MILF to lawmakers: Don't delay Bangsamoro law passage

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader urged lawmakers not to delay deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) even after a "misencounter" between their members and police forces in Maguindanao killed at least 50 people, 44 from the government side.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said any delay in deliberations on the proposed law would be counterproductive to restoring peace and development in Mindanao.

"Once the approval of the peace process is delayed, the implementation of the agreement will also be delayed and thus causing delays on the establishment of peace in Mindanao," Jaafar said.

He made the statement following the decision of Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr to suspend the hearing on the BBL on Monday, January 26, after the Maguindanao “misencounter” between police forces and the MILF, along with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Jaafar also believed that emotions had driven Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano to withdraw as one of the authors of the proposed law.  Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito had also withdrawn as a co-author of the measure. (READ: 2 senators withdraw as authors of Bangsamoro law)

The MILF leader urged politicians, in general, not to use the issue to bolster their political ambitions.

"I am not taking about any particular persons, but maybe there are political leaders who want to pursue higher positions and would use the peace process for their political ambitions," Jaafar said.

Discouraging warmongering, Jaafar said both parties should handle the incident in the same way they did the peace process, now on its final stages. 

"All parties concerned and involved in the peace efforts all agreed that the best way to settle it is to negotiate through political settlement," he said.

Sources said the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) had deliberately bypassed the ceasefire mechanism to keep for itself the legacy of neutralizing Marwan and the $5 million bounty offered by the United States government.

The MILF leadership said that they find it very unfortunate that lives of people were sacrificed, if such was the case.

"I pity these cops who were only used," Jaafar said.

Jaafar suggested that an impartial investigation be immediately done to clarify the issues and to avoid speculations that would disrupt the talks.

“The right thing to do is to first conduct an impartial investigation most especially on why the law enforcement operations done by the PNP without coordination and not taking into consideration the mechanism of the talks. Why were they not able to do it? That is what should be investigated," he said.

The principle, Jaafar said, is that there is a agreement and all parties must religiously follow the provisions of the process, apparently referring to the ceasefire agreement that requires coordination between the parties in the event of any operations in MILF territories.

He said the issue at hand is that someone disrespected a very important provision of the agreement. 

Jaafar apparently made the suggestion prior to the announcement of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II on Tuesday, January 27, that Philippine National Police Special Action Forces commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas Jr had been administratively relieved pending an investigation by a “Board of Inquiry.” 

PNP Officer-in-Charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina also said that the top PNP leadership had been kept out of the loop in preparations for the operation against Marwan. (READ: Top cops didn't know details of PNP SAF operation)

Jaafar was also asked about suspicions that the SAF had skipped the coordination process due to fears that details of the operation would be leaked to the subjects of the operation.

To this, he said: "We will never do that. Why would we? If they only coordinated with us then this would not have happened." 

He said that there have been successful military operations against targets within the known territories of the MILF, including Camp Omar in Maguindanao, because of proper coordination.

The right response to this issue right now is to immediately pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Jaafar said. –