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Philippines

Archbishop in Mindanao warns against rise of Islamic extremism

Stalled peace deal essential in defeating extremism, prelate says

Bong Fabe, Cagayan de Oro City

Bong Fabe, Cagayan de Oro City

Published: September 08, 2015 08:50 AM GMT

Updated: September 07, 2015 10:27 PM GMT

Archbishop in Mindanao warns against rise of Islamic extremism

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro speaks before a meeting of religious leaders and legislators in Mindanao to discuss strategies to press for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. (Photo by Bong Fabe)

A Catholic archbishop in Mindanao has warned of the possible rise of Islamic extremism if the Philippine government fails to implement a peace deal with Moro rebels in the region.

"A failed BBL [Bangsamoro Basic Law] will favor the growth of extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism in Mindanao," said Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro.

The Jesuit archbishop said failure to pass a basic law that will eventually create a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, southern Philippines, "will not help solve the conflict."

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The establishment of the Bangsamoro, an autonomous Muslim region, is part of the peace deal signed by the Philippine government and Moro rebels in 2014 to end a five-decade old insurgency.

"Failure to pass a meaningful BBL is very dangerous as this may trigger the rise of Moro extremism," he said, adding that there is a growing number of young Moros who are "entertaining political thoughts that have shades of extremism."

Archbishop Ledesma called on members of Congress to pass a law that is consistent with the peace deal signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

Philippine legislators are currently deliberating the passage of a basic law that will create the Bangsamoro region.

The prelate said Congress should pass a "meaningful" basic law that will address the "longing for genuine self-governance of the Bangsamoro and embodies the political agreements of the MILF and the government."

Archbishop Ledesma, who is a member of the Citizens Peace Council, said "support for a meaningful BBL is a support for the Mindanao peace process."

In July, the Philippine bishops declared support for the establishment of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao "that remains part and parcel" of the Philippines.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., however, said the immediate passage of the basic law in Congress is becoming "an impossible dream" due to lack of time.

"I'm still a bit hopeful and confident.... We still have to go on it to show that peace in Mindanao as exemplified by the BBL is a continuing concern," said Belmonte.

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