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Senate report blasts subservience of peace panel to MILF

Twenty senators have signed a Senate report that denounces the Aquino administration’s peace panel for subservience to the demands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that is seeking an autonomous Bangsamoro substate in Mindanao.

The report, the executive summary of which was released on Wednesday, came on the heels of the Philippine National Police board of inquiry (BOI) report that held the President liable for the Jan. 25 massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos by MILF guerrillas in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

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The Senate report went further than the BOI report. It found the government’s peace negotiators “suffering from wanton excess of optimism,” and called on them “to speak for the country and for the government.” The report said the government negotiators should take a more critical look at the MILF demands. It said they may be too optimistic in their dealings with the MILF and promising too much at the expense of the government.

While the pursuit of peace in Mindanao is to be appreciated, the Senate report said, the investigating committee could not abandon its responsibility of questioning the government peace panel for “defending” the MILF.

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“In the process of achieving peace in Mindanao, we should not overlook the seeming inadequacies of our partner in this process, the MILF, such as [its] lack of control over [its] ground forces and [its] disrespect for legitimate government operations,” the Senate report said. “The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the peace panel, while advocating peace on a high ground … are suffering from a wanton excess of optimism that ‘blinded’ them in negotiating a fair agreement for the government.”

It pointed to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as an example, given its provisions that would seemingly create a substate in Mindanao and pour too much money into the Bangsamoro region to be created.

It said: “The BBL, in fact, is an exemplar in this regard: While founded on a noble vision of harmony for Mindanao, indications show that there are major areas, including but not limited to the largesse found in its high cost of appropriations, and allegedly allowing the creation of a substate.”

The peace process should also pursue justice and bring the guilty MILF members to account for their roles in the killing of the SAF commandos in Mamasapano, the report said. For the peace efforts in Mindanao to succeed, the people must accept and support this, it said, adding: “The peace that we seek must be based on justice, where the rule of law reigns supreme, and where criminals are brought before the bar of justice and punished.”

The report, which called the Mamasapano incident a “massacre” rather than a “misencounter,” was issued by the Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs together with the committees on peace, unification and reconciliation, and on finance. It is partly based on the testimonies of 37 resource persons at the investigative hearings. It also determined the President’s liability for the massacre and took pains to define his responsibility for the fiasco.

It determined that the President “must bear responsibility for giving assent and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions by suspended and later resigned [PNP] Director General Alan Purisima in connection with Oplan Exodus that led to the massacre.”

The report said it was beyond doubt that the President was fully aware that Purisima was preventively suspended by the Ombudsman on Dec. 4, 2014, and yet he allowed Purisima to join the Jan. 9 meeting at Bahay Pangarap in Malacañang, where Oplan Exodus was discussed. He also instructed Purisima to coordinate Oplan Exodus with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He communicated exclusively with Purisima in regard to the progress of Oplan Exodus on Jan. 25, as well as in giving Purisima instructions as to the conduct of the operations.

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The Senate report concluded that Purisima’s actions with respect to Oplan Exodus during the period of his suspension constituted “usurpation of authority or official function under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.”

While the report questioned the conduct of the members of the peace panel in apparently defending the MILF on the Bangsamoro issue, it also questioned the commitment of the MILF to the peace process. According to the report, while representatives of the MILF were present at the Senate hearings, they have been less than forthright. Today, almost two months after the Mamasapano incident, the committees have not been furnished copies of the results of the MILF’s own investigation.

“In fact, the MILF has categorically refused to furnish the government altogether its report. The MILF, particularly its chairman, Al Haj Ebrahim Murad, and Commander Wahid Tundok refused to cooperate when they denied the request of the Department of Justice for an interview to present its findings of the incident. The MILF continues to refuse to divulge the names of [its] fighters responsible for the deaths of the SAF troopers. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal had told media that the MILF will not surrender them to the government. This is a clear indication of the MILF’s unwillingness to work with us in our search for truth, much less for justice.”

The report described the massacre as an “overkill.”

“We should not forget that the majority of the SAF 44 lost their lives at the hands of our so-called ‘partner’ in the peace process,” it said.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, BOI report, Mamasapano, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, peace process, Senate report
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