ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 26, 2009) - Citing Manila’s cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference which led to the signing of the 1996 peace pact with Moro National Liberation Front rebels in Mindanao, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Nur Hassan Wirajuda proposed that the Philippines be granted Observer status.
Wirajuda said during the OIC 36th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) held in Damascus, Syria that the expected decision has been long overdue.
In their plenary statements, Malaysia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates supported Indonesia’s proposal, according to a statement Tuesday of the Philippine Foreign Affairs.
It said other countries which expressed strong support to Philippines’ Observer bid were Syria, the Host and Chairman of the 36th CFM; Egypt; Saudi Arabia; Pakistan; Morocco; Libya; Bahrain; Kuwait; Jordan; Oman; Iraq; Turkey; Uganda; Bangladesh; and Brunei Darussalam.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, earlier said that at least four countries have opposed Manila’s bid for an Observer status in the 57-state organization.
It said the OIC is not considering granting the Philippines an Observer status after Turkey objected to it. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran have supported Turkey’s decision, the MILF said.
The MILF and the MNLF, which has a permanent Observer status in the OIC, are strongly opposed to the Philippine bid.
“The OIC decision is by consensus and all it takes is one state to oppose the Philippine bid for an observer status is enough to defeat a motion,” said Mohagher Iqbal, a senior MILF leader.
The government statement said the OIC decided during the 36th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers that the criteria for the approval of new Observers should be finalized first before the admittance of additional countries as Observers.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary and Philippine Envoy to the OIC Rafael Seguis reported that the Philippines had the overwhelming support of OIC member states during the May 23-25 Session.
He said none of the member states objected to the Philippines’ admission as Observer.
Seguis added that had the criteria for Observers been adopted, the Philippines would have been granted the Observer seat during the 36th CFM.
The Philippines applied for Observer status in the OIC in 2003.
However, it was only during the 36th CFM that its application was discussed by the Islamic organization for the first time, upon the initiative of supportive OIC member states.
As a result of the insistence of OIC member states for the Philippines’ immediate admission, the Council has adopted in the Report of the 36th CFM the following recommendations: Calling upon the OIC General Secretariat to prepare a proposal on the criteria of observer status for states in accordance with the OIC Charter; that the proposal be submitted to an Expert Group Meeting preparatory to the 37th Session of the CFM and that the 37th CFM Meeting shall consider these proposals.
The new charter of the OIC, adopted in Senegal in March 2008 during the 11th Islamic Summit, provides that Observers may be admitted based on consensus and on criteria approved by the Foreign Ministers of the OIC member states.
The 37th CFM is scheduled to be held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in 2010.
Manila said having an observer status in the OIC would help the government’s peace process in Mindanao.
The MILF has repeatedly accused the Philippine government of violating human rights of Muslims in Mindanao. Peace talks between the MILF and Manila collapsed last year after the government reneged on a deal that would have granted homeland to some four million Muslims in the restive region.
“The bid of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines for observer status in the 57-states Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is adding insult to injury. It is irksome that the oppressor tries to represent the very people that it oppressed. What can be expected in such representation, if not more mutation of Moro voices and repression of their rights?” the MILF said in a separate statement.
It said some 600,000 civilians who fled government offensives in Mindanao are suffering in makeshift tents and evacuation centers and that more are escaping the military operations against the MILF.
The MNLF has also sent a letter late last month to the OIC Secretary General Professor Ekmelledin Ihsanoglu stating its opposition to the Philippine bid for an observer status.
Alhag Abdulbaki Aboubakr, the MNLF’s Secretary General for Foreign Relations, in his letter enumerated the following:
1. The MNLF is already recognized by the OIC as the sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people. The entry of the Republic of the Philippines (RP) as an observer will duplicate the role of the MNLF as the sole and legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people in the OIC.
2. The Philippine constitution prohibits any support to religion. Under the existing law entitled “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” the use of government funds to support religion/religious projects and programs is a crime because “it is injurious to the state”.
For example, the construction of mosques, madrasa and other infrastructure projects to advance the teachings of Islam is prohibited under the Philippine Constitution and Anti- Graft and Corrupt Practices Act law.
3. The RP constitutionally, culturally, socially and religiously does not/cannot represent the Bangsamoro Muslims’ aspiration in any fora, let alone the OIC. The so-called “interfaith” program of the Philippine government is just paying lip service to religious tolerance the fact being that the Philippine government’s heavily favored Christianized society is discriminatory to Muslims.
4. The government of the RP has been committing acts violating the human rights of Muslims citizens and continues to do so until the present with impunity.
5. Crimes concomitant with the repressive acts of the RP against the Bangsamoro people consisting of massacres, torture, illegal arrests and detentions, indiscriminate aerial bombings, salvaging/disappearances, arson and others have never found injustice and continues to be committed until today by RP so called law enforcement agents with impunity;
6. The territories of the Bangsamoro people have shrunk tremendously due to: a) the RP government sponsored migration of Filipinos from northern Philippines; b) land grabbing, legal maneuvering or unilateral legislation. As a result the Bangsamoro people had been "minoritized" in their homeland.
7. Philippine articulation on the Bangsamoro issue shall always be tainted with vested interest of the highly partisan politics of the powers that be in the country.
8. The RP is a violator of peace covenants as exemplified by the non-implementation of the MNLF-GRP 1976 Tripoli Agreement, 1996 Peace Agreement, let alone the 1986 GRP-MNLF Jeddah, as proof of the RP’s failure to comply with its international commitment and obligation, the OIC continues to urge the RP to implement the 1996 Peace Agreement until the present.
9. Statistics show that the provinces predominantly Muslims in Southern Philippines particularly within the ARMM, Region IX and XI receive the lowest government expenditure compared to Christian majority areas. For this reason the Muslims provinces are the poorest in the country, despite the fact that about 80% of the national income is derived from Mindanao, the homeland of the Bangsamoro people and milking cow of the RP.
10. The repressive policy towards the Muslims in the Philippines have caused massive internal displacement and evacuation to Sabah of more than two million persons, thousands of Muslims are languishing in jails and some of them were mercilessly massacred in cold blood in Camp Bagong Diwa jail in Manila.
11. The interest of the Bangsamoro people cannot be properly articulated by the RP because of the very high partisanship of the political ruling elite in the country which is bias favoring the Christian majority.
12. The RP injustices, oppression, and genocidal war committed against the Bangsamoro people must not be awarded by an OIC Observer status.
13. The state of the Philippines that takes pride of its crucial split vote in the UN General Assembly in the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 (from the heartland of Palestine) must not be rewarded with a grant of an observer status in the OIC.
14. The (proposed) entry of RP as observer in the OIC will degrade the honor and dignity of the Bangsamoro Muslims in the arena of the Islamic Ummah and will deliver a death blow to their struggle for freedom and self-determination.
The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations. (Mindanao Examiner)