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Is MILF threatening the government?

/ 12:26 AM February 11, 2015

Two graduates of the Philippine Military Academy, both former senators, talked on the Mamasapano massacre and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at last Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila at Diamond Hotel. They were Panfilo Lacson, also former chief of the Philippine National Police and now resigned presidential assistant on rehabilitation (Monday was his last day in office), and Rep. Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa, also former chief of staff of the Armed Forces.

The two speakers lamented the deaths of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in a clash with rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, last Jan. 25. They also castigated the MILF peace negotiators for threatening the national government with war if the BBL is “watered down.” The chief negotiator had said that the MILF would never accept a “watered-down” version of the BBL, which is now pending in Congress. That is like blackmailing the national government: You give us what we want, or else.

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The BBL will have to be altered, according to Biazon, who is a member of the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives examining the proposed law. “I assure everyone that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down,” he told the journalists present at the Kapihan.

First, the BBL is unconstitutional as presently worded, and second, it does not address the interests of different groups in Mindanao, Biazon said. “What will happen to the Christians, the lumad, and the Tausug” and the sea people? he said. “The present BBL does not say. Remember, the BBL is for the whole of the Bangsamoro, not only for the MILF.”

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Biazon added: “What can happen is this—we enact the law and it will spawn other problem groups” like the MILF after the enactment of the provision on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and now the BIFF after the peace negotiations with the MILF.

Lacson agreed with Biazon. He said Congress has no power to pass a law violative of the Constitution, and that somebody will surely question it at the Supreme Court.

Look at the “Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain,” Biazon said. “It was signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and everyone else, until somebody ran to the Supreme Court to challenge it. And the court said it is unconstitutional. So we really have to be careful about the [proposed BBL].”

The MILF has said that it could not accept a BBL “that may be constitutional but does not address the Bangsamoro question.”

In short, it is demanding that Congress give it what it wants even if it is unconstitutional.

The BBL, as proposed by the MILF, is “fragmenting the country and the government,” Biazon said. He cited as example “the provisions on territorial boundaries, territorial sovereignty and national security.”

He said the BBL, as presently written, seeks to share certain powers with the national government. The powers of constitutional bodies like the Commission on Audit, Commission on Elections and Civil Service Commission would also be fragmented, he said.

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“Regarding the coordination provisions, do the Navy and Coast Guard have to coordinate [with the MILF] whenever they move within our territorial waters?” Biazon said. “If the Air Force needs to fly over the Bangsamoro, does it have to coordinate [with the MILF]?”

The sharing of revenues is another problem, Biazon added. “Other provinces could question why the Bangsamoro gets to share a bigger part of their revenues.”

He urged the government to prepare and consider its options should the current peace process flounders.

Why not just adopt the present ARMM, already authorized by the Constitution along with the Cordillera Administrative Region, and then reorganize it to suit the present situation?

That would be ideal, Biazon and Lacson said, but will the MILF accept it?

Why do we always have to give in to the MILF? someone asked. This is a peace negotiation. It is a give and take.

Are the negotiators of the national government too weak? another whispered. The peace process is turning out to be a one-way street.

What went wrong with the Mamasapano mission to get Marwan and Usman? The two speakers said it was the lack of coordination with the military and, perhaps, with the MILF.

But the SAF commander was afraid of a leak, as happened in previous attempts to get Marwan that all ended in failures.

You have to weigh the options, Lacson said.

The Jan. 25 mission was successful. Marwan was killed, but at the cost of the lives of 44 SAF commandos. Was one terrorist worth the lives of 44 policemen? the two ex-soldiers were asked.

Yes. Lawmen go into battle knowing the risk that they may be killed in battle, and they accept it. They have a mission and they do it no matter the risk.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Mamasapano massacre, Marwan, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, panfilo lacson, Philippine Military Academy, Rodolfo Biazon, Usman
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