THE House Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Monday suspended discussions on the proposed measure in reaction to two violent incidents in Mindanao over the weekend where 42 people were killed and 36 others were wounded.
The suspension came after the House ad hoc panel headed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City (Misamis Oriental) adopted House Resolution 1834 filed by Rep. Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila).
The resolution urged the committee on the BBL to halt its discussions on the national defense, security and public order provisions of the basic law until after submission of reports by appropriate government bodies on recent incidents of violence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“We agreed that in deference to those who have died, especially the policemen, we will suspend our hearings for the afternoon session and discussions on certain provisions of the Bangsamoro law going forward unless we get explanations from concerned government agencies [on the violent incidents],” Rodriguez said in a news conference.
He was referring to the Zamboanga City blast at Fantasy Disco bar last Friday, which killed one and wounded 36 others, as well as the killing of 52 members of an elite police force by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants in Maguindanao in ARMM while the police were in pursuit of Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan.
Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief negotiator, has confirmed that MILF members were involved and that the attack was a result of failure of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to coordinate its operations with the MILF.
“While the discussions on the other provisions of the proposed law may proceed, the deliberations on the aforecited provisions may not until after the issues on these recent violent incidents are cleared,” Biazon said in his resolution.
He argued that recent bloody clashes cannot be swept under the rug, considering that the Bangsamoro Basic Law provides for fragmentation of powers and authorities on national defense and security and public order, creation of a separate Armed Forces command in the autonomous region, authority of the Chief Minister over the PNP as compared to existing constitutional provisions on the powers of local chief executives and the shape of normalization provisions.
Biazon noted that the ARMM, PNP, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should conduct an investigation of the Zamboanga and Maguindanao incidents.
“The reports of these government bodies should contain, among others, a determination of what elements of what government (arms) were involved in these incidents, which dissident groups did they clash with and (what) provisions of existing laws and ceasefire agreements (were violated),” he said.
The House ad hoc panel is asking the ARMM, PNP and OPAPP to submit results of their probe of the incidents on February 6.
“We don’t want this to be a long investigation that would just be forgotten later on,” Rodriguez said.
The killing of at least 52 elite police forces by the MILF might temporarily set back the government’s bid for lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao, he added.
“Certainly, the death of the policemen sets back everything. How can we proceed if these threats are happening? On whether we can rebound from this, it will depend on the report of the [government]agencies [on the incidents],” Rodriguez said.
Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, a retired police brigadier general, said the viciousness of the MILF is unforgivable.
“How is killing of people who are performing an official duty justified? In all norms of conduct, that is not justified,” Acop told The Manila Times.
“They (MILF) should be made answerable. Otherwise, the government will lose its credibility. The world is watching us,” he said.