‘No timetable for MILF to turn in SAF killers’
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - February 20, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - It is up to the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – which has been negotiating a peace agreement with the government for the last three years – to turn over its fighters involved in the killing of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano last month.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there is no date set for the MILF to turn over the killers.

“If you look at the bigger picture, it might be unrealistic to impose a deadline because of the challenging issues involved here,” Coloma said.

He was responding to a question on how long the government would wait for the MILF to meet challenges President Aquino issued – from the identification of the SAF killers, turnover of seized firearms and the handover of terrorist Basit Usman.

“What is very clear is the sense of manifestation showed by the MILF,” Coloma said, citing what he called the “positive development” where the Muslim rebels returned 16 firearms taken from the slain Special Action Force (SAF) policemen.

“This is an encouraging development in the sense that the MILF are sending out a positive note that they want to be a partner of the government in the peace process,” Coloma said.

Position of strength

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said that the government must always go into its negotiations with the MILF from a position of strength and should not give in to pressure to approve the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in light of the Mamasapano fiasco.

Cayetano aired his concerns over the statements coming from the administration about wanting to settle for any version of the BBL and the MILF’s insistence that the BBL in its present form must be approved.

“I do not understand how the government can say or the administration can say that any BBL is okay, while the MILF is saying any change in the BBL to water it down, then we go to war,” he said.

He criticized the members of the government peace panel for always speaking in favor of the rebel group after the Mamasapano incident.

“The problem with our peace panel is that they are all allied with the MILF. When they speak it is as if they are members of the MILF and not with the government,” Cayetano said.

He said the people in Mindanao are waiting for the peace panel to speak on their behalf.

“They are always either in fear or in love with the MILF,” he added.

Cayetano, who withdrew his support for the BBL after the Mamasapano incident, emphasized Congress is not bound to pass the proposed law.

He said the investigations into the incident must be completed and the results disclosed to the public in order to determine how to move on as far as the BBL and the peace process are concerned.

“So, it is time for solutions. Let us accept that the BBL and the first part of the peace talks were idealistic, but it is also an illusion,” Cayetano said.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, for his part, said Congress should not rush passing the BBL.

“This BBL as we go over it must be thoroughly studied so we can have a good result,” Binay said.

“This should not be rushed. It should ripen at the right time. It’s not good to set a deadline (in enacting it). It is a matter that needs serious talks and serious consideration. I repeat, it must not be dictated by a deadline,” he stressed.

Binay said the country would likely be in a crisis if the BBL was signed into law before the Mamasapano incident of Jan. 25.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat said the BBL would be passed by Congress but with amendments or revisions.

Lobregat, a member of the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives deliberating on the BBL, stressed the bill must be just, fair and within the Constitution and national law if ever it will be approved.

“I believe that BBL can still pass within the term of President Aquino but with the needed amendments,” Lobregat said.

Lobregat has been very vocal about what he described as ambiguities in the BBL.

Sens. Sergio Osmeña III and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reiterated the BBL is facing major amendments in the wake of the Mamasapano incident.

While everybody wants to have lasting peace in Mindanao, Osmeña pointed out the passage of the BBL would not necessarily bring peace.

“No, to me it’s not. I mean who is not for peace, of course all of us (are for peace). Rather than going out the streets and shooting our guns for no particular reason… Everybody wants peace but we have to find the proper way to peace,” Osmeña said.

Osmeña cited the outcome of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari, who had a falling out with Hashim Salamat that led to the breakaway of the faction that is now the MILF.

Marcos, for his part, maintained the Senate cannot allow itself to be used as a “rubber stamp” and pass the draft BBL without amendments.

Marcos pointed out Congress has the power to amend or revise some BBL provisions, which are either ambiguous or constitutionally infirm.

He said there are areas in the draft BBL which are “left open” for Congress to fill in the details.– Marvin Sy, Helen Flores, Christina Mendez, Roel Pareño

 

BBL CAYETANO COLOMA LOBREGAT MAMASAPANO MILF OSME PEACE PRESIDENT AQUINO
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