Senate report says BBL unfair to gov’t

Carmela Fonbuena
Senate report says BBL unfair to gov’t
The Senate report says the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process suffers from a 'wanton excess of optimism' that blinded them in negotiating a fair agreement for government

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate report already signed by majority of senators scored the government peace panel for promising the MILF too much, saying it is unfair to the government.

“The OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] and the peace panel, while advocating peace on a high ground as it should, are suffering from a wanton excess of optimism – optimism that blinded them to negotiate a fair agreement for the government. The BBL [Bangsamoro Basic Law], in fact, is an exemplar in this regard: while founded on a noble vision of harmony for Mindanao, indications show that there are major problem areas including but not limited to the largesse found in its high cost of appropriations and allegedly allowing the creation of a sub-state,” it said.

“More importantly, peace must be reached without compromising our sovereignty or the territorial integrity of our country. The peace we seek to achieve must be in full accord with the Constitution,” it added.

Citing lessons from history, the Senate report also raised questions on the success of the BBL if passed and implemented in its current form.

“It has been said after all these years that peace can only be achieved through a political settlement based on compromise and mutual concessions. However, before our government, including Congress, compromise with, and grant concessions to, the MILF, we must be sure that the peace we seek to attain is both permanent and all-encompassing,” it added.

The Senate draft report said a “silver lining” in the Mamasapano massacre is Congress now being more critical of the proposed BBL that will replace and expand the powers of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Involve MNLF

Recalling the failure of the peace process with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the report said the peace process should not be focused on the MILF alone. It should include the other Muslim groups and must respect the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the MNLF.

It also scored the MILF’s sincerity in repeatedly refusing to cooperate with government in surrendering men who violated ceasefire agreements. Beyond the botched SAF operation, it recalled the Al Barka massacre in Basilan where 19 Army Special Forces were killed by MILF fighters:

“Unfortunately, the ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF has also become a casualty of the Mamasapano massacre. Can a just and lasting peace in Mindanao be achieved through a peace process exclusively with the MILF, which refuses to surrender its fighters involved in the killing of our 44 police officers or to even disclose their identities? Should the government continue to deal with the MILF which refuses to submit the findings of its internal investigation into the incident, and now says that it will only share its findings with a foreign country? How can the families of the murdered police officers expect to obtain justice, when the perpetrators of a previous atrocity committed by MILF fighters, the 2009 killing and mutilation of 19 soldiers from the Army’s Special Forces in Al Barka, Basilan, remain free?

The MNLF was previously the dominant Muslim rebel group. It entered into a peace agreement with government in 1996 to create the ARMM. MNLF members opposed to the peace agreement formed the MILF and continued to fight the government until it became the dominant group. 

“It would be advisable then to bring the MNLF into the consultations, as well as Lumads or the indigenous people of Mindanao who themselves have been marginalized for a long time and had been excluded from the first as well as this current peace process,” the report said.

The Zamboanga siege, for example, was launched by rogue MNLF members who felt the MNLF was being sidestepped in the peace process with the MILF. (READ: Habier Malik: Trapped in the city he seized)

The Mamasapano clashes have moved the deadline of Congress to pass the BBL from March to June this year. With the string of amendments lawmakers have lined up, it is expected to be an uphill battle for the peace panel to keep agreements in the proposed law. – 

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