THE country’s largest confederation of labor associations and an advocacy group composed of nine major organizations nationwide have called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to stand up and come out in defense of the grieving families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who were brutally killed by joint forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa (TUCP-Nagkaisa), through its spokesman Alan Tanjusay, on Thursday challenged Aquino to seek from Congress suspension of deliberations on the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in deference to the shout for truth and justice by a mourning nation.
The BBL, if enacted into law, would pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous region,
“What we expected the President should have done is to directly respond to the growing but unaddressed deep-seated clamor for justice by suspending now the BBL deliberations both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives,” Tanjusay said.
The suspension of deliberations on the BBL, he added, should stay until the MILF has shown its sincerity regarding the peace process by surrendering Addul Basit Usman and other MILF commanders and Islamic fighters involved in the Mamasapano incident.
The MILF, Tanjusay said, should also return all government-owned firearms, cellphones and other personal belongings of the fallen commandos, and destroy their munition factory.
Usman is the right hand man of expert bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, who was killed by the SAF assault team during the January 25 operation.
He was with Marwan at the time but was able to escape.
The Senate Committee on Local Government, headed by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has suspended its deliberations on provisions of the BBL, but its counterpart at the House of Representatives is yet to follow suit.
The TUCP also urged the MILF to join the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PP) in crushing the BIFF, a supposedly breakaway group of the MILF.
“Genuine expression of sympathies and condolences about the incident is accompanied by overt acts of good faith. If they desire the Filipino people to continue to trust that they (MILF leaders) deserve to lead the Bangsamoro aspiration for an autonomous region, then they should show sincerity first by bringing BIFF militants as quickly as possible to the fold of justice,” Tanjusay said.
The Ang Katipunan ng mga Samahang Maharlika (Ang KaSaMa Inc.) further prodded Aquino to junk the BBL and arrest Jemaah Islamiya terror cell leader Usman to prove that the Philippine government is not negotiating with terrorists.
The Ang KaSaMa Inc. is an advocacy group of nine major organizations from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that is lobbying against passage of the BBL.
“The BBL has nothing to do with the peace and order situation in Mindanao because the Christians and Muslims in the region are long-time friends. It is only the separatist and terror groups that are causing trouble,” its national coordinator Deo Palma said in an interview.
“We believe that the BBL will not succeed because the (MILF) is not sincere in the peace process,” Palma added.
The MILF that is talking peace with the government, according to him, is the same MILF that has been coddling Marwan and Usman since 2001, according to Palma, who explained that this information came from one of his close friends working with the Military Intelligence Group based in Mindanao.
Palma said Marwan and Usman cannot continue with their recruitment activities in Mindanao without the MILF’s support.
He added that the two terrorists have used various MILF camps in Maguindanao, Jolo (Sulu), Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte to train their recruits in bomb-making.
The MILF has also intensified its recruitment of young blood as second liners for their ideological fight without the knowledge of the government while the peace negotiations are ongoing, Palma said.
His sources also revealed that the high-caliber firearms and other personal belongings taken from the 44 commandos “will not be surrendered because the BIFF and MILF have already divided the loot among themselves.”
Meanwhile, Johnny Siao, the Moro National Liberation Front chief of the National Border Command, said most of his contacts at the MILF camp have told him that they will not surrender their firearms.
“They (MILF) believe in the peace agreement with the Philippine government but they will not follow orders for them to surrender their firearms,” Siao added.
He said the problem with the MILF hierarchy is that they have no control over their field commanders.