Rally held at Muslim rebel group’s base to back peace process

Tens of thousands people joined a rally staged by the Philippines’ main Muslim guerrilla group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday at the group’s main base in Mindanao to show support for the revival of peace process, The Manila Times Online reported on Tuesday.

The MILF signed a peace deal in 2014 that would give the Muslim minority self- rule over parts of Mindanao, but a proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to implement the peace pact has not been able to get through Congress. Among those attending the rally were Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the arbichop of Cotabato and the highest Catholic Church official in Mindanao, as well as members of the MILF’s main rival, the Moro National Liberation Front.

The rally came about a month after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the southern city of Marawi liberated from IS supporters who attacked it in May in a bid to establish a caliphate.

Duterte on Monday told a gather of pre-selected members of the MILF and MNLF that he would ask Congress to convene a special session to tackle the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

He reiterated that his administration would pursue peace talks on all fronts. “But I will now state my condition. I will work very hard for it. I will ask Congress to (convene) a special session just to hear you talk about this,” he said.

Duterte said he wanted all Moro rebel leaders, including MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari to be present during the special session of Congress.

MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim has wanted the basic law passed ahead of the government’s plan to shift to a federal system, which also has the support of the rebel group.