M embers of the Philippines Congress failed to take up a law on Wednesday that would have granted autonomy to the devoutly Catholic country's Muslim majority province of Mindanao as part of a 2014 peace deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Wednesday was the last day of the tenure of the current Congress, which has been adjourned ahead of national elections in May. The chief negotiators for the Aquino administration and the MILF warned the Congressional blockade the law could spark a resumption of separatist violence that has plagued Mindanao since the 1970s.
Under the 2014 peace accord, MILF's estimated 10,000 fighters were to have surrendered their arms after Congress approved the peace accord, so that they could contest the May elections in a newly autonomous Mindanao.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law was a centrepiece of President Beningo Aquino's solitary term in office, which ends in June.
He lost Congressional support for the bill after rebels shot dead 44 members of a police raiding party that entered MILF territory to seize a Malaysian terrorist bomb maker in January 2015.
The chief peace negotiator for MILF, Mohagher Iqbal, said the rebel leadership was working hard to prevent its fighters from violently retaliating for Congress' blockade of the law. After a similar breakdown in 2008, hardline MILF rebels raided Christian farming villages in Mindanao, sparking fighting that killed more than 400 people and displaced 600,000 others.
Chief government peace maker Miriam Coronel-Ferrer vowed to continue to pursue the peace process with MILF, and urged politicians and Philippine citizens to consider the dangerous consequences of not meeting the terms of the 2014 peace accord with MILF.
AFP rounds up the details.
Inquirer.net, a leading Philippine news portal, covers the reaction of the government's chief negotiator.