Koko urges colleagues to make BBL ‘neutral’

SENATOR Aquilino Pimentel III on Sunday called on his colleagues to rid the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) of any provisions favoring the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to make it neutral and to make the MILF aware that the proposed measure is not only for their group but for the entire Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.

Pimentel’s call came as the Senate committee on local government chaired by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to resume public hearings on the BBL today, after these were suspended in the aftermath of the Mamasapano massacre in which 44 police commandos were killed by Muslim rebels, including fighters of the MILF.

In an interview on radio dzBB, Pimentel said all provisions that favor or identify the MILF should be removed in the review of the Palace-drafted bill.

“It should not appear that the MILF was in the mind of the drafters of the proposed law. What should have been on their mind was the Bangsamoro region and the assumption that it’s not the MILF who will run it,” he said.

Pimentel, who comes from Mindanao, said the BBL should not focus on the existing situation and that the law should not be gared toward one group alone.

He also said it should be made clear to the MILF that it is not mandatory that they run the regional government, and that they do not get an automatic seat in the Bangsamoro entity.

Pimentel also said the Mamasapano incident should be separate from the BBL.

“While we lost trust in the MILF, the BBL should not be stalled. We should proceed with the BBL, but we will fix [it],” Pimentel said.

But Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the ongoing talks with the MILF would substantially reduce the threat to peace and order in Mindanao.

“Peace between government and MILF means peace with the largest, most organized armed group which has been fighting government for decades. Ending this armed conflict means that this organized armed body ceases to fight the government and instead becomes a partner in addressing the problems facing the country, including problems of lawlessness in the South,” Deles said.

“It enables the effective exercise of the rule of law over areas previously outside its reach and ungovernable. Certainly, that must have some value in achieving our national aspiration for shared security and shared prosperity,” Deles also said.

Deles’ statement was made after a news report quoted a study funded by the World Bank that said the BBL could not ensure peace in Mindanao with new threat groups emerging.

Marcos said Monday’s agenda will include the use of a pseudonym by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in the signing of several peace documents.

“The first [item on the] agenda, the question which I failed to ask during the recent Senate hearing on Mamasapano, was how to hasten the ceasefire process in case of an encounter. Because, the firefight lasted for 11 hours or until 4 p.m although both sides knew whom they were engaged.

During that 11 hours, our troops died. The MILF (fighters) also died,” said Marcos.

Since they will talk about the ceasefire mechanism, Marcos said they will also go back to the Mamasapano incident.

Marcos said they want to get the details from both sides—from the government forces and the MILF to ascertain what transpired, what they talked about, and why the fighting was prolonged.

Marcos also took issue with the MILF report that said they did no wrong in the Mamasapano incident.

“We saw the video, the wounded was shot like a dog. We can’t say that was justified,” Marcos said. You cannot justify 44 dead. I cannot think of a set of circumstances [that will justify the killing of 44 people]... If that’s the attitude of the MILF, it’s difficult to have peace.”

He said his committee will also look into reports that the MILF are building camps and recruiting fighters. He rejected the MILF claims that the group was just conducting orientation training.

Marcos said his panel will also have to decide whether to conduct public hearings in Jolo and Zamboanga City after Monday’s session at the Senate.

He was non-committal about the Palace-set target to pass the BBL by June 30.

“We’ll see if we can be finished by June 30. We will finish what we ought to finish. This is very important. This should not be rushed,” he said.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives is expected to resume its hearings on the Mamasapano incident with a closed-door session with resource persons from law enforcement and other government agencies, the MILF, and the government peace panel.

Rep. Samuel D. Pagdilao, a vice chairman of the committee on public order and security, said the executive session would allow resource persons to speak freely.

“We still have an executive session to discuss national security-sensitive matters which will help us determine some important truths about the failure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to deliver the much needed fire support which could have saved the SAF 44 if only this was delivered early on during the crucial hours of the day,” said Pagdilao.

Pagdilao said matters discussed in the executive session cannot be divulged publicly but these will be taken into account in the panel’s final report.

“Out of the public eye, there will be no more reason to hold punches on the part of the House members and the resource persons will have to answer all the questions propounded. Motions raised and objected will either be intensely debated or immediately voted upon to preclude this. When I say House members will no longer hold punches, I mean that all questions of national security importance which were voluntarily withheld during the open hearing because of sensitivity can now be freely asked,” said Pagdilao.

He said the House joint panel’s report should be finished by the time the ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law will resume its hearings in the House. – With PNA


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