Bangsamoro hopes for representation in Anti-Terrorism Council

Jonathan de Santos - Philstar.com
Bangsamoro hopes for representation in Anti-Terrorism Council
This file photo shows the BARMM government complex in Cotabato City.
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao FB Page

MANILA, Philippines — With the enactment of the anti-terrorism bill despite concerns over how the new measure will affect Filipino Muslims, the Bangsamoro government said Saturday it is ready work with the national government on its implementation.

In a statement, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim — also known as Al Haj Murad — said the Bangsamoro Transition Authority trusts President Rodrigo Duterte "will ensure that the concerns and apprehensions of the Bangsamoro people on some provisions of the law will not happen."

He said the Bangsamoro government is ready to engage the national government "as we collectively explore new potential approaches to holistically protect our people from the menace of terrorism." He said "this engagement can start with the Bangsamoro having representation in the Anti-Terrorism Council."

But this representation is not contained in Republic Act 11479, or The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Under the law, the ATC is chaired by the executive secretary and includes the national security adviser and the secretaries of the following departments:

  • Foreign Affairs
  • National Defense
  • Interior and Local Government
  • Finance
  • Justice
  • Information and Communications Technology

The executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council is also on the ATC, the body tasked with implementing the country's policies against terrorism.

The BARMM is represented on the ATC-Program Management Center, which the law describes as "the main coordinating and program management arm of the ATC."

The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos will be a support agency of the ATC.

Bangsamoro leaders who raised concerns over provisions in the bill stressed that they agree that there should be a more stringent law against terrorism but that this should not be at the expense of basic human rights.

They also said that discussions on the bill seemed to have excluded the context and realities of Filipino Muslims and the Bangsamoro region, which they said have suffered both from acts of terrorism and from abuse during the government operations against terrorism.

In an online forum in June, Rep. Mujiv Hataman (Basilan) — a former regional governor of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao — pointed out this lack of representation.

"Pansinin ninyo sa ATC kung meron bang Muslim institution na bahagi doon. Wala. Meron lang doon sa ATC-PMC, eto yung coordinating body na parang secretariat lang," he said in a forum organized by Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance.

(Does the ATC include a Muslim institution? There is none. They are only in the ATC-PMC, which is more of a coordinating body or a secretariat)

"Pero mismo sa ATC as policy-making [body], wala hong Muslim institution, wala ang BARMM doon, wala ang NCMF," he said. 

(But there is no Mulsim institution in the ATC as a policy-making body. The BARMM is not there. The NCMF is not there.)

Congress may work on bills to amend the Anti-Terrorism Law to include a BARMM representative on the Anti-Terrrorism Council.

Parliament appeals for veto

The Bangsamoro Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday night, authored by all members and adopted without opposition, asking Duterte to veto the bill and "to provide Congress the opportunity to review and address the issues of vagueness, overbreadth and other concerns."

In a letter to parliament, Ebrahim said that "[a]s the leader of a political entity born out of the struggle against injustice and oppression, it is my moral duty to speak out in order to ensure the measures intended to address terrorism will not be used as a means to subvert the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals, in general, and normalize abuse and discrimination against the Bangsamoro, in particular."

On Saturday, Ebrahim said the BTA respects Duterte's decision to sign the bill into law.

"There is no one way of addressing threats of terrorism, which is an evolving discourse globally," he said.

"Rest assured that we will support the implementation of the law and commit to continue the conversation within the Bangsamoro, in our effort to provide the National Government realistic content on the ground." 

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