Lawmakers file treason complaint vs peace negotiators

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Lawmakers file treason complaint vs peace negotiators
Peace negotiators from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are named in the complaint


MANILA, Philippines – Treason and inciting to sedition raps were filed before the Manila Prosecutors Office Thursday, May 28, against the proponents of the Bangsamoro bill. 

Among those named in the complaint were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles and members of the government peace panel: chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Senen Bacani, Yasmin Busran-Lao, Mehol Sadain and consultant Zenaida Brosas. Former government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen, now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, was also included in the complaint. 

Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator of rebel group Moro and chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which crafted the first draft of the proposed Bangsamoro basic law, was also included.  

Other MILF negotiating members who were cited were Michael Mastura, Maulana Alonto and Abdullah Camlian. Alternate MILF negotiating panel member Antonio Kinoc, who died on May 5 due to liver cancer, was also named. 

The complaint also named members of the BTC, including Ibrahim Ali, Talib Abdulhamid Benito, Pedrito Eisma, Raissa Jajurie, Froilyn Mendoza, Hussein Muñoz, Akmad Sakkam, Said Shiek, Asani Tammang, Timuay Melanio Ulama and Johaira Wahab. Wahab resigned from the post even before the BBL draft was submitted to Congress.  

The complainants

Party-list lawmakers Jose Atienza (Buhay) and Jonathan dela Cruz (Abakada), along with lawyer Jeremy Gatdula led the list of complainants. 

Buhay party list, a pro-life group, is backed by the religious group El Shaddai. Abakada party list, meanwhile, represents academic and non-academic employees of education institutions. 

Atienza and Dela Cruz belong to the so-called independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives, which has been critical of the Aquino administration. Leyte 1st district Representative Martin Romualdez leads the bloc. The Romualdez family is a known political rival of the Aquinos. 

In an interview with radio DZBB, Iqbal said: “If it is a crime to search for peace and to sign an agreement that will lead to peace in Mindanao… so be it.” 

The House of Representatives passed the bill at committee level after a two-day marathon voting. The bill is set to be taken up at plenary on Wednesday, June 1. 

In an interview with reporters, Akbayan Representative Barry Gutierrez said the filing of treason charges were “premature” since Atienza and Dela Cruz can still debate the BBL on the House plenary and move for amendments. 

Complainants allege that the proposed Bangsamoro basic law sets the stage for the independence of the autonomous region and curtails the power of the executive branch by introducing an “asymmetric” relationship between the Bangsamoro government and the national government. The proposed Bangsamoro government will be parliamentary in form, led by a chief minister. 

These same features have also been cited as the grounds for the unconstitutionality of the bill. 

“The proposed BBL, in its entirety, promotes the eventual self-determination of the Bangsamoro political entity, which violates the sovereign of the Republic of the Philippines,” the complaint said. 

The complainants said “no sub-group within the Philippines is entitled to self-determination,” citing a Supreme Court ruling. 

The United Nations recognizes peoples’ right to self-determination or the right to “freely determine their political status” and “pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” 

Long process

Negotiations between the government and the MILF gained ground after the latter decided to drop its pursuit of independence in exchange for full autonomy in Muslim-majority areas in Mindanao. The decision of President Benigno Aquino III to hold a surprise meeting with MILF chairperson Murad Ebrahim in Japan in 2011 jumpstarted talks under the present administration.

A final peace deal was signed in March 2014 after 17 years of negotiations that encompassed 4 administrations. Prior to this, a peace framework was signed in October 2012. 

A product of the peace accord, the proposed Bangsamoro basic law seeks to entrench a new autonomous region in Mindanao with greater powers and resources than the current one in place in a bid to end close to 5 decades of armed conflict.

Before the Bangsamoro bill crafted by the BTC was submitted to Congress, it underwent review by both government and MILF peace panels, as well as the legal team of Malacañang. –

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