Will the Philippines Soon Have an Autonomous Muslim Province?

Source: FSSPX News

President Rodrigo Duterte.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte promised on July 17, 2017 that, within the year, he will submit a bill to the Parliament providing greater autonomy to the Muslim minority.

According to Le Figaro on the same day, the law was drafted by the heads of the government and by the main Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), based on what was agreed upon with the former head of state back in 2014. The rebels promise to abandon their separatist ambitions in exchange for self-rule in the south of the archipelago, a mostly Muslim region in an 80% Catholic country.

In 2014, despite the political agreements, Parliament refused to vote in favor of this law, thus provoking a split among the rebels, the more radical of whom founded a local Muslim militia affiliated with Daesh.

According to Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, on the large southern island of the Philippines, this is “the only solution to keep the Islamic State from spreading”; they wish to set up a “caliphate” in the region. When questioned by cath.ch on July 13, 2017, the prelate lamented that the terrorists are exploiting the “poverty and the injustice from which the Muslim minority in the Philippines feels it is suffering”. He fears that if the law is not voted in, it “could inevitably compromise all hope for change and political dialogue”.

The five million Filipino Muslims (out of a population of 100 million) consider the south of the country as their ancestral land. The rebellion began in the 70’s and has killed about 150,000 people, thus making it one of the longest and most murderous in all of Asia. But Le Figaro points out that there already exists a partially autonomous region in the southern island of Mindano that was set up after an agreement was signed in 1996 with another rebel group, rivals of the MILF, the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). This agreement, however, put an end neither to the violence nor to the rebellion.