Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bangsamoro law tightens security measures against extremism threats

As Congress resumes session, Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chair Professor Miriam Coronel–Ferrer once more appealed to legislators to act on the draft Bangsamoro law, saying that the recent terrorist attack in Indonesia last week, shows the urgency of countering the influence of extremist groups among the local population.

“The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the draft Bangsamoro law are social justice measures, but from the global security perspective, these are also a containment measure against jihadist extremism,” Ferrer said. “I reiterate our appeal to our legislators in the joint peace panels’ open letter to them which we issued last November 26 after the attack on Paris, in view of the recent violence in Indonesia, which is so much closer to home.”

Ferrer said the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region will strengthen current efforts by different stakeholders in Mindanao, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in March 2014, to stop the armed conflict in the South and stem the tide of extremism that has sprouted in Africa and the Middle East in the recent years.

The open letter signed by both Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal cited the statement made by National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia before Congress during the committee hearings on the draft law.

According to Garcia, "(P)assing the BBL can help in curbing the spread of extremism in Mindanao. In particular, the Bangsamoro government would be able to help moderate Islamic leaders to counter the ideology of radicalism being promoted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and steer the Muslim community away from ISIS influence."

Garcia said the completion of the Bangsamoro peace process will have positive national security implications as it will close one of the serious internal armed conflicts in the country.

“[This will] essentially free up a significant component of the Armed Forces of the Philippines… to shift resources to focus on external concerns, principally the protection of our external territorial integrity and maritime domain which is now being threatened.”

Recently, ISIS claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jakarta, Indonesia last January 14 which claimed the lives of seven people, including five of the assailants, and leaving 23 people wounded. This event raised concerns from the international community to the Philippines due to the continuing delay in the Mindanao peace talks.

In a news report, Asia Foundation Country Representative Steven Rood said that the presence of foreign fighters in the Philippines hints at transnational links between Southeast Asian militant groups. “It’s definitely time to start taking the threat [of Islamic State] more seriously.”

“The [MILF] have clearly said [that] they are committed to the path to peace no matter what; and if they’re not achieving anything, it’s harder to keep arguing that you can fight for Islam through peaceful means.” He added that Philippine lawmakers should expedite the stalled peace plan to deny extremists an opportunity to win over the country’s disillusioned young Muslims.

During the Regional Consultative Meeting for Heads of Posts in Europe, organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) held in Manila last January 11, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles said that the outcome of the Bangsamoro peace process would send a message to the leaders of the religious extremist groups.

“[T]he success of the Bangsamoro peace process can help us arrest the spread of extremism around the globe by showing clearly that an Islamic movement can address its grievances and pursue its interests through a legitimate mode of democratic political engagement while still remaining within the country’s territorial integrity and constitutional framework, and without losing their culture and identity,” she said.

“[The completion of the peace negotiations] can show the global ummah that even Muslim minorities can thrive and contribute to development through the mutually-beneficial interaction of distinct cultures,” Deles added. (OPAPP)

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