By Amita O. Legaspi | GMA News Online
Despite the suspension of the hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Monday listed gestures the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government should do to regain each other’s trust and move forward in the peace process.
For the MILF, Marcos said such goodwill gesture could start by returning the firearms, equipment, and personal effects of the 44 police officers killed in the January 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
“It is a simple gesture, that is not very hard. Madali lang 'yan, but again it will be a sign of good faith on their part,” he told reporters in a press conference.
Marcos acknowledged that the deaths of the 44 Special Action Force commandos in the clash with MILF members and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have affected the passage of the BBL. He said facts must be brought out first for deliberations to proceed.
“I have been trying to think of how we can move this process forward. We have not abandoned this peace process; we have not abandoned the hope that we will finally bring peace to Muslim Mindanao. But again, we need to know the facts of what happened on both sides of the conflict,” he said.
Acknowledging that ferreting out the truth would take time, Marcos proposed measures that should be taken in order for the peace process not to be stalled.
“I think that we have to find a way to move forward. As you know, I have suspended the hearings on the BBL in my committee. But we cannot just sit here and suspend indefinitely. We have to find a way to move forward. There has been a loss of trust on both sides,” he said.
He added that the confidence-building measures between the MILF and the government could be “seen by the Filipino populace,” he added.
Aside from returning the items seized from the slain policemen, the MILF should provide assistance in finding and arresting Basit Usman, the bomb-maker who was one of the targets of the SAF unit that went to Mamasapano.
He also said the MILF must also demonstrate that the disarmament process has actually began and “that they are willing to lay down their arms and give those arms not to their own commanders but to a third party or to the government.”
Marcos also urged the group to identify the commanders whose units were involved in the firefight with SAF men.
“Because these units have to be identified by the MILF, the commanders must be asked to explain how this happened. And for them to do that, again, it will be a very important sign of good faith,” he said.
He said the most important gesture of the MILF would be to fully and clearly explain its true relationship with the BIFF.
“No matter how well we come to an agreement with the MILF, if there is still an armed group waging war against the government, then what we are searching for—which is peace—will never occur,” Marcos said.
“If they are together, if the BIFF and the MILF are in fact working together, then it will be a sign of bad faith on their part,” he added. “That has to be determined. That is an extremely important point. Because we do not know who we are dealing with at this point unless this is clarified.”
He said the government, for its part, must explain what really happened on January 25.
“The question of chain of command during this operation has to be clarified. We do not understand, nobody can understand how it is that a very major operation of a big group of our forces was ordered to undertake this mission without the acting chief of the PNP, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina knowing?” he said.
He said the public also needs to know the involvement of suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, who allegedly ordered the operation.
“You know we also have to give confidence to the MILF that the people that they are talking to, are the people who are issuing the commands, are the people who are in fact running the show. Because there is no use talking to somebody who has no influence, who has no authority. And if we are talking to a certain individual in government, certain officials in government, if it turns out as in this case, they were out of the loop, then sino ngayon ang kausap nila?” he said.
Marcos said that until those questioned are answered, the deliberations on BBL cannot move forward.
“I appeal to both sides of the table, both the MILF and the government side, to undertake these actions, these gestures, to build up confidence once again because without trust on both sides we cannot move forward,” he said.