Congress should continue its deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL) if it wants to test the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) commitment to peace.
1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd, a former government negotiator for the peace talks with the National Democratic Front, issued this statement on Friday, ahead of Monday’s “judgment day” where members of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL will cast their votes on whether the panel will hammer out a BBL or suspend deliberations in light of the Mamasapano tragedy that killed 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF).
“We’ll vote on Monday on whether we proceed or stop the BBL’s consideration for the mean time, and I will go for no suspension. The reality is, there is an existing armed conflict. Things like this [Mamasapano tragedy] happen. This is a time to test the sincerity of the MILF in the peace negotiations. If they help bring justice to the fallen policemen,” Bello said in an interview.
The MILF has signed a peace pact with the government in March 2014. The deal resulted in the draft BBL, which will establish a Bangsamoro Region subject to Congressional approval and the President’s signature.
MILF members, however, were involved in the brutal killing of the 44 SAF troops while the government forces were in pursuit of the terrorist Marwan, who was killed in Mamasapano.
“As sad as it may be, we have to push the peace process forward and bring it to its logical conclusion. The MILF should help us then,” Bello added.
Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list, and House Good Government and Public Accountability panel Vice Chair Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. of Dasmariñas have earlier questioned MILF’s commitment to the peace process.
The lawmakers lamented that MILF’s actions are not only contrary to the peace agreement but also to the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) Implementing Guidelines on the Joint Communique between the government and the MILF.
Section 6.6 of the said 2002 document states that: “Except for operations against high priority targets, a list of which shall be provided by the GPH Panel to the MILF Panel, the AHJAG shall inform the GPH and the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities at least 24 hours prior to the conduct of the AFP/PNP operations in order to allow sufficient time for the evacuation of civilians and to avoid armed confrontation between the GPH and MILF forces.”
“This [provision in the communiqué]is something that the MILF needs to answer for. As I have said, they have a lot to explain, including the presence of Marwan’s house within their territory. The problem here is that they [MILF] can always deny anything,” Acop said.
“It is hard for us to know if the MILF is really true to their commitment [under the ceasefire and peace agreement], unless we are able to secure photos of them [Marwan and the MILF] in a meeting,” Acop added.
Tugna and Barzaga, for their part, argued that such provision in the Joint Communique clearly makes the MILF liable.
“The MILF does not have control of all their troops. They have infighting among themselves. To show good faith and affirm their adherence to the peace pact, they should surrender their members who are responsible for the SAF deaths and other innocent individuals who died in the encounter,” Tugna said.
“The MILF, at least those who attacked the SAF, committed a treacherous and criminal act for which they would be liable under our criminal laws,” Barzaga said.