Retired AFP, PNP generals back Noy’s peace efforts in Mindanao

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Retired military and police generals opposed to the Bangsamoro Bill have expressed support for President Aquino’s peace initiatives in Mindanao, a Malacañang official said yesterday.

This was the consensus of members of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers led by retired general Edilberto Adan – a former Army chief – after meeting for more than two hours with Aquino in Malacañang Monday afternoon, according to Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. 

“Lt. Gen. Adan thanked the President and reiterated that, despite the reservations they expressed on provisions of the draft BBL, they fully support the government’s initiative to build enduring peace in Mindanao,” he said.

Presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles discussed with the retired generals the decommissioning and normalization process in the Bangsamoro Bill.

Last Sept. 14, AGFO officials and members placed a full-page ad in The STAR opposing the passage of the Bangsamoro Bill in its original form.

Aquino said they never consulted him, and that some of them even belong to his security cluster team.

Adan was accompanied at the meeting by former defense secretary Renato de Villa and several others.

Aquino and AGFO members met to thresh out the generals’ concerns on certain provisions of the Bangsamoro Bill.

The retired generals had complained that the bill was a product of consultation with the MILF only, excluding other concerned parties in Mindanao. 

Coloma did not disclose the substantive discussions and related only that Aquino explained the basis for it – Republic Act 9054, the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“Most of the questions revolved around the implementation of the decommissioning and normalization process, which was clarified in detail by Sec. Teresita Deles,” he said. 

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who also attended the meeting, said that the budget allocation for the envisioned Bangsamoro region is based on historical need as reflected in the ARMM’s existing budget.

Other officials present were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia and Armed Forces chief General Hernando Iriberri.

‘Almost zero’ chance for BBL passage

It is now “almost zero” possibility for the   proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to pass through the legislative mill of Congress before yearend, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said yesterday.

However, the MILF is not losing hope, according to  its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

“The President of the Philippines had certified it as an urgent bill,” he said.

But they now see an “almost zero” chance for the bill to be passed into law in the coming weeks, he added.

The MILF rejects a “watered down BBL,” or any version lesser in essence than RA 9054, Iqbal said.

The Iqbal-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) drafted the Bangsamoro Bill, which seeks to replace the ARMM with a Bangsamoro entity. It is based on two compacts between the government and the MILF – the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).

The House of Representatives and the Senate have different revised versions of the bill, Iqbal said.

However, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman is certain that the Bangsamoro Bill would be enacted into law before yearend.

“We, incumbent regional officials, remain pat in our position to turn over the ARMM, its assets and personnel to the national government and to the MILF once the BBL is approved,” he told The STAR on Monday night during a gathering of military officials and journalists at the Army’s Camp Siongco in Maguindanao’s Datu Odin town. 

“We are ready to step down and facilitate a transition from ARMM to a new Bangsamoro entity,” he said. “It is a price we will not hesitate to pay for the sake of peace, lasting peace in our homeland.”

He has no doubt about the sincerity of President Aquino to uphold government’s responsibility to comply with both the FAB and CAB, Hataman said.

The ARMM covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

Its provinces and cities are to become the territorial core of an MILF-led Bangsamoro entity once the BBL is approved and ratified via a plebiscite in its proposed area of coverage. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, John Felix Unson

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