Without passing Bangsamoro law, more Muslims may join radical groups

Posted on December 21, 2015

DAVAO CITY -- The failure to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may become a vehicle for more members of the Moro community to be radicalized, an official warned.

Iqbal: ‘Frustrated’ groups may join radicals -- AFP
“We are very much concerned because it may become a rallying point of those radicalized individuals (within the ranks of the Moro community) as the continue their activities that are contrary to attaining peace,” Dr. Saffrullah M. Dipatuan, executive director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), said.

In a separate interview, Mohagher Q. Iqbal, chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), expressed the same sentiments, asserting that the proposed law’s non-passage or prolonged delay could lead to more radicalization in Mindanao.

“The expectation among the Bangsamoro community that it [BBL] will be passed is really high. And given that frustrations can be contagious and toxic like poison, no one can really tell how wide it would spread if lawmakers would not be able to pass the BBL,” Mr. Iqbal said in a phone interview.

Individuals or groups “frustrated” with the process could choose to join radicalized groups like the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, he said.

The delay or the outright non-passage of the Bangsamoro law “has an effect on the MILF because it (non-passage of the BBL) diminishes our legitimacy that we can deliver on our promises of change to our people in our negotiations with the government. We have been negotiating and working with the government for a long time so it would be frustrating if we go back to zero,” he said.

Bangsamoro development plan to face rough sailing

Similarly, Mr. Dipatuan pointed out that without passing the law creating an autonomous government and region for Muslims, the implementation of the Bangsamoro Development Plan will face rough sailing. Launched in November 2013, the plan needs P110 billion in funds from both the government and the international donor community.

“There is no doubt that it would be easy to implement the plan if BBL is passed. But without the BBL, the simple thing is that the plan cannot be implemented in full,” he said.

What can be implemented are small but quick-impact projects which would help the communities have confidence that the peace process will continue, he added.

However, the agency has not given up on the proposed law’s passage because there have been lawmakers who have been pushing for its approval such as Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez, who sponsored the law at the House of Representatives.

The BDA, which serves as a government conduit to assist Mindanao communities in drafting and eventually implementing projects in communities, was established as a confidence-building mechanism between the government and the MILF. It has been drawing funds from the Mindanao Trust Fund with about $28 million starting in 2004.

“I just want to emphasize that the fund does not go to the BDA, but directly to the people’s organizations that help communities that need assistance,” he said.

But even without the proposed law’s passage, the agency remains committed to continue “supervising and facilitating” in the implementation of key projects not only in Moro communities, but also in other areas within Mindanao.

“The BDA will continue to serve the communities, be it the communities of the Moro people or of the settlers or of the indigenous people,” he said. “Many of these communities have developed their knowledge in sustaining the projects that will help their livelihood activities.”

He said what the BDA is doing is providing technical assistance to communities through people’s organization which help identify the projects for their respective communities. -- Carmelito Q. Francisco and Alden M. Monzon