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EDITORIAL - No timetable

(The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2015 - 12:00am

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro marks its first anniversary today in the long shadow cast by the Jan. 25 slaughter of 44 police Special Action Force commandos at the hands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas. Two months after what the Senate described as a massacre in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the story refuses to go away, to the dismay of President Aquino and those who want the peace process with the MILF to follow a timetable under his watch.

Because of the massacre, members of the two chambers of Congress are taking a hard look at the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which the MILF and government peace panels want passed as agreed upon in their negotiations, with no changes. Legal experts warn that the BBL, untouched, is certain to be tossed out by the Supreme Court, like the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that the MILF signed with the Arroyo administration.

The raid in Mamasapano, which placed in serious doubt the sincerity of the MILF in discussing peace and its capability to rein in even its own members, has made it even more important for Congress to subject the proposed BBL to a thorough scrutiny.

In its own report that was submitted to the Senate this week, the MILF, which lost 18 men in the firefight, in effect claimed it merely acted in self-defense when it opened fire on the SAF men who were trying to arrest top terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan and Basit Usman. The MILF also disputed video footage and testimonies of survivors and other witnesses, which led the Senate to conclude that the so-called SAF 44 were massacred and then robbed by the MILF and its alleged splinter group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

If created, the Bangsamoro will be entrusted with billions in public funds as it replaces the 25-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Under the proposed BBL, the Bangsamoro government will enjoy vast powers and will be entrusted with creating an environment conducive to development in the Muslim areas. These powers cannot be granted without due diligence. The Aquino administration can be credited for its peace effort, but if it wants enduring peace, it would be folly to rush the process.

ANCESTRAL DOMAIN AUTONOMOUS REGION BANGSAMORO BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS COMPREHENSIVE AGREEMENT MAMASAPANO MARWAN AND BASIT USMAN MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT MILF MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT
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