By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines - The possibility boggles the mind, and must be seriously weighed: as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law stands, there is a strong possibility that members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front responsible for the deaths of 44 Special Action Force men will later become policemen themselves, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., said Sunday.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Local Governments - the main body tasked by the Senate to study and conduct hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law - pointed to a provision in the bill wherein members of the MILF are to be trained and converted into a police force.
Under Article 10, sections 2 and 3 of the "Act providing for the basic law for the Bangsamoro and abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, repealing for the purpose Republic Act No. 9054, entitled "An act to strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao", and Republic Act No. 6734, entitled "An act providing for an organic act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao", and for other purposes," there will be two police forces in the country's regional police force purposely formed to protect Bangsamoro territory - and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Article 11, section 2 of the BBL states that:
"Section 2. Bangsamoro Police. " There is hereby created a Bangsamoro Police which shall be organized, maintained, supervised, and utilized for the primary purpose of law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro. It shall be part of the Philippine National Police (underscored)
The Bangsamoro Police shall be professional, civilian in character, regional in scope, effective and efficient in law enforcement, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control, and accountable under the law for its actions. It shall be responsible both to the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government, and to the communities it serves.
An uncanny situation arises during the transitional phase of the BBL, says Marcos Jr: the chief of the Bangsamoro Transitional Assembly (BTA) is given the power to choose the head of this Bangsamoro Police force.
The head of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is Mohagher Iqbal, the civil-military chief of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). During the early part of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano massacre, Iqbal strongly defended the MILF fighters who subjected to relentless fire the SAF teams deployed to apprehend international terrorist Marwan and his cohort, Filipino bomb maker abdul Basit Usman.
Iqbal said it was the fault of the police forces, because they entered MILF territory without coordinating with the Moro rebels, despite a cease-fire agreement in place.
The SAF officers explained that the decision to withhold the information about "Oplan Wolverine/Exodus" from the MILF was taken to ensure the sensitive mission won't be jeopardized.
The SAF officers alerted Acting PNP chief Gen. Laonardo Espina and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang once they were actually already in Mamasapano.
According to InterAksyon.com sources, there were at least four instances in the past when a planned mission to get Marwan - wanted for the Bali bombing and other terror attacks - fell apart because the SAF had to alert the AFP, which in turn had to alert their MILF counterparts under the peace agreement.
In raising a red flag over the possible ironic consequence of enacting the BBL as it stands now, Marcos explained: "Where will Iqbal get his police force? Obviously, he will do so from the ranks of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). So, members of this rebel group will now be policemen under the Bangsamoro Police. And being members of the PNP, these former MILF fighters will be trained, possibly even by the SAF."
During the transitional phase, the BTA head was given the power of âselection, employment and deploymentâ of existing PNP forces now in areas considered within Bangsamoro claimed territories.
"So, there will be two chiefs of police in the Bangsamoro territories during the transitional phaseâone, the BTA head who is Iqbal, and the other, the chief of the Philippine National Police. The PNP members assigned in Bangsamoro-claimed territories will then get their orders and instructions from Iqbal," Marcos Jr. said.
Meanwhile, the so-called Bangsamoro Command, as stated in Article 11, Section 15 of the BBL, is restricted only to defending the Bangsamoro Republic since BBL members are not required to take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Marcos noted.
Articles 16, section 5 and 11 of Section 17 of the BBL contains coordination protocols with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which are actually restrictions on the movement and deployment of military personnel.
Unless this problematic provision of the BBL, especially regarding the chain of command, is not clarified and revised, Marcos Jr. said a repeat of the Mamasapano massacre is highly possible.
He urged both the government and the MILF to come clean on what really happened last Jan. 25. The MILF, especially, is under pressure to explain how and why exactly such long-wanted terrorists had taken sanctuary in what is supposedly their controlled territory - an area that not even the Armed Forces enters because its hands are bound by a cease-fire agreement that a peace agreement mandates, before passage of the BBL. Â The MILF is also being urged to turn over those responsible for the carnage of government troops, and to return high-powered arms and sophisticated devices from the dead SAF men which the MILF seized.
"This is the reason why I always want to repeat myself--- surrender those responsible for the clashes because without this issue resolved, the possibility of this situation exists, meaning, those who killed those SAF commandos will eventually be exonerated and thus, even, become members of the very organization which they tried to destroy," Marcos said.