OIC secretary general pushes for Bangsamoro law in PH visit
MANILA, Philippines – Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Iyad Bin Amin Madani pushed for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in a 4-day visit that ended Monday, April 20.
His visit came at a crucial stage in the peace process as Congress resumed deliberations on the proposed law months after the Mamasapano tragedy that killed 67 Filipinos, including elite cops who were arresting terrorists.
Madani said the OIC is "hopeful" that the BBL will hurdle Congress despite the recent controversies.
"We're here to say that we're all for this...now that the [Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro] has been signed and internationally witnessed.... It was not just a domestic Filipino affair. It was not just a regional affair. It was not just an OIC countries affair. The whole world was here," Madani told reporters at a press conference in Makati City on Monday.
Madani paid a courtesy call to President Benigno Aquino III in Malacañang and Senate President Franklin Drilon at the Senate on Monday.
During his visit, Madani also met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, and other lawmakers.
Amid reports of amendments and revisions that the Senate and the House of Representatives want on the BBL, Madani called on lawmakers not to dilute the law.
"I'm sure there will be some degree of change. Our position as an organization is if it is diluted, then it will render all of this as void, as meaningless," Madani said.
"Our hope is for a timely passage of the law. Of course, we will respect everything that Congress needs to do," he added.
The OIC is an influential Muslim bloc composed of 57 states that has been involved in the peace process in Mindanao since the 1970s. It is the largest inter-governmental organization next to the United Nations.
Talks with the MNLF and the MILF
Madani became the first OIC secretary general to visit Mindanao when he flew to Davao on Saturday, April 18, to jumpstart the activation of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum. It aims to settle the differences between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
It was the OIC that brokered the peace talks between the MNLF and the government that led to the signing of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 final peace pact.
The MNLF, however, maintains the government has yet to fully implement the peace deal despite the passage of a law that expanded the powers of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Meanwhile, the MILF broke away from the MNLF at the height of the conflict in the 1970s. They signed a peace accord with the government in 2014 that is now the basis of the BBL.
Madani met with MILF representatives and two MNLF groups led by former Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema and lawyer Randolph Parcasio, spokesperson of the faction affiliated with MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari.
The Sema faction is supportive of the peace process, but has reservations over the BBL. The Misuari faction, meanwhile, rejects the proposed law – a position dramatized during the Zamboanga siege. (READ: Past peace pacts haunt proposed Bangsamoro law)
During the Davao meeting, the parties agreed to create a joint secretariat. Madani said the atmosphere during the meeting was "promising," and he saw the "distance narrowing" between the two rival groups.
"When you look deep down, they are all asking for the same thing. It's just a question of priorities and what to do when," Madani said.
What is the alternative?
The OIC chief echoed concerns from BBL supporters that the failure to pass the law could push rebels to join radical groups. (READ: Peace process or ISIS? Make your choice)
"We all have to ask ourselves what the alternatives are. What if this fails? What is the alternative? More tension? Tension that could lead to conflict. A feeling of desperation," Madani said.
"That would also be a good environment to produce radicalism. No one wants radicals to come and say, I told you so. Getting ahead with these agreement will put an end to these splinter groups," he added.
Madani also sought to quash speculations that the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region, which is designed to have greater fiscal and political powers, would be a stepping stone for secession.
He said they did not hear "a single word" about this issue from both groups during the meeting.
"It cannot be true. It is simply unrealistic. It will not only be refused by the Filipino society. The region will not allow it. Other countries will not allow it. There is simply no support," he said.
Madani earlier said the OIC will invite both the MILF and the MNLF to the 42nd OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Kuwait on May 27.
The OIC secretary general met with Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak in Kuala Lumpur before flying to Manila.
The leaders discussed the status of the peace deal, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. – Rappler.com