Retired generals who previously made public their opposition to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) met with President Benigno Aquino 3rd to reaffirm their support for the Mindanao peace process, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“Despite the reservations they expressed on provisions of the draft BBL, they fully support the government’s initiative to build enduring peace in Mindanao,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a press conference.
Coloma said the commitment was made by the members of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) after a two-hour meeting with Aquino on Monday in Malacañang.
He said most of the questions of the retired generals “revolved around the implementation of the decommissioning and normalization process,” which was explained by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles.
Coloma said the President explained that “the baseline from which the peace negotiations started were the provisions of RA 9054 or the Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, on one hand, tackled concerns regarding the budget allocation for the proposed Bangsamoro region, which he noted, is “based on historical need as reflected in the existing budget of the ARMM,” Coloma added.
The President was also joined by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia and Armed Forces chief Hernando Iriberri.
Representatives of AGFO included former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and AGFO president Edilberto Adan who served as Philippine Army Commanding General and Foreign Undersecretary for the Visiting Forces Agreement, respectively.
On September 14, 2015, the AGFO published a full-page statement in a major daily their position regarding the draft BBL.
The open letter disappointed Aquino, who said the retired generals should have talked to him personally to discuss their concerns.
The President said the retired generals’ letter only made several demands from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and did not offer alternatives for the Bangsamoro peace process.
“Do they have a proposal to the MILF? Such as the laying down of arms, decommissioning of commands… Are there negotiations where all you do is ask and not give anything in return?” he said.
Aquino however noted that the open letter was more critical than recommendatory. He said that it could do more harm than good as the public could grow anxious over the issue at hand.
Meanwhile, the Palace official said that Aquino remains hopeful that the BBL will be enacted into law under his administration.