Rebels to get amnesty under Bangsamoro entity: Aquino

March 03, 2014 - 5:01:23 am
MANILA: Islamist rebels who have been fighting the government for decades in their pursuit of an independent Islamic state in Mindanao will be granted “amnesty” once the Bangsamoro political entity takes effect, Philippine President Benigno S Aquino has revealed.

“There will be an amnesty provision in the new Organic Act for the Bangsamoro. But I understand the process has not been proposed. Congress will have to act on it. They will have to concur for it to become law,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur last Friday.

In an interview with Filipino journalists who covered his two-day state visit to Malaysia, Aquino said this has been the objective of his administration from the time the peace talks began — transform them from “fighters to being productive citizens”.

Aquino expects the government’s comprehensive agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to be signed by the end of this month.

Malacañang hinted last January that Aquino is keen on certifying as an urgent measure the draft bill of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.

“All indications point to urgency, this is because our timetable is quite tight, or the timeframe by which we should pass this on time,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said, noting that a plebiscite should be held in 2015 before it is fully realized in 2016.

The government aims to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the Bangsamoro political entity before Aquino steps down in June 2016, after serving his fixed six-year term.

“All indications are geared towards that end (certifying the bill as urgent) precisely because this is a priority programme of the administration,” Coloma said.

Coloma, just like Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and chief government MILF negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, is also optimistic that the comprehensive peace agreement will be signed between March and May this year.

Philippine Star