Halt BBL until MILF proves sincerity

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BOSTON: War or peace. That basically sums up Malacañang’s story line to sway public and congressional opinion in favor of the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

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Perhaps this explains why government peace panel chairman Miriam Ferrer, chief Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and MILF Central Committee vice-chairman Ghazali Jaafar feel at ease taking an alarmist view of the growing opposition to the BBL.

Ferrer warns that the failure to pass the BBL may lead to more radical members splintering from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to form ISIS-like groups. Echoing Ferrer’s line, Iqbal also warned that hardliners would stand to gain if legislators failed to pass a law granting Muslim autonomy as part of a peace deal. MILF’s Jaafar has a more ominous threat. He warned that his group will not accept a watered-down version of the bill and that the passage of a revised BBL by Congress will mean war.

Unfortunately, the scare tactics and threats of Ferrer, Iqbal and Jaafar have only fortified public sentiment against the BBL.

What Ferrer and company don’t seem to understand is that the Mamasapano incident put into question the MILF’s sincerity to the peace process. In short, the crisis facing the MILF is not one of (criminal) liability but of credibility.

The revelation during the congressional hearing that it was MILF guerillas that repulsed SAF troopers who raided the hideout of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” bolstered the suspicion of ordinary folks that the MILF continues to maintain close ties with terrorists while trying to forge a peace deal with the government. That the MILF is now reported to have killed Basit Usman (Marwan’s partner and fellow terrorist bomber) does not change the public’s sense that the rebel group had coddled the fugitives.

Iqbal’s evasive answers and general denials do not help further their cause in the eyes of many Filipinos.

Like an MILF avatar and spokesperson, government chief negotiator Teresita Deles passionately defended the MILF saying the rebel group agreed to “disavow terrorism” when peace talks resumed in 2003, a commitment she said the government and the international community monitored and verified.

“There is history that the MILF had flirtations with terrorist groups, but since 2003, the government has closely monitored that there were no evidence of institutional links between MILF and terrorism,” she added.

Stripping away the gobbledygook, Deles’ statement simply means that the government has no proof that the MILF, as an organization, has an alliance with terrorist groups. But that does not mean that certain MILF elements have not established terrorist links with the tolerance of MILF higher-ups. Just because the government can’t prove it does not mean it’s not happening.

For instance, the Philippine National Police reported in October 2012 that almost 30 foreign terrorists associated with JI are being coddled by armed groups connected with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), MILF and even the MNLF.

Meanwhile, according to a 2013 research paper, “though not sanctioned by the MILF Central Committee, some MILF base commanders and sub-commanders have reportedly established operational links with established criminal armed groups in Mindanao engaged in extortion and kidnap-for-ransom operations like the Al-Khobar Group, the Mayangkang Saguille Group, the remnants of the Tahir Alonto Group, and even the Pentagon Gang.”

“In Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi areas, the working relations of the MILF with the ASG and residual armed factions of the MNLF also strengthen the armed projection of the MILF,” the paper said.

The continuing ties of MILF with criminal and terror groups pose a dilemma.

As an international think tank explains: “If top MILF leaders engaged in peace negotiations are unaware of local level cooperation with JI or if they follow a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy that leaves local commanders to their own devices, the lack of central control suggests it might not be possible to implement a [peace]agreement. If at least some top MILF officials are not only aware of JI ties, but see them as a crucial element of a ‘fight and talk’ strategy, the good faith necessary for successful negotiations would be called into question.”

If PNoy wants to salvage the peace deal, he should convince the MILF to prove its sincerity to the peace process – not only in words but in deeds also – by capturing or eliminating top-level JI terrorists hiding out in the Bangsamoro territory – even if this means earning the ire of their Muslim kin.

For starters, the MILF should run after JI operative Amin Baco who is reportedly embedded with the ASG in the Bangsamoro area. Baco is a Malaysian national and a close associate of Marwan, Abdul Basit Usman, Isnilon Hapilon and the notorious Dongon family. He is widely considered to be one of the leading JI figures on small-unit tactics.

The capture of Baco and other key JI operatives, after the news that it was the MILF that killed Basit Usman, will definitely turn the tide of public opinion in favor of the MILF – and prove that the rebel group is willing to go after their own for the sake of peace.

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5 Comments

  1. Alejo Rosete on

    I totally agree with you Atty Dodo Dulay.

    Just trash the BBL.
    Improve and/or give more power to ARMM.

  2. jason bourne on

    No to BBL. There is no stopping the politicians from making another one after the fact. remember we had the ARRMM deal after so much pain and suffering. Why can’t we make a deal within the framework of the Constitution.

  3. Carlo L. Adan on

    Pass the BBL but amend the stupid and unconstitutiopnal version written by the MILF and Aquino endorsed practically untouched.
    What’s the hurry and panic about peace in Mindanao. 90 percent of Mindanao is at peace. Only the crazy Muslim-dominated provinces have violence and war.
    Why don’t the PNP with the military as dputies just do their work and suppress the trouvle makers in Mindanao?

  4. Horacio B. Freires on

    You are correct. . delay the BBL is the right path we have to take. . till after 2016 and we re negotiate. . this time we are in a stronger position. . for 2016 there will be no more fossil fuel from the middle east. They will have no more financial support. Then we can say ‘NO’ for them to take a territory controlled by them militarily where they plan to install nuclear misslies pointed to metro Manila. . like what Pakistan did to India. We have no nuclear missiles to point to Bangsamoro. . If there’ll be a war due to this decision, they can never win for they will have no more money to buy ammunitions. eventho’ they have a lot of weapons given by the masons in the AFP.