‘We want peace with justice’

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Saying there can be no peace without justice, a leader of the House of Representatives wants multiple murder cases filed against members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) responsible for the bloodbath in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

The ad hoc committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, will vote this afternoon on whether or not to continue deliberations on the BBL.

The panel has given the Philippine National Police (PNP) Board of Inquiry, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) until 5 p.m. today to submit their preliminary reports on the brutal killing of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members.

 “We have written them and reminded them of the deadline, and the issue of whether we’ll continue with our deliberations depends on those reports. We want to be assured that multiple murder cases will be filed because we can’t have peace without justice,” Rodriguez told The STAR yesterday.

The 75-member House panel had wrapped up its public hearings and started holding closed-door sessions to write the final draft of the BBL for plenary approval when the carnage involving guerrillas from the MILF and its splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters happened.

Bacolod Rep. Evelio Leonardia said yesterday that the incident in Mamasapano is a “game-changer” in the peace process.

Leonardia said with the preliminary reports expected to be submitted today, the panel should be getting a clearer picture of what exactly happened, as this could lead to certain amendments on the BBL and influence its final form.

The lawmaker urged the public to continue to pray and be vigilant, noting that it is important for the nation to be steadfast as the country goes through a period of grief and mourning.

The committee has suspended discussions on security provisions of the BBL, particularly those regarding the police and military powers of the new autonomous region, pending the results of the investigation on the Mamasapano encounter.

The House leadership, however, said it intends to stick to its timetable of approving the BBL by March.

‘Line by line’

Rodriguez said the panel has been scrutinizing the BBL line by line, and has finished going over the proposed preamble and the five articles on name and purpose, Bangsamoro entity, territory, general principles and shared powers.

He said the preamble was strengthened where it was explicitly stated that the BBL and the entity it seeks to create should be within the framework of the Constitution and national sovereignty as well as the country’s territory.

He said the OPAPP draft merely stated it to be “in consonance” with the Charter.

The lawmaker said the word “territory” from the draft was dropped and replaced with “area” and “region.”

“The word territory signifies a totally separate and distinct territory… the name we proposed was the Bangsamoro autonomous region,” Rodriguez said.

“We will make sure, in our collective wisdom, to excise any unconstitutional provision in the BBL,” he said.

He added the panel is inclined to write new provisions on “normalization,” which includes the demobilization of the MILF’s armed fighters and decommissioning of their weapons.

Lawmakers earlier warned that the decommissioning agreement signed in Kuala Lumpur Friday between the government and the MILF was weak and subject to abuse as it was dependent on the compliance of both sides on the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which was signed early last year.

Magdalo party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo had warned that the country would go into a plebiscite on the BBL and national elections next year, with the MILF still holding most of its firearms and heavy weapons.

Review of decommissioning protocols

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged members of the government peace panel to provide the Senate copies of the protocol agreement on the turning over of firearms by the MILF.

Marcos said there is a need to “clarify the decommissioning process.”

“We have to see which armaments and weapons do MILF possess. Are they truly surrendering their weapons to the government or, on the contrary, the number of their weapons are increasing?” Marcos said last Friday.

The government peace panel, led by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, signed the protocol on the implementation of the Terms of Reference of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB). Both panels also renewed the mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) for another year, or until March 2016.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on local government, said there is also a need to clarify the composition of the proposed Bangsamoro police.

“The Bangsamoro police would be composed of MILF fighters. So this means that those who fight and killed our national police officers would also be members of the police force. I don’t think the PNP will agree with that setup. So what will we do now?” he said in a radio interview with dzBB.

“That has always been a sore point… the relationship between the (proposed) Bangsamoro police and the Philippine National Police has never been very clear. And that is something we had hoped to (looked into),” Marcos said.

“That is one thing we wanted to do in the BBL – to clarify those relationships. Under the peace agreement as it was signed, the areas controlled by the MILF, if there is an identified criminal or terrorist that needs to be arrested, they say that they will hand them over to our police,” he added.

Marcos also sees the need for the government peace panel and the MILF to start restoring the trust of the people in the peace process after the bloody encounter last Jan. 25.

“There is a loss of trust. We have to recover that trust,” he said.

Marcos said the MILF can start confidence-building measures by asking their men to return the personal belongings of slain cops and by helping authorities capture terrorist Basit Usman, another high-value target in the SAF operations in Maguindanao.

In the case of the covert SAF operations against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Usman, his Filipino cohort, Marcos noted that the incident highlighted the apparent co-existence between the MILF and its splinter group, the BIFF.

Even as he suspended the committee hearings on the BBL, Marcos said he is all for the passage of the BBL – but only after the issues surrounding the bloody encounter last Jan. 25.

“And if the BBL in its present form will not bring peace in Mindanao then we need to find out what we need to do so that the BBL will be effective in bringing in peace,” Marcos added. – With Danny Dangcalan, Christina Mendez

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with