‘No Maguindanao clash reports, no Bangsamoro law hearings’

Angela Casauay
The House of Representatives ad hoc committee wants the OPAPP, ARMM, AFP, and PNP to submit their report on what happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25
REPORT. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang graces with Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez at the executive meeting of the House ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro on February 3, 2015. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives will further stall the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) if concerned government offices don’t submit their reports on the deadly Maguindanao clash by Monday, February 9.  

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the ad hoc committee on the BBL, gave this ultimatum on Tuesday, February 3, in committee meetings on the proposed law a week after an intense fighting that left 44 elite cops, 17 Muslim rebels, and 5 civilians dead.

Rodriguez said the committee has asked the following to submit their reports on the incident:

  • Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
  • Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
  • Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
  • Philippine National Police (PNP) 

AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang himself went to Batasan on Tuesday to give the ad hoc committee his personal assurances that the military will submit their final report by February 9 – a gesture that the committee appreciated, Rodriguez said. 

Of the 3 other agencies, only ARMM committed to submit a report by Wednesday, February 4.

Rodriguez scored OPAPP and the PNP for their failure to respond.

OPAPP has not provided any feedback, Rodriguez said. 

Instead of submitting a report on the Mamasapano encounter, the PNP submitted a report that only contained information on its operations in Zamboanga and Bukidnon, but no details at all on Mamasapano, the congressman said.

“I don’t know why the PNP has that kind of attitude of giving us a report that does not contain the Mamasapano [incident], which really entails the BBL,” Rodriguez said. 

Should all 4 agencies fail to submit their reports by February 9, the ad hoc committee will suspend deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro law until the reports are completed. 

 

The ad hoc committee is deliberating the Bangsamoro Basic Law until Wednesday, February 4, and will resume discussions on February 9. On Monday, February 2, the executive meeting lasted until 10 pm, Rodriguez said.  

“We continue because even if at the same time, we want justice, the BBL should continue because we want to have lasting peace,” Rodriguez said. 

On the MILF

The committee chairman said he has not received an official list of lawmakers who are calling for a stop to the BBL deliberations following the Mamasapano clash. He said at least 40 lawmakers have been attending meetings “religiously” since it started. 

On Sunday, January 25, over 300 members of the Philippine National Police – Special Action Force entered the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao, a known bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Their mission was to serve the warrants of arrest to wanted terrorists Abdulbasit Usman and Zulkipli Bin Hir, better known as “Marwan.”

But combined forces of the MILF and breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters allegedly surrounded them on their way out. Many BIFF members and MILF members residing in the area are reportedly related to each other. 

Asked whether he had talked to the MILF after the incident, Rodriguez said: “We can have no dealings with the MILF because they are still a revolutionary group. We deal with them through the OPAPP.” 

The police, the MILF and the International Monitoring Team are conducting their own separate investigations into the Maguindanao clash. The Senate is set to conduct a congressional probe on Monday, February 9, while the House committee on public information will hold its own investigation on Wednesday, February 11. 

The House panel decided to push through with deliberations on the BBL despite the decision of Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr to stop hearings under his committee

Public outcry over the Mamasapano clash is threatening to delay the target deadline to pass the proposed law by March. The deadline would allow the MILF-led transition body toward the Bangsamoro to be in place by June 2016 and give the group at least one year to lead the transition. 

The BBL is a product of the final peace pact between the MILF and the government signed after 17 years of negotiations that aims to end close to half a century of war in Mindanao. – Rappler.com