News Analysis: Deadly clash in Mindanao could derail passage of Bangsamoro law

(The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2015 - 10:00pm

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The deadly clash in southern province of Maguindanao between government forces and Muslim rebels could derail the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

A series of clashes occurred in the early hours yesterday in Mamasapano town between the Special Action Force of the Philippines National Police (PNP) and the alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Forty-nine Philippine police personnel were believed to be killed in the gunbattle, according to local police.

Casualties on MILF and BIFF's side is still unknown as of this afternoon.

The latest bloody skirmish could affect the early passage of the BBL now being deliberated by the Congress.

At the Philippine Senate, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, suspended the public hearing on the BBL until further notice.

"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, " Marcos said.

At the House of Representatives, Buhay party-list Representative Lito Atienza, said because of the incident, the Congress should examine the BBL carefully to find out if the establishment of the Bangsamoro sub-state could solve the security problem in the southern Philippines.

The MILF had agreed to end decades of rebellion in the mainly Catholic nation in exchange for a proposed law that would give the minority Muslims self-rule in predominantly Muslim provinces in the Southern Philippines.

The Philippine government and the MILF signed in March last year a comprehensive peace agreement calling for the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity.

The MILF said that it is not "logical" to delay the passage of the BBL due to the Maguindanao encounter.

In a radio interview, Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said doing so "will be (a) disadvantage to all parties concerned," particularly to those residing in the areas affected by the conflict.

"I don't think it will affect discussions of the BBL, I don't think this should delay the process," Jaafar said, adding that what happened was "unfortunate and uncalled for."

He added that "technically, there is still war in Mindanao, because what we have only here now is a cease-fire agreement."

Jaafar echoed what the MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said earlier that the firefight was triggered by lack of coordination on the operation of the PNP with MILF commanders in the area that they control.

"There was no coordination made and I think this is a violation to the provision of the cease-fire agreement," Jaafar said.

Sources said the police operation was to serve an arrest warrant on Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as " Marwan," and Basit Usman, a Jemaah Islamiyah bomb-making expert, who were both sighted in the area.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has urged the PNP to conduct an internal investigation into Sunday's Maguindanao clash.

Trillanes, a former Philippine Navy officer, said it is possible the policemen were fed the wrong information which led to their ambush, adding that he was puzzled as to why the police did not seek help from the military in pursuing the terrorists.

"They should coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines first and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will determine if the area involved is covered by the peace agreement then they would coordinate if necessary," Trillanes said in a television interview.  



 

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES AT THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AT THE PHILIPPINE SENATE BANGSAMORO BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BASIT USMAN JAAFAR MAGUINDANAO MILF
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