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Dureza: Extremism will not take root in the Philippines

Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential peace adviser. File photo
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's peace adviser said Sunday that he is confident that extremism will not take over Mindanao after reports that five clerics of the separatist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have formed a new radical group in the fashion of the Islamic State.
 
Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said reports about the new radical group need to be validated but maintained that efforts are underway to address the causes of the Bangsamoro conflict.
 
He said such efforts involve bringing sustainable peace and improving the lives of the people. Even during the Aquino administration, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has been launching Pamana projects — programs meant to bring government services as well as development to conflict-affected parts of the country, especially in parts of Mindanao. 
 
The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which proposes the creation of a political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has been touted as one way to curb the spread of religious extremism in Mindanao. The proposed Bangsamoro region, as envisioned, will have more autonomy than the ARMM but will remain part of the Philippines.
 
“It's a long process but we are moving forward one step at a time. When stakeholders embrace the peace paradigm, they will reject extremism in all forms,” Dureza said.  
“So any possible foothold of extremists, as your query intimates and seems to forewarn, will not take root. There will still be bad guys around but they cannot dominate and direct the lives of peace-loving citizens,” he added.
 
Previous reports said the five radical preachers who left the BIFF now call themselves “moassesseen,” the Arabic word for founders. Their breakaway group reportedly aims to establish an Asian Islamic caliphate allied with the international terrorist group IS.
 
The five preachers who formed a new group were identified in previous reports as Salahudin Hassan, Abdulmalik Esmael, Bashir Ungab, Nasser Adil and Ansari Yunos. They allegedly bolted from the BIFF after forming alliances with the Maute armed group and local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
 
The BIFF, which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front due to differences over the peace talks with the government, has also pledged loyalty to the IS, which is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
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