House to resume hearings on Mamasapano in April

CONTINUATION. Resource persons attend the hearing of the congress inquiry in the Mamasapano, Maguindanao encounter at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Wednesday. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

CONTINUATION. Resource persons attend the hearing of the congress inquiry in the Mamasapano, Maguindanao encounter at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Wednesday.

Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Following a clamor from its congressmen, leaders of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 18, arrived at a consensus to resume hearings on the Mamasapano clash on April 7 to 8. 

"It was the general agreement reached tonight that the joint committee hearing on the Mamasapano will resume on April 7-8 and the [Bangsamoro Basic Law ad hoc committee hearings] will resume on April 27 to 30," House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said in a text message. 

The development came after a petition – signed by more than 90 House members – was submitted to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr to appeal for the continuation of hearings on the tragic event before discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is resumed. 

It also came a day after the release of the Senate committee report that found President Benigno Aquino III "ultimately liable" for the police operation, and close to a week after the release of the police Board of Inquiry report that implicated resigned police chief Alan Purisima, among others. 

The House postponed its probe into the Mamasapano bloodbath after holding just one hearing.

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro, said House leaders also agreed to put the proposed BBL to a vote in the committee on May 11 to 12, when lawmakers report back for work after the summer break. 

A total of 52 out of the 75 members of the ad hoc committee submitted a petition asking Rodriguez to move BBL discussions after the Mamasapano hearings are concluded. 

"The Speaker was sensitive to all the requests. It was a happy compromise for all that we were able to schedule all these during the recess," Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez said House members who were present at the Wednesday night meeting included Speaker Belmonte, Majority Floor Leader Gonzales, Zamboanga City Representative Celso Lobregat, ACT-CIS Representative Samuel Pagdilao, Antipolo City Representative Romeo Acop, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, and Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares. 

The passage of the proposed law creating a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao – a product of the peace accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – was placed in jeopardy following the fallout from the Mamasapano debacle. 

A total of 67 Filipinos, including 44 elite cops, 18 MILF fighters, and 5 civilians, died in the police operation to arrest wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. This was after combined forces of the MILF, breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and private armed groups surrounded members of the police Special Action Force on their way out. – Rappler.com