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More inputs on BBL

/ 12:18 AM April 27, 2015

FIRST OF all, let me congratulate Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chief negotiator of the Philippine government in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, for receiving the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security.

In presenting the award to Ferrer, Clinton said: “Peace and security are only possible when women have a seat at the table.” Ferrer was cited for her “indefatigable work to bring about peace in the Philippines and for her historic role as the first female chief negotiator to sign a comprehensive peace agreement.”

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Ferrer shared the award with Ambassador Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations’ Special Envoy to the Syrian Crisis, who dedicated his award to the women of Syria.

The Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security was created by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security in 2014. Last year’s awardees included former British foreign secretary William Hague and Anders Rasmussen, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato).

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As Congress approaches self-imposed deadlines for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a newly-formed civic advocacy group, the Alliance for Good Governance, Peace and Social Justice, has come out with a position paper outlining a number of recommendations on the draft BBL that should help it pass any constitutional test in the future. The alliance is chaired by Alexander Aguirre, a former national security adviser and director-general of the National Security Council and a retired major general.

Alex Aguirre was also a principal negotiator in the peace process between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front in 1994-1996, and chief supervisor and coordinator of the Cabinet Supervisory Committee for the implementation of the final peace agreement between the two parties in 1996-2000. As such, he has a wealth of experience as a soldier, a lawyer and a negotiator on some of the more complex issues that the nation faces in striving to bring about a just peace for our people in Mindanao.

It is my hope that Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who is shepherding the BBL through the last hearings of the House of Representatives, will see fit to call on Alex Aguirre to present his group’s recommendations on the draft law. I am certain that he will find the new alliance’s position paper enlightening and helpful in ironing out some of the difficulties encountered in the present draft.

The paper, which has been submitted to the House for its consideration, contains some nine recommendations that touch on key provisions of the BBL.

Let me dwell specifically on Article XI, Public Order and Safety.

  • On the provision re: Bangsamoro Police

Comments: “Section 2, Bangsamoro Police Force—There is here created a Bangsamoro Police, which shall be organized, maintained, supervised, and utilized for the primary purpose of law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro. It shall be part of the Philippine National Police.”

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But in tandem with this is Section 12, which reads: “Law governing the Bangsamoro Police—The Bangsamoro Assembly (Parliament) is hereby authorized to enact laws to govern the Bangsamoro Police consistent with this Basic Law.”

With these two provisions together, it may come to pass that the Bangsamoro Assembly may enact a law that will be in conflict with, or amend, the national law, for as long as one criterion is followed that the Bangsamoro Police is made to remain as part of the PNP. So this BBL must contain a provision to guide the Bangsamoro Assembly.

Recommendation: It is recommended that Section 2 should read: “To wit: There is hereby created a Bangsamoro Police, as part of the Philippine National Police, which shall be organized, maintained, supervised, and utilized for the primary purpose of law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro in accordance with the PNP Law. The Bangsamoro Police shall be composed of the existing PNP units in the autonomous region, the qualified MILF members, and other qualified citizens with preference to the inhabitants therein.”

  • On the provisions re: the military

Comments: The Armed Forces of the Philippines is necessarily national in its area of responsibility. It deploys and employs its units or subordinate commands in any geographical area where an enemy force or security threat may exist. The subordinate commands may be assigned an area of responsibility by the chief of staff AFP, encompassing a given region or even just a group of provinces, depending on the military exigency to address the security threats, wherever they are. Thus a command of the AFP should not be created only for a specific region fixed by law. For it will take another law to amend a prior law for the AFP to redeploy its subordinate units or commands to other regions where the threats may then exist. The AFP will thus lose its flexibility on how to ensure our national security.

Recommendation: In this light, Sections 15, 16, and 17 are recommended to be reworded as follows:

Section 15. Defense and Security—The defense and security of the Bangsamoro shall be the responsibility of the

National Government. The National Government may create a Bangsamoro Command of the AFP within the chain of command of the AFP that may be stationed in the Bangsamoro region, which shall be organized, maintained, and utilized in accordance with national laws.

Section 16. Calling upon the Armed Forces-—In consonance with the power of the President as Commander-in-Chief of all Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Bangsamoro Governor may request the President to call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Section 17. Coordination—The National Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall establish coordination protocols, which shall apply to the movement of the AFP in the Bangsamoro in such a way that the flexibility and capability of the AFP to accomplish its duty and mission shall not be impaired.

Much of the concerns in the present draft of the BBL have to do with police and military matters, hence the need to highlight these areas of contention.

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