GMA News Online – After violent PNP-MILF clash, Bongbong suspends BBL hearings

By Amita Legaspi | GMA News Online

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Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on local government, on Monday suspended the discussions and hearings related to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law as he condemned the use of violence by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front against forces of the Philippine National Police on Sunday.

On Sunday, at least 30 members of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) were killed in an ambush by members of the MILF in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao. The PNP personnel were on the trail of suspected international terrorists believed to be hiding inside one of the camps of the Moro rebel group.

As of Monday morning, the number of SAF fatalies had risen to 50, according to Senior Superintendent Noel Armilla, director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In suspending the hearings, Marcos said: “I decided to suspend indefinitely all discussions and hearings related to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law until this is clarified.”

“We cannot, in conscience, proceed with these hearings while a cloud of serious doubt hangs over the security situation in the south. A peace agreement cannot be legislated under the threat of such extreme violence. Violence has no room in a civilized society,” he added.

But in an interview, MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said delaying the passage of the BBL would be “a disadvantage to all parties concerned.”

“I don’t think it will affect discussions of the BBL, I don’t think this should delay the process.

“‘Pag na-delay [nang] masyadong matagal ang pagiging batas ng BBL, … made-delay ang establishment ng Bangsamoro government, which is a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Mindanao. So ‘pag walang Bangsamoro government sapagkat na-delay ito, sapagkat walang batas ito, walang BBL, ‘yung situation sa Mindanao remain(s) as it is,” Jaafar said.

Bangsamoro Basic Law

The Bangsamoro Basic Law will embody the peace agreement signed by the Philippine goverment and the MILF last March, which aims to end the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.

The legislation seeks to create the Bangsamoro political entity, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It will also specify wealth- and power-sharing arrangements between the national government and the new political entity.

However, the hearing to be conducted by the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, headed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, pushed through as scheduled on Monday morning.

The hearing tackled the constitutional issues surrounding the proposed BBL.

Hunt vs. Zulkifli

Reports have it that the SAF members were sent to the area to serve warrants of arrest against Malaysian bomb maket Zulkifli bin Hir, known as “Marwan” in Barangay Tukanalipao, and Basit Usman, a Jemaah Islamiyah bomb-making expert.

Von Al Haq, vice chair for military affairs of the MILF, reportedly said the SAF team did not coordinate with the proper authorities before they entered the area. Al Haq defended the action of the MILF saying the action of the SAF was a clear violation of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Marcos disagreed with Al Haq’s statement, saying the SAF was given a legitimate mission and even without coordination, the MILF could have easily arranged to talk with the SAF.

“I condemn the use of violence by the MILF. They signed a peace agreement with the government, and therefore, the MILF is already a partner of government,” the senator said.

“Hence, even without coordination, they should have exercised great patience and caution. Those police officers were there to arrest a terrorist. They were just doing their jobs. The fact that they were not carrying loads of ammunition show that they are not there for a fight. It was not an attack on the MILF. Lethal force was clearly not necessary,” he added.

Marcos said he is anxious to hear from the MILF leadership as to how they move forward from the incident.

“This MILF attack on govt forces is a major obstacle to the long and lasting peace we have been working for in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

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