The Daily Tribune – BBL changes imminent amid demands for justice

By Angie M. Rosales | The Daily Tribune

TribuneRenegotiation if not amendments to some provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may be needed before the Palace presses Congress in passing it into a law, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said.

“The point of this exercise, the reason why we are doing all of this is for peace. If BBL is part of (the) peace (process), a necessary part of that peace, then we will work for BBL. But if there are other things that we need to attend to in achieving that peace, then we must attend to those issues as well,” Marcos said.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate local government committee that is at the forefront of the deliberations in the upper chamber on the BBL, cited the need to further scrunitize the provisions of the proposed legislation that will create a Bangsamoro political entity in light of the massacre of 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) by members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

“We want peace. (But) the point of this exercise is not to pass a law. The point of this exercise is to find peace. To attain peace through the enactment of the BBL, then fine, we should work on that. There are many other things, however, that are needed to be done to attain our goal of lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

The senator, who has put under temporary suspension the Senate hearings on the BBL, said there are a number of substantial issues that needed to be clarified first both by members of the government negotiating panel and their counterparts in the MILF before lawmakers can resume deliberations on the BBL.

“What’s the way forward? Maybe we need to reinstitute first the trust. There was a loss of trust in both parties,” he said.

What comes after is the confidence-building measure, starting from minute details such as the MILF ordering their ranks involved in the incident to return all the personal possessions taken from the fallen SAF members, Marcos said.

Both parties should also work together in hunting down the Filipino terror suspect and alleged cohort of the slain Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan, Abdul Basit Usman, he said.

Marcos also sees the need for the MILF to first clarify its relations with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) saying that their claims that they have no association with each other is being debunked by some sectors.

“Many doubts the claim that they are not associated since, for one, they share the same camp. They’re both heavily armed. If you don’t trust one armed group, you would not allow their members to share the same camp. So what does that really mean?,” Marcos said.

At least two of Marcos’ colleagues are in agreement with the idea of introducing amendments that will prevent the recurrence of the bloody incident in the future.
Administration Sen. Bam Aquino admitted that the Mamasapano incident will have a great impact on approval of the pending BBL.

“I’m sure the bill might be modified, amended or changed because of what happened but it doesn’t mean that we should stop the process. We need to still push for peace. At the end of the day, we don’t want a repeat of the incident,” Aquino said.

Aquino also echoed the issues raised by Marcos before lawmakers proceed with the resumption of deliberations on the BBL.

Earlier, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, expressed the same position saying that the draft BBL should be reworded to “make it fall within the ambit of the Constitution” even in the midst of the public outrage to dump the law in the aftermath of the Maguindanao incident.

Pimentel said the BBL should be inclusive so that other rebel groups would not have other reasons to pursue their own bloody agenda instead of pursuing a peaceful ending to the long-running conflict in the region.

He expressed deep sympathies for the families of those whose relatives were killed in the worst bloodbath to mar efforts to pursue peace.

A partylist lawmaker from the Magdalo also reacted adversely to the agreement made by the government panel and the MILF on the decommissioning of firearms held by latter.

According to Rep. Ashley Acedillo, the signing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia of the protocol in surrendering the weapons of the MILF is not a sign of the group’s sincerity.

The MILF can regain trust by surrendering to authorities the Muslim rebels behind the slaughter, he said.

Acedillo, a graduate of Philippine Military Academy (PMA), said the head of the government panel Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal should work together to bring justice for the victims and return to authorities the stolen firearms and personal belongings of the killed policemen.

“The harder thing to do for them is to surrender or return all the firearms, equipment, uniforms and personal belongings of the slain SAF troopers,” Acedillo said.

Acedillo added the leaders of the MILF should surrender those responsible for the killing of the 44 SAF members.

“These are the real commitments on the part of the MILF that they should do to show that they are continually committed to the peace process,” Acedillo said adding that the signing of the protocol on the Terms of Reference of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) is ministerial.

Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, wife of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman, expressed high hopes that the Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) will still be passed by Congress despite the incident of Fallen 44.

“Sadly, it reflects how fragile our persuasion for peace is, when even before the truth is known, we waver on our support for the BBL. It also reflects the belief that the BBL is only for the MILF, such that we are holding the entire Bangsamoro responsible for what we think the MILF has done,” said Turabin-Hataman.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, who attended a “crisis meeting” with fellow lawmakers called by Malacañang last Tuesday, said they decided to let the investigation on the massacre take its course.

“We decided to let the formal investigation proceed. Let’s get all the facts on the table. On our part [in Congress], we are continuing the discussion on the BBL,” said Belmonte. “If we go ahead with our BBL and that’s my own thinking also, there is hope that peace will prevail.”

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