SAF-MILF clash may delay Bangsamoro law passage – Drilon

The Senate is set to probe the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that killed 44 policemen
'MISENCOUNTER.' Members of elite Police Special Action Force carry bodies of their comrade who was killed in an encounter in the town of Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, Philippines, 26 January 2015. EPA/ALTHEA BALLENTES

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Wednesday, January 28, that the clash between elite cops and Moro rebels in Maguindanao, may delay – if not hamper altogether – the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“My fear is that because of this incident, it will be a reason not to pass or delay the BBL further. I hope it won’t be a reason especially since our efforts towards peace are not a small matter. I hope this doesn’t become a hindrance to the passage of the BBL,” Drilon said.   

The Senate is set to conduct a probe into the Maguindanao clash on Wednesday, February 4, after Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III, and Grace Poe filed a resolution to investigate the incident. 

It will be conducted as Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago pushes through with hearings on the constitutionality of the proposed law that seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao – a product of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). 

However, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos postponed hearings until the security situation is resolved and a full report of what transpired is produced. 

With the attention of the Senate divided, the probe threatens to delay the already constricted timeline to pass the law by March. 

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said he doubts the law will be passed  on time. 

“I doubt it will be passed by March. Here, the committees are still hearing it. This process is not that fast, especially with this kind of legislation. I’m still hoping we can get it passed this year and I predict there will be changes because of what happened. But I hope we don’t give up that easily,” Aquino said. 

The government and MILF peace panels were hoping to get the law passed in Congress by March to give the MILF at least one year to lead the transition body for the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous government. The law needs to be passed in a plebiscite before the Bangsamoro can be established.  

In the House of Representatives, members of the ad hoc committee tackling the bill, earlier agreed to continue discussions and put the bill to a vote on February 17. 

{source}<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-partner=”tweetdeck”><p>Despite d elephant in d room, we continue with d work at hand. In a briefing on how to incorporate children&#39;s rights in the BBL.</p>&mdash; Teddy B. Baguilat (@Teddy_Baguilat) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Teddy_Baguilat/status/560306385187901440″>January 28, 2015</a></blockquote>{/source} 

Focus of congressional probe 

House members are also calling for a separate probe into the incident. 

A number of lawmakers are pressuring the MILF to surrender members involved in the clash that killed 44 special police forces, and to cooperate in hunting down alleged Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli Abdhir, better known as “Marwan” and alleged bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman. (READ: Dead or alive? Top terrorist was cops’ target)

The situation provides an opportunity for the MILF to show their commitment to peace, said Davao City 1st District Representative Karlos Alexei Nograles. 

“This the chance for the MILF leadership to prove that they are capable of governance. They have to show that they are capable of repulsing lawlessness. They have to convince the people and Congress that their intention in pushing for the quick passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is to bring peace in Mindanao and not just create a territory where law and order doesn’t exist,” Nograles said. 

Drilon, an administration ally, also joined the chorus of calls for the MILF to surrender Usman and Marwan if they are proven to be coddling them. 

“I support calls for the MILF to surrender Usman and Marwan if they are still alive because if they are partners of the government, they should surrender Usman and Marwan to show that they can follow the law,” Drilon said. 

In a statement released Tuesday night, January 27, the MILF said is conducting its own probe into the incident as it reiterated that it is not backing away from the peace process.

A separate investigation on what government officials are calling a “misencounter” is also being conducted by the police.

The government and peace panels of the government and the MILF are flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday, January 29, to finalize the details of how the MILF will decommission their firearms as part of the peace agreement signed in March 2014. – Rappler.com