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No surprise at peace deal rejection

MANILA (AsiaNews): The leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao have asked their men to maintain the ceasefire with the government and to honour the peace treaty, even after the law that they fought for years was rejected when the congress failed to approve the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would make the Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao a region with special status.

After 45 years of war, which has seen 120,000 violent deaths and two million people displaced, the government signed a peace deal with the Liberation Front and began negotiations for the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“This was to be expected,” Father Sebastiano D’Ambra, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, said.

“But in all this there is a positive sign. That is that the Liberation Front continues to believe and to work with the government to continue a number of agreements that have already been programmed beyond the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Father D’Ambra continued.

The Italian priest went on to say, “The Liberation Front has chosen a wise position to wait and see what happens. The law will be discussed after the May elections, and it will play a role in choosing the next president. I believe that Muslims will be geared to the candidate of the current government, Manuel Roxas, who seems to have promised to continue the programme towards the signing of basic law.”

“The rejection of the law has several causes,” the long-time Italian missionary and founder of the interreligious Sishila Foundation for Peace said.

“Unfortunately, the government started with the idea of doing something completely new and voided the first agreements signed with the Liberation Front. The thing was not handled well and the government had to take a more diplomatic discourse,” he continued.

“Then there is the cultural factor that cannot be ignored: the Muslims in Mindanao are divided into at least three major groups, whose leaders are not always on good terms. Not all have sided in favour of Bangsamoro Basic Law, because they have their own projects.

“Another big problem that nobody talks about is that the disputed areas are rich in oil and gas, and there are big economic interests, including the United States of America, against them,” he stated.


“We will see,” Father D’Ambra continued. “After the next elections we will have to start again from scratch or from the point reached thus far, or there may be more support for the idea of political federalism, which is an ever-present temptation.”

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