CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 September 2018

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Legislating a new Philippine Muslim region

MANILA (UCAN): Mindanao is now on the “cusp of peace” Orlando Cardinal Quevedo of Cotabato, said as the Philippine congressional body drafting legislation to create a new Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, approved a final version of the Bangsamoro Organic Law late on July 18.
 
The 28-member bicameral conference committee approved the final version after a week of heated debate and it is hoped it will help end decades of violence in the southern Philippines. It provides for a bigger regional government, a parliament, fiscal autonomy and a justice system for the proposed Muslim region.
 
Cardinal Quevedo said that a good Bangsamoro law would help prevent the spread of Islamic State ideology in Mindanao.
 
The legislation was ratified by the Philippine Senate on July 23, however the House of Representatives failed to ratify it before the president, Rodrigo Duterte, gave his annual state of the nation address (SONA). 
 
Presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque, called the failure as “unfortunate” according to a report in the Inquirer.
 
“We find it unfortunate that the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was not ratified before the adjournment of today’s session of the House of Representatives,” adding, “We consider this as a temporary setback in the administration’s goal of laying the foundation for a more genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao,” Roque added.
 
A member of Congress from the Anak Mindanao (Children of Mindanao) Party, Amihilda Sangcopan, said Moro legislators had “fought hard for the passage of the peace bill.”
 
She said, “We bore the moral obligations ... to push for a peaceful and just resolution to almost half a century of struggle for self-determination.” 
 
The Moro people of Mindanao “will have something better than the status quo that is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),” Sangcopan said.
 
The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will replace the ARMM, giving the region a greater say over its own affairs, and will be headed by a chief minister and a ceremonial leader called a Wali.
 
It will have an 80-member parliament, 50 per cent of whom will be party representatives, 40 per cent district representatives, and 10 per cent sectoral representatives. The law also guarantees two reserved seats for “non-Moro indigenous peoples and settler communities.”
 
Under the law, a 75-25 wealth sharing arrangement, 75 per cent of the taxes will go to Bangsamoro and the remaining 25 percent to the central government.
 
In addition, an annual block grant of a five percent share of the national internal revenue or an estimated $8.63 billion (US$1.1 billion) is to be given without any conditions to the Bangsamoro region.
 
The region’s police and military will still be under the control of the national government and its Sharia or Islamic law, tribal and traditional, and other relevant laws should be in consonance with the Philippine Constitution.
 
The new region covers the provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur, while regional plebiscites are still to be conducted for other areas for inclusion including six municipalities in Lanao del Norte and 39 villages of North Cotabato province, provided there is a favourable majority vote. The cities of Cotabato and Isabela are also subject to a vote for inclusion.
 
Legislators said the votes for the new Bangsamoro region will be held not earlier than 90 days and not later than 150 days after Duterte signs the new law.
 
The Inquirer reported that Malacañang remained confident that Duterte would sign the bill when it is ratified.

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