the activity of the deadly militias that has plagued Mindanao in recent years, which in turn could lead to a growing number of Christians arming themselves to defend their communities.

“It is a very difficult situation,” the cardinal said.

“The most likely target for radicalism (in southeast Asia) now is The Philippines, because of the rejection of the (Bangsamoro Basic Law),” Cardinal Quevedo predicted.

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is the result of 18 years of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It would have established a new, autonomous, political entity known as the Bangsamoro in Mindanao.

Cardinal Quevedo warned that with the law dead, the peace process will also die, the rebels will no longer cooperate with the government and radicalism among Muslims will grow.

“The whole thing demoralises the Bangsamoro,” Cardinal Quevedo said, adding that this will especially affect young people who are susceptible to being radicalised.

Oblate Father Roberto Layson said he believes the deaths of 44 police commandos in a botched anti-terrorism operation last year “further fuelled hatred and deep seated bias against the Moro people.”

The deaths of the police in the Mamasapano fiasco involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in January last year, in which all up 67 people died, sparked a public outrage, causing the withdrawal of support by some members of the congress for the proposed law.

“It is a bit disappointing, because the Bangsamoro Basic Law was the product of 18 years of negotiations,” Father Layson, from the conflict-riddled parish of Mary Immaculate in Pikit town, Cotabato, said.

Pikit has seen several armed clashes between the government and the MILF during the decades-long insurgency.

Father Layson explained that people on the ground were highly supportive of the peace process and the passage of the law, but the killing of police was the turning point that stalled it.

“We are still addressing the hatred of people for each other,” he explained.

Balindong said the incident last year labelled the Moro people once again as “terrorists, extremists, enemies, traitors and murderers.”

He explained that the failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law has taken away the recognition of the Moro people’s “distinct identity and the opportunity to exercise self-determination.”

Zaynab Ampatuan, a Muslim community organiser in the town of Kabacan, said, “The ignorance of legislators on the real causes of the Bangsamoro people’s struggle killed the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Zaynab Ampatuan, a Muslim community organiser in the town of Kabacan, said, “The ignorance of legislators on the real causes of the Bangsamoro people’s struggle killed the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”



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