Gov't admits 'huge disappointment' over failure to pass BBL
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - February 28, 2016 - 3:03am

MANILA, Philippines - The government on Sunday admitted that there is a “huge disappointment” over Congress’ failure to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) amid ongoing clashes between security forces and armed men who are said to be dismayed by the bypassing of the measure.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, nevertheless, said the ceasefire mechanisms are still working and that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are not standing in the way of the law enforcement operations in Lanao del Sur. 

"Certainly, the huge disappointment over the non-passage of the BBL provides more enticing, fertile ground for recruitment to radical, extremist thought and action,” Deles said in a statement forwarded to reporters by Presidential Communications and Operations Office Herminio Coloma.  

“Thankfully, our ceasefire mechanisms particularly, the GPH (Government of the Philippines)-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, with the International Monitoring Team are working closely and robustly with the security sector to maintain peace and order on the ground, including curbing the spread of extremism,” she added. 

Reports have quoted MILF vice chair Ghadzali Jaafar as saying that the armed men who are clashing with military forces in Butig, Lanao del Sur are not terrorists but Moros disappointed with the way the government handled the peace process. 

The Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) previously said that security forces are launching offensives against local terrorists led by brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute. The Maute brothers are believed to have ties with the Southeast Asian regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Deles said the ceasefire mechanisms have repositioned MILF troops to allow law enforcement operations to proceed. She said the MILF has also provided sanctuary to displaced civilians.

The proposed BBL aims to form a new Bangsamoro political entity with enhanced autonomy. It will also implement the peace agreement signed by the MILF and the government in 2014. Congress adjourned sessions early this month without passing the BBL, one of the priority measures of the Aquino administration.

The military launched law enforcement operations in Butig after the Maute group raided a detachment of the 51st Infantry Battalion in Butig town, leaving two soldiers dead and six others wounded.

Three soldiers were killed and 11 others were wounded during the pursuit operations, according to a Westmincom report released last Friday. 

Security officials claimed to have received reports that as much as 42 members of the Maute group were killed during the clashes, which also displaced about 2,500 civilians. The military has so far validated 24 fatalities on the side of the Maute group.

Coloma said the government is working hard to ensure that the gains of the peace talks with the MILF would cross over to the next administration. 

“It is the position of this administration that? it is this comprehensive social justice-based approach that would deter the rise of violent, extremist groups in southern Philippines and comprehensively sustain past and present efforts for peace and development in Mindanao and the rest of the country,” Coloma said.

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