Give Muslims self-rule or ‘count body bags’: Philippine President Aquino
2015-03-27 08:48:12 | Al Muslim News
Benigno Aquino, Philippine President called on lawmakers to pass a law endorsing a pact aimed at ending a decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion, warning them they would otherwise start counting “body bags”.
Aquino had wanted the bill, which would give autonomy to the majority Christian nation’s Muslim minority in the south, passed this month, Free Malaysia Today reported.
But Congress suspended debates on the proposed law in the face of public outrage over the killings of police commandoes by Muslim guerrillas in a botched anti-terror raid in January.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal a year ago, had said its members fired in self-defence at the commandoes, who passed through a rebel camp while going after Muslim militants.
“This is the crossroads we face: we take pains to forge peace today, or we count body bags tomorrow,” Aquino said in a nationwide television address.
“Perhaps it is easy for you to push for all-out war,” he said, hitting out at critics who have condemned the peace deal with the MILF.
“But if the conflict grows, the number of Filipinos shooting at other Filipinos will grow, and it would not be out of the question that a friend or loved one be one of the people who will end up inside a body bag.”
The rebellion for a separate state or self-rule has claimed nearly 120,000 lives mostly Muslims and cost billions of dollars in economic losses, according to government estimates.
Under a peace deal signed with the MILF, the 10,000-member group pledged to disarm while the Philippine government vowed to pass an autonomy law in Muslim areas of the south.
“The Bangsamoro basic law is one of the most important proposed bills of our administration. It answers the two most pressing problems of our countrymen: poverty and violence,” Aquino said.
He warned it would be difficult to restart peace talks if the current process failed and the MILF leadership lost its influence among its members to more radical elements.
The January police raid sought to capture or kill two men on the US government’s list of “most wanted terrorists” who were living among Muslim rebels in southern Philippine farming communities.
Moro people are a population of indigenous Muslims in the Philippines, forming the largest non-Christian group in the country, and comprising about 5% of the total Philippine population.
Islam is the oldest recorded monotheistic religion in the Philippines. Islam arrived in the Philippines in the early of 14th century with the arrival of Muslim traders from the Persian Gulf, Indian sub-continent and Arab. The Muslim Philippines is estimated to be in the range of 8% - 11% of the total population.
While the Christianity introduced in Philippines with the landing of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. In the late 16th century, the archipelago was claimed for Spain and named it after its king. Missionary activity during the country's colonial ruled by Spain led the transformation of the Philippines into Christian nations with approximately 90% of the population belonging to the Christian faith..