[JURIST] The Philippines House of Representatives [official website] passed a bill [HB 4253 text] on Monday to create a new national commission meant to guarantee the rights of Muslims citizens. The bill creates a National Commission on Muslim Filipinos to replace the existing Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) [official website], created in 1987. The new commission will be responsible for addressing complaints of rights violations brought by Muslim citizens, for overseeing the development and distribution of lands traditionally held by Muslim Filipinos, and for advising the president on issues relevant to the country's Muslim population, as well as other duties previously held by the OMA. House Speaker Prospero Nograles praised the measure [government press release; House of Representatives press release] as a way to "ensure the rights and well-being of our Muslim brothers." The Philippine Daily Inquirer has more.
The government of the Philippines has been engaged in a long-standing conflict with Muslim rebels in the country's southern provinces. In July, the government reached a peace agreement with rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [group website; BBC backgrounder], granting expanded boundaries to the country's southern Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) [official website]. The two sides said they had also reached tentative agreements [AFP report] on the distribution of mining revenues from the region, a timeline for local elections, and the implementation of new regulations. The government first suggested [JURIST report] that it might agree to increased autonomy for the region in 2005. Earlier this month, a judge for the Supreme Court of the Philippines enjoined [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] government agents from signing the peace agreement.