Press conference: on status of and conditions for the resumption of the Bangsamoro Basic law Hearings
Sen. Bongbong: Good afternoon everyone. I have asked to see the press today because there have been many reports that I have heard both on radio, TV and in print, that the BBL has been stopped and that the BBL essentially is dead in the water. And I would like to disabuse anyone of that notion because as you have seen the hearings, at least on the constitutional issues, have continued and we have had, I think, the last one today.
Now, as I have said repeatedly, the effects of the Maguindanao massacre, the Fallen 44, on the deliberations of the BBL are fundamental. And that is why if we are to write a version of the BBL that is going to succeed in actually bringing peace to Muslim Mindanao then we have to know the facts behind the Maguindanao massacre, and it is very important for us to do that.
But until that happens, I think marami naman tayong naririnig na balita, may mga impormasyon na lumalabas, and although the picture is not yet complete, 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.
Now from all the information that I have received, all of the opinions that have been proffered to me, basically pointed out the fact that there has been a loss of trust on both sides. There is a loss of trust, ang taong bayan ng buong bansa ay kinukwestiyon kung ano ba talaga ang motives ng MILF. At ang taong bayan din ay nagtatanong kung ano ba talaga ang nangyari at hindi pa natin nakukuha ang buong istorya sa ating gobyerno.
Hopefully, when the hearings, there is a hearing in the House tomorrow specifically on the facts of the events that led to the Maguindanao massacre, and there will also be a hearing on Wednesday that would hopefully bring out the facts that led up to the events the led up to the Maguindanao massacre. And we will take all of those facts, we will put them together, we will study them and use them to make the BBL a better law.
Now, in the meantime…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 nee to know the facts of what happened on both sides of the conflict. But until we have those facts, I would like to propose that there be some confidence-building measures between the MILF, between the government, that can be seen by the Filipino populace. I think confidence-building measures are important so we can find a way forward.
In my view, here are the things that I feel we can do or we should do, so that the process will move forward even before we have the facts that brought about the Maguindanao massacre:
I think that there are several elements that the MILF first can do. Number one, a simple gesture, that the forces of the MILF return the arms, the equipment and the personal effects of the soldiers, the policemen that were killed. That is not very hard. Madali lang naman yan. But again, it will be a sign of good faith on their part.
Secondly, that they provide assistance in finding and arresting Usman, who was the secondary target of the SAF unit that went into the area in Maguindanao.
Thirdly, they must demonstrate that the disarmament process has actually began, 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.
Fourthly, they must identify the commanders whose units were involved in the massacre of our 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.
And I think, possibly the most important gesture that the MILF can do, is that they explain fully and clearly the true relationship between the MILF and the BIFF. Because if the BIFF is continuing to fight the government, we cannot possibly have peace. If the MILF and the BIFF—nanood ako ng press conference ni Chairman Iqbal and the government panel in Kuala Lumpur the day before yesterday—and Chairman Iqbal said that they are a separate group, BIFF is a separate group from the MILF. Therefore, if they are separate, if indeed they are separate, should we not include the BIFF in the peace talks. Because 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. If they are together, then that will be…if the BIFF and the MILF are in fact working together, then it will be a sign of bad faith on their part. 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.
Now, this is not only on the side of the MILF, there requires gestures also from our government. The government must explain how on their part, this transpired. First of all 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 Director General of the PNP, DDG Espina knowing? How is it possible that the DILG Secretary also did not know? Now we hear from the Palace that the President know. We also hear that the involvement of the suspended Director General Allan Purisima was involved. What does this mean? 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?
So there are many many aspects to this, and I think that at this point this is the way forward and these are the things that need to be done by both sides, the side of the MILF and also on the government side. There are many many questions that we would like to have answered and until those questions are answered we cannot move forward. And so 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.
So that is why I have asked to see you, that is why I have asked to talk to you. Number one, to explain that we have not stopped—in fact we have been searching after the terrible, tragic events of the Maguindanao massacre, we have been searching of a way forward. I believe those steps that I have suggested is the way to move forward. If we can have both sides undertake these steps then we can easily move forward from here. Okay? That’s it, that’s my statement.
Q: Sir, until all the matters are clarified, hindi nyo iiendorse sa plenary yung BBL?
Sen. Bongbong: Hindi, ang sinasabi ko para matuloy ang peace process kailangang magkatiwala ulit ang magkabilang panig. At sa palagay ko, etong mga nabanggit ko, yung limang bagay para sa MILF at saka yung pagliwanag dun sa sitwasyon ng chain of command kung bakit nagkagulo-gulo—-hanggang ngayon hindi pa natin alam kung sino ang nag-order sa unit na pumasok e; hanggang ngayon hindi natin alam kung anong pinagbasehan ng plano ng mga pulis, bakit sila pumasok? Marami pa tayong kailangang malaman at kailangang malaman din ng MILF para lumakas naman ang kumpyansa nila sa gobyerno, na ginagawa lahat para matuloy itong peace process.
Q: Sir what can you say about the board of inquiry ng PNP? Can they investigate their own officials?
Sen. Bongbong: Well, that is why I have supported the proposal that we establish another—right now the name of it is truth commission—which will be comprised of some independent and objective members, para nga naman makita, dahil kahit papano even if the PNP board of inquiry and the MILF board of inquiry is very objective and very fair, hindi mo matatanggal sa isip ng mga tao na pinuprotektahan lang nila ang mga tauhan nila. So we have to remove that doubt. We have to remove all of the possible doubt that might hang over the findings of those two inquiries. And I think that having a third objective board of inquiry is a very good idea. What we really have to determine now is who are going to sit as members in that board of inquiry.
Q: Sir, before you resume the hearings you have to know all these facts, how long will that be?
Sen. Bongbong: As I said we’ll have the hearing tomorrow in the House, of course we’ll take note of all the testimony there. We will have hearing on the same subject in the Senate on Wednesday. Titingnan natin kung sapat na yun. Kung sapat na yun, if we feel the facts have been shown, then we could use that as a basis to find a way to make the BBL better. Because, you know, the BBL ang pinagbasehan nyan ay yung peace agreement, ngayon may peace agreement na tayo at nilalakad na nga natin yung BBL pero nangyari pa ito. Ibig sabihin may kakulangan, there’s a problem. Kailangan nating ayusin yung problema na yun. Hindi natin malalaman kung ano ba talaga yung problema na yun, kung pano nangyari ito. We have to find out the facts; once we find out the facts, we know what the problems will be, we can try and solve those problems and make the BBL a better law. And that way we will incorporate whatever conclusions we might derive from the facts that are before us, and we will incorporate it into the law so that this will never happen again.
Q: Sir mas mapapabilis po bang maging klaro yung nangyari kung si Presidente magiging forthright na at sasabihin kung ano talaga ang naging papel ni Purisima?
Sen. Bongbong: Kaya nga, kailangan na kailangan nating marinig yun. Not only the MILF needs to hear that but also the Filipino public. Everyone is wondering bakit hindi….palagay ko naman hindi naman mahirap na malaman within the police forces, within the AFP, within the executive deparment kung ano ba talagang nangyari. But nakalipas na yung, ano mag-iisang linggo na e wala pa tayong naririnig na maliwanag na paliwanag sa gobyerno. Kailangan nating makuha yun, dahil kagaya ng sinasabi ko magkatiwala ulit ang magkabilang panig.
Q: Pero senator yung House, they decided to cancel yung scheduled hearing tomorrow?
Sen. Bongbong: Oh, that’s too bad. I’m sorry to hear that because I spoke to Congressman Rufus this morming—as far as he was concerned ay tuloy pa rin. Then it would fall to the Senate to do all of the inquiry. Actually narinig ko rin yung balita na, I think the Speaker stopped the hearings for whatever reasons.
The longer it takes for government to explain what happened, the longer the delay will in continuing the discussions and the hearings on the BBL, ganun lang kasimple yun. That is a necessary predicate to our continuing our discussions on the BBL.
Q: Sir do you think may time pa, kasi sa transition government meron silang one year e magkakaroon pa ng plebiscite to take over the…?
Sen. Bongbong: Kahit na naman nasundan yung original na timetable hindi talaga magkakaroong ng one year ang transitional commission. Nag-hearing kami tungkol sa SK, nandito si Chairman Brillantes at saka si Commissioner Chris Lim at off the subject tinanong ko sa kanila, anong mangyayari sa Bangsamoro, kailan ang magiging plebisito. Ang sabi sa akin kung maipasa ang BBL ng Marso ang plebisito Oktubre.
Q: Sir, sa circumstances regarding recent developments do you see a potential cover up?
Sen. Bongbong: That is what everybody is afraid of. Kagaya ng sinabi ko, hindi mawawala yung pag-iisip na yung mga board of inquiry ay pinoprotektahan yung kanilang mga tao. Maybe subconsciously that’s possible. But in any case, so that credible ang magiging resulta ng board of inquiry, siguro kailangan talaga magkaroon ng isang board of inquiry na walang connection sa PNP, walang connection sa MILF at titingnan lang nila kung anong mga facts para malaman kung ano ang katotohanan.
Q: Sir gano ka importante na yung katotohanan lumabas in relation to sa demoralization sa uniformed personnel?
Sen. Bongbong: It’s very very important because we cannot move forward—kagaya ng sabi ko—we simply cannot move forward hanggat malaman natin kung ano ba talaga ang nangyari. That way when we know the fact of these events then we know also what the problem is—pano nangyari ito? Then we have a way, we have at least a chance to fix those problems. We have to fix those problems because if we pass the BBL as is those problems will continue to persist. So kailangan nating gumawa ng paraan na ayusin yung BBL na hindi na mangyari ito. Now, how do we do that? We have to find out what truly happened. And knowing what truly happened, malalaman natin kung san nagka-problema, san nagka-mistake at pano nagka-ganyan. Ngayon gagawan natin ng remedyo, ilalagay natin sa BBL nang sa ganun matitiyak natin na hindi mauulit ang Maguindanao massacre.
Q: Sir if the congressional hearings will be cancelled yung about sa SAF 44, pati yung sa Senate, where will you get your facts on the Mamasapano massacre? Kasi last time sir sabi nyo hindi kayo kinakausap nina Secretary Ochoa….?
Sen. Bongbong: Ah no, now…I spoke to Chairman Iqbal, we have agreed to meet in the next few days. So I suppose what I called the unofficial gag order, I guess lifted na ngayon yun dahil ready na sila na makipag-usap sa atin. Eh, itatanong natin sa kanilang lahat. We will ask everybody who was involved in this and to find out….If the hearings in the Senate is also cancelled then we will have to depend on the board of inquiry, or the truth commission, that we are proposing and a law creating that I think will be filed this afternoon.
Q: Sir, dapat bang pumayag ang Senate sa request na wag nang ituloy yung hearing?
Sen. Bongbong: Sa palagay… ako kung ako ang tatanungin ninyo, hindi. Nagtataka nga ako kung bakit pumayag ang House of Representatives. Pero kung pag-uusapan namin ng mga kapwa ko senador ay ipaglalaban ko na ituloy.
Q: Sir yung ganung request hindi ba parang part of a cover up na yun?
Sen. Bongbong: Kaya nga e, kaya nga hindi…kailangan yung mga source of information natin paiba-iba e, paiba-iba. So hindi ko alam kung anong dahilan ang ibinigay ng PNP kung bakit hiningi nila, ni-request nila na ipostpone or i-cancel. But that does not help the process. It is necessary. Those hearings and the findings of the truth is necessary for the BBL, specifically, and the peace process, in general, to continue. We cannot continue without knowing what happened, ganun lang kasimple yun.
Q: Pero sir, if the PNP will request for an executive session during the hearing, will you allow it?
Sen. Bongbong: Definitely. I’m sure, para sa akin hindi problema. I fully anticipate that there will be certain aspects of it that they will ask for an executive session. Eh wala namang problema yun kung talagang kailangan. Lalo na yung mga procedure, lalo na yung mga tao na hindi pwedeng isa-publiko. I’m sure we will agree. Because what we are aiming for is finding out the truth in whatever manner we can do it: by public hearing, by private meetings, by executive session—kung ano mang paraan basta matuklasan kung ano ba talaga ang naging pangyayari, kung bakit nangyari yung Maguindanao massacre.