Mindanao Times » Patricio P. Diaz http://mindanaotimes.net Wed, 19 Sep 2018 01:50:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.25 TO THE POINT | Anticipating the BCC BBL http://mindanaotimes.net/to-the-point-anticipating-the-bcc-bbl/ http://mindanaotimes.net/to-the-point-anticipating-the-bcc-bbl/#comments Wed, 27 Jun 2018 01:05:24 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=59597 ]]> GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews) — “BCC BBL”, the Basic Bangsamoro Law that will come out of the Bicameral Conference Committee of the Congress after it has reconciled the Senate (SB No. 1717) and the House (HB No. 6475) versions of BTC BBL 2017 this coming July 9 to 13, will be the BBL Act (No. ?) President Rodrigo R. Duterte will sign on July 23 at his Third State of the Nation Address.

BTC BBL 2017 was written by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission of 2017 or BTC 2017 based on BTC BBL 2014 as the working draft. The latter which failed to pass the 16th Congress was based on the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro of 2012 (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro of 2014 (CAB), a compendium of Government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreements since 1997 including the FAB and its four Annexes.

As BTC BBL 2014 was CAB-compliant, so is BBL BTC 2017. As BTC BBL 2014 was vetted by the Office of the President for its constitutionality and legality, so was BTC BBL 2017.

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SB No. 1717 and HB No. 6475, according to the Senate and House leaders, are compliant with the 1987 Constitution and Philippine laws and can stand any test of constitutionality and legality before the Supreme Court.  On the other hand, MILF and Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (CSO) leaders see them so least CAB-compliant as to create a Bangsamoro political entity less autonomous than the ARMM. With the Bangsamoro CSO are different Moro organizations including those of women and youth.

The MILF and Bangsamoro CSO leaders said they will do their best to have the BCC restore the deleted and radically amended provisions of BTC BBL 2017 – to restore it to its original. But they are told this cannot – and will not – happen.

First, the BCC can only reconcile the disparate provisions of SB No. 1717 and HB No. 6475 of which, as reported, there are many with some seemingly irreconcilable. Second, it is unthinkable that the BCC members who caused the deletions and radical changes will allow the restoration.

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Hundreds of amendments severely watered down BTC BBL 2017. Luwaran, the official online publication of the MILF Central Committee, cited with grave concern in its June 16, 2018 editorial (“Reasons for Concerns!”) what the Senate and the House had done with Section 4 of Article XV and Section 10 of Article XIII which “are purposely intended to implement the … provisions of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement of 1996” that R.A. No. 9054 had failed to implement.

Section 4, Article XV “provides for the conduct of plebiscites for cities, municipalities, and other geographical areas which were not able to join the Bangsamoro as per results of previous plebiscites” — to be done every five years for 25 years following the BBL plebiscite. This the Senate and the House completely deleted.

Section 10, Article XIII “provides for the co-management in the exploration, development, and utilization of fossil fuels and uranium by the Bangsamoro Government and the Central Government”. While the House virtually left this intact, the Senate heavily diluted it.

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Former ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo (December 2009 to December 2011), in his Facebook article re-published by MindaNews (June 14, 2018: PEACETALK: On the Block Grant and Fiscal Autonomy in the BBL), cited “the sheer absence of fiscal autonomy” as “[o]ne of the major structural defects in the ARMM”. The block grant provisions in Article XII of the BTC BBL 2017 remedy this malady – doing “away with the annual begging exercise of the ARMM in the DBM and Congress”.

However, he deplored how in SB No. 1717 and HB No. 6475 the block grant provisions were watered down and diluted. Consequently, “we are back to the old system in the ARMM of an annual, automatic, and regular begging in the Central Government”; so there is still “no fiscal autonomy”.

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The Congress has taken for granted or ignored the Moros’ quest for their right to self-determination in the name of constitutionality and legality. But, if closely examined, in reality, most if not all the revisions, deletions and insertions are not in compliance with the 1987 Constitution and Philippine laws but to promote vested political and economic interests while denying genuine autonomy for the Moros out of age-old biases, prejudices and ignorance of the roots of the Moro problem.

In its “Statement”, Suara Bangsamoro or Voice of the Bangsamoro (MindaNews, June 1, 2018) believed the BBL in SB No. 1717 and HB No. 6475 will not solve the Bangsamoro problem as it “leaves the Bangsamoro with no control over the resources of the area they define as our autonomous area. Just like in the ARMM, this BBL appoints the new Bangsamoro political entity to facilitate the wholesale selling of our territories and natural resources to foreign corporations under the guise of bringing growth and development to Bangsamoro areas”.

Despite this, the top MILF leaders are evidently tempering desperation among their people with hope. They see some redeeming factors – the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. For instance, the BTC BBL 2017 provisions on the parliamentary system and on the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority were retained.

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From the many statements of MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim, BTC 2017 Chair Ghazali Jaafar and MILF Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal, it can be inferred that if the BCC can come out with a meaningful BBL Act – in our perception, one by which within its letter the Bangsamoro Parliament can manage to enact laws on how to solve the Moro problem guided by the spirit of the CAB – the MILF Central Committee may accept it with the consent of the Moro people in a consultative general assembly.

This rests on the presumption that the members of the 17th Congress sincerely intend the BBL, as the implementing Act of the CAB, to adhere to the essence of the CAB — not kill it with anti-Moro vested political and economic interests, biases and prejudices disguised as adherence to the 1987 Constitution and Philippine laws.

This must be at the core of the dialogues and consultations between the MILF, MNLF and BTC with the members of the BCC before July 9. If the BCC can come out with a meaningful BBL Act as conceived in the CAB, then to borrow from Shakespeare, all’s well that ends well. If not, the post MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain of 2008) scenarios will be the grim enigma to bear with.

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As we see it, it is unfortunate that, in reference to media reports, it seems the Government Implementing Panel has defaulted from its role stated in the Term of Agreement signed in Kuala Lumpur on August 14, 2016, that is: “c) for the GPH to work for the early passage of the proposed Bangsamoro enabling law in tandem with the monitoring assistance of the MILF” (bold, underscoring, ours).

While the MILF Implementing Panel, together with the MILF hierarchy and the BTC 2017, has been in the forefront of the parliamentary struggle, the GPH Implementing Panel has gone unreported.

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At a forum in Metro Manila last June 7 (Rappler.com, June 10, 2018: Final version of BBL holds fate of Mindanao peace process), Secretary Jesus Dureza, the presidential peace adviser, tried to pacify BTC 2017 Chairman Jaafar and others worried about the fate of the BBL at the Bi-cameral Conference Committee by calling on “all stakeholders [to] help in managing their own expectations and the people on the ground”.

He said: “We should not raise too much expectation but I’m sure the public and the greater table will welcome whatever headway we will have. We are working towards very compliant BBL, close as much as possible to the CAB. It’s a signed agreement. But remember there are parameters also to deal with. Constitutional parameters are also important.”

He admitted “the peace process is at another critical point, requiring a compromise from all sides”; but expressed optimism, “I see a better light at the end of the tunnel.”

This was reassuring rhetoric that vaguely assured.

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President Duterte, in his Eid’l Fitr celebration speech in Davao City last June 16, said: “If perchance, if nothing really works out with the BBL, then give us time because I do not want to fight. I do not wage a war against my own countrymen. I really don’t want to.”

This and the many other matters he said about the BBL and the peace process in his 36-minute Dutertesque extemporaneous speech were vague in reference to the fate of BBL pending at the BCC. The reporters present should have asked him what he meant.

Aside: With due respect, the President’s Eid’l Fitr speech was irrelevant to the occasion. To have a semblance of relevance, to end it he read – we presume — the concluding paragraph of the two-paged (about 10-minute long) prepared message which at the outset he told his audience he would set aside for “a few minutes … so that I can talk directly with you.” The “few” turned out to be “36”.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Patricio P. Diaz was editor in chief of the Cotabato City-based Mindanao Cross and later the Mindanao Kris before returning to General Santos City. You may email him at patponcediaz@yahoo.com)

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MIND DA NEWS| An Ominous Prelude? (2) http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-an-ominous-prelude-2/ http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-an-ominous-prelude-2/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 02:51:02 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=6263 ]]> II. Prerogative and Compromise
GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews) – It has become clear the Bangsamoro Basic Law will not be passed as originally provided in the Draft BBL transmitted by Malacañang to the Congress. Key provisions are questioned on issues of constitutionality, legality and policy. MILF Chairman Murad Ibrahim had appealed for the passage of the bill with minor changes only. The leaders of the Congress took his letter as “blackmail” and hardened their resolve to amend, revise and add supplementary provisions to the bill.

Prerogative

The leaders of the Congress are invoking their prerogative to revise, amend and re-write bills and other proposed measures. As seen in the published excerpts, Murad’s letter did not question the prerogative of the Congress. It was rather an appeal to treat the BBL bill within the context of the negotiated agreements of the MILF and Government as the just solution to the Moro grievances and in pursuit of the Moro right to self-determination.

They avow they are for peace in Mindanao. Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos, whose committee steers the passage of the Senate BBL bill, said last Thursday as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 19 and 20, 2015: “We are not out to make changes in the BBL just because we like to do so.”

He explained: “We would be making changes, amendments, add, or delete provisions because in our view, that is the best way to make a more robust and effective law. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal of BBL is peace in Muslim Mindanao. And we will strive to pass the best BBL possible so that we would achieve a true and lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.” (Bold italics ours)

He was reiterating the same apology he and other key leaders of the Congress had said many times. Their wisdom and sincerity of purpose is not to be questioned. What should be is their “wisdom and sincerity of purpose” in giving little weight to, if not totally ignoring, the wisdom as well as sincerity of purpose of the MILF and Government in arriving at the solution of the Moro Problem after 17 years – four under President Aquino – of hard negotiations, fleshing out the spirit of peace in the Draft BBL.

The critical questions: What are their criteria – not just “in our view” – in determining (1) “the best BBL possible”; (2) with reference to the BBL, “a more robust and effective law”; and (3) “a true and lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao”? Without the valid and necessary criteria, how will they be able to make the BBL the best law possible, “more robust and effective” and to achieve “a true and lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao”?

Contrary References

As stated above, the Draft BBL contextualized the agreements of Government and MILF in their 17-year peace negotiation – the major agreements signed within the first four years of the Aquino administration. Hence, the references in crafting the Draft BBL are the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro of 2012; the four Annexes to the FAB with one Addendum signed in 2013 and 2014; and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the compendium of the FAB, its Annexes and other negotiation documents.

Murad is reminding the leaders of the Congress in his letter of December 29, 2014 of the CAB as the reference in amending the Draft BBL to “clearly improve it or enhance it”. In the 17 years of negotiation, Government and MILF have dissected the injustices and other grievances of the Moros and determined – through frank, tedious and contentious discussions of the Moro grievances and demands for redress – what Government can grant and what MILF will accept, compromises on the basis of “parity of esteem”.

The peace negotiation of 17 years has defined what “lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao” must be and arrived at the mutually agreed “best law” – the BBL – to achieve this peace.

On the contrary, what are the references of the Congress? As Marcos has stated, it is “in our view”. In reference to Draft BBL, “in our view” is clarified to be “according to the 1987 Constitution”.

This is the same thinking in “Filipinization”, the policy started in 1912. While originally, the policy was only for the Filipinos to be included in the U.S. Insular Government of the Philippines, it affected the Moros when the Moro Province was abolished to become the Department of Mindanao and Sulu administered by Christian Filipinos.

To the Americans, “in our view”, the Moro landholdings must be governed by land laws based on the Torrens title system; Christians from the north must be settled in Mindanao; the Moros must be under the political administration of Christian Filipinos in place of their sultanates; etc. Starting with the Commonwealth Government, the “in our view” guided Moro policies to integrate the Moros in mainstream Philippine society. Today, to the Congress, “in our view” the BBL must adhere to the letter of the 1987 Constitution.

Is It Binding?

The “in our view” is the Congress leaders’ negation of what Murad has reminded them in his December 29, 2014 letter:

1. Draft BBL, mutually agreed by Government and MILF, was drafted by the BTC with “congressional sanction through congressional resolutions” (Senate Res. No. 971 and Congress Res. No. 922, both issued in December 2012).

2. Before submitting the Draft to the Congress, the Executive Secretary and the legal team of Office of the President together with the MILF and its legal team reviewed and revised the draft to make sure “that the mutually agreed text of the BBL is within the flexibilities of the Constitution,” according to CAB as negotiated by Government and MILF peace panels.

3. MILF negotiated with the “understanding that it was negotiating with the totality of the Philippine government or ‘whole government’” believing that with the President’s “commander-in-chief powers” he is allowed “to bind the whole of government, including its different branches.”

In promising to pass their own version of the BBL, the leaders of the Congress, (1) in spite of their resolutions and glowing rhetoric, are not supporting the mandate of the BTC provided in Executive Order 120 – a support they had accepted as required in the FAB; (2) they refuse to see the flexibility of the Constitution; and, (3) they believe the President has no authority to negotiate with the rebels in the behalf of the “whole government” and to bind its branches, the Congress in particular, with his commitments.

The crucial questions, First: Are the Draft BBL as it is, its references in the CAB and the compromises and understanding under which it has been drafted (let alone the appreciation for the cooperation and concerns of international communities for lasting peace in Mindanao) binding to the Congress? Second: Is it within the prerogative of the Congress to amend and revise the Draft according to just “in our view” while completely disregarding – in effect abrogating – the CAB?

In its October 15, 2008 Decision on the petitions against the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain, the Supreme Court addressed the issues on [1] the authority of the President to negotiate with the rebels, and [2] peace negotiation and the Constitution. It appears the leaders of the Congress just talk a lot without doing their homework well.

On the “[1]”, The Court, addressing the extent of the President’s power to conduct peace negotiations, said: “That the authority of the President is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution does not mean she [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was President at the time] has no such authority.” It cited precedents quoting specific rulings to show the authority.

Then, it declared: “Similarly, the President’s power to conduct peace negotiations is implicitly included in her powers as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief. As Chief Executive, the President has the general responsibility to promote public peace, and as Commander-in-Chief she has the more specific duty to prevent and suppress rebellion.”

On the “[2]”, the Court said, “In the Philippine experience, the link between peace agreement and constitution making has been recognized by no less than the framers of the Constitution. Behind the provisions of the Constitution on autonomous regions is the framers’ intention to implement a particular peace agreement, namely, the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 between GRP and MILF …”

The Court noted only partial success in the implementation of the autonomy provisions as evident in the “on-going conflict between the Government and the MILF” and declared: “If the President is to be expected to find means for bringing this conflict to an end and to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, then she must be given leeway to explore, in the course of peace negotiations, solutions that may require changes in the Constitution for their implementation.” (Bold italics ours)

The Court acknowledged: “Being uniquely vested with the power to conduct peace negotiations with rebel groups, the President is in a singular position to know the precise nature of their grievances which, if resolved, may bring an end to hostilities.” (Bold italics ours)

The Court lengthily explained that the President’s power “to explore solutions” requiring “changes in the Constitution” is limited to recommending amendments, not unilateral amendment that will usurp the power solely vested on the Congress.

Back to the crucial questions, the answer to First is YES; to Second, NO. These, we will elucidate below.

Compromise

While talking a lot, the leaders of the Congress must also comprehend these:

First: The doctrine of separation of powers is a paradox; it separates but binds. The powers are separate like links bound in a chain. It does not mean the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary are absolutely free to act according to “in our view”.

Second: The Decision on the MOA-AD is very material to the Draft BBL. As an option for the government to pursue the GRP-MILF peace negotiation, the Courts said: “Hence, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the original.” The Arroyo government picked up the option; the Aquino government pursued it to end with Draft BBL.

Draft BBL, while not the MOA-AD renegotiated, has provisions similar and significantly dissimilar to the provisions of the MOA-AD.

Third: In continuing the peace negotiation with MILF, President Arroyo and, after her, President Aquino III had the Court assurance of the legitimacy of their authority to negotiate with the MILF and “to explore … solutions that may require changes in the Constitution” as long as these are submitted to the Congress as proposed amendments. What the Aquino government explored was the flexibility of the 1987 Constitution.

Assured that the Agreements were within the flexibility of the Constitution, the BTC did not recommend amendments to the Constitution even if authorized under EO No. 120.

Fourth: The power to negotiate peace is “uniquely vested” on the President who “is in a singular position to know the precise nature of [the rebel groups’] grievances….” Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the Congress does not conduct peace negotiation but under the binding aspect of the same doctrine, it is bound to enact into laws solutions to the peace problems as negotiated and recommended by the President.

From Ramos to Aquino III, only the President has the power to negotiate with the MILF. At the finishing stage of the Government-MILF 17-year negotiation, President Aquino III explored the establishment of the Bangsamoro to settle the Moro grievances. The terms are provided in the BBL; the Congress is bound to enact the BBL as provided in the Draft and certified by the President in agreement with the MILF.

The Congress must not revise and re-write the Draft merely based “in our view” to come up with its version of the BBL.

Fifth: The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on dispute concerning constitutionality and legality. It alone wields the power – separate but binding to the Legislative and the Executive. Since Malacañang deems the Draft BBL constitutional based on the flexibility of the Constitution and the Congress holds to the contrary according to the rigid letter of the Constitution, only the Supreme Court can resolve the dispute.

Hence, the ultimate compromise: The Congress, the President and the MILF agree on this: The BBL is enacted with minor changes in the Draft. It is submitted to the Supreme Court for judicial review pertaining to constitutionality and legality. This will determine the final BBL to be signed by the President and ratified in the plebiscite.

The BBL will be the joint acts of three separate powers – negotiated and drafted by the Executive; enacted by the Legislative; and cured of constitutional and legal infirmities by the Judiciary. This is contrary to how the President and the Congress are avoiding judicial sanction – pass a BBL that will not be questioned in the Supreme Court.

Will this ultimate compromise happen?

The House AHCBBL chairman said his committee has already deleted all the provisions that are unconstitutional. The Senate and House leaders are not only determined to make the BBL adhere to the rigid letter of the Constitution but are also imposing on the MILF more impossible conditions for the passage of the BBL.

But the MILF, while still trusting the wisdom of the Congress, is consistent in its insistence to have Draft BBL passed with minor changes and it would not accept a diluted BBL. The Moros, with the women in the forefront, are intensifying their campaign to pass the BBL. This should not be ignored.

The more the prelude is becoming ominous. Again, prelude to what! May God forbid! To the effect Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is warning.

                      [To Be Concluded: III. Disturbing Updates]

(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at patpdiazgsc@yahoo.com.)

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MIND DA NEWS| BBL: To Insure Constitutionality, Part 2 http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-bbl-to-insure-constitutionality-part-2/ http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-bbl-to-insure-constitutionality-part-2/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 02:31:53 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=5696 ]]> GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Insuring Constitutionality. The Draft BBL contains provisions that, by the letter of the 1987 Constitution, are evidently unconstitutional despite the assurance of the Office of the President that the “refined” Draft adheres to the Constitution and is acceptable to all. In the Congress, the Senate and House committees see it riddled with unconstitutionalities.

The agreements embodied in Draft BBL are assumed to be within the flexibility of Article X and related provisions of the 1987 Constitution. The OP legal team reviewed, revised and refined the draft to validate and insure the assumption. But the flexible interpretation is now conflicting with the rigid or strict reading of the letter.

Only two scenarios will happen in the Congress. First, the pro-Aquino coalition has the number to pass the BBL within the flexible interpretation of the Constitution. This will be challenged before the Supreme Court. Second, the pro-Aquino coalition disintegrates; the BBL strictly adhering to the letter of the Constitution is passed. This “watered-down” BBL may be rejected at the plebiscite. Either way, the BBL can get killed.

Retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, in his column “With Due Respect” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer of February 8, 2015, is offering two alternative solutions to insure the BBL’s constitutionality and save the peace.

His proposal: “89

To save the peace process from formidable constitutional infirmities, Congress can either (1) delete the objectionable parts from the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) or (2) amend the Constitution.”

He said, “The first is the simpler alternative which the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may continue discussing.” That’s evident. Should the MILF agree to delete the objectionable provisions of the Draft, the BBL will be unquestionably constitutional and acceptable to all.

He stated the second in his February 1 column with the promise to explain it in the next: “I think that Congress should treat the constitutionally objectionable portions of the BBL as amendments to the Constitution by passing them ‘upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members’ pursuant to Article XVII of the Constitution, and subjecting them to a plebiscite by all the voters in the country, not just in the affected areas in Mindanao.”

In his February 8 column, he explains the second — how it can be reasonably speeded up and secure the required three-fourths vote. The salient points:

[1] The stipulation:  “… Congress shall pass and the President shall approve the BBL together with the constitutionally-infirm portions, with the proviso that the law shall be effective only after the Constitution is amended. … [T]he amendments would be submitted for ratification by the people.”

[2] To speed up the approval: “I believe that Congress can hasten the process by no longer subjecting the proposed amendments to three readings and by cutting the debates to a minimum.”

[3] To insure the required “three-fourths vote”, he “would urge the members of Congress to vote for the amendments if only to give our people a chance to debate and to vote on the monumental issue of peace. Even if they may not agree with the proposed amendments, they may still vote affirmatively with the reservation that, during the national debate on the plebiscite, they could take any position on any of the proposed amendments.”

[4] Extent of the amendments: “I suggest that the amendments not just cover the MILF peace process but also define in generic terms the extent of congressional authority to grant, by law, the delicate issues of sovereignty, territory, or even self-determination.”

[5] Itemized plebiscite questions: Rather than lumping the amendments in one line of “Yes” or “No” for the entire package, “they should be chopped into separate provisions which our people could ratify or reject one by one. Only those voted by the majority would be deemed included in the BBL once it becomes effective. If our people reject all the provisions, then the BBL would never take effect.”

A Third Alternative

We propose a third alternative. If doable, it will be faster and less expensive.

The Congress passes by majority vote the BBL as it is in the certified bill or with the slightest revision. A proviso will require that upon approval by the Congress, the BBL will be submitted not to the President for his signature but to the Supreme Court for judicial review. If the MILF has submitted to the wisdom of the Congress, the more they will trust the wisdom of the Supreme Court.

The Act goes back to the Congress for the Bicameral Conference Committee to amend or delete the constitutionally questioned provisions according to the decision of the Court. This will be the “Court-refined” BBL. After it is approved by the Senate and the House it goes to the President for his approval then to the Moro people for ratification.

The Congress, in passing the constitutionally questionable provisions, does not amend the 1987 Constitution but presumes them constitutional within the flexibility or spirit and intent of the Constitution. In submitting the BBL to the Supreme Court for judicial review, the Congress is asking the Court, as the final determiner of constitutionality, to scrutinize its presumptions with the end in view of having a truly constitutional BBL.

The critical questions: Will the members of the Congress humble themselves? Will the Supreme Court accept the BBL for judicial review? (MIND DA NEWS is Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.)

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MIND DA NEWS| BBL: To Insure Constitutionality http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-bbl-to-insure-constitutionality/ http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-bbl-to-insure-constitutionality/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 01:29:01 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=5585 ]]> GENERAL SANTOS CITY – With 54 session days remaining of the second regular session of the 16th Congress, the timeline to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law is shrinking day by day while deliberations have been suspended indefinitely. For sure, it won’t be passed in 25 session days until adjournment on March 20; it will take a miracle to pass it in 29 session days, May 4 to June 11 when the Congress adjourns sine die. The Moro pass-BBL rallies, one before the Congress, mean growing impatience.

Will it be passed in the first half of the third regular session, by December 2015? If not, the BBL will wait for the 17th Congress – a most scary prospect.

Mixed Voices

From the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., chair of the Committee on Local Government that leads the BBL deliberation, said the Senate timetable to approve the BBL by March 18 “is completely demolished” because of BBL’s many controversial provisions and the Mamasapano incident. So the government and MILF must start to look for “alternative ways” of seeking peace in Mindanao. (INQUIRER.net, February 11, 2015: BBL now ‘demolished’; time to look for alternatives—Marcos)

In other reports, while Senate President Franklin Drilon has steadfastly guaranteed the passing of the BBL, two of the 13 sponsors have withdrawn. The critical stance and the ominous silence of others are enigmatic. Can the majority vote of 13 be mustered?

From the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the proposed BBL is not dead despite the suspension of the deliberations on it following the tragic Mamasapasano incident. He said he remains optimistic the chamber will be able to pass it even if not within the original March 18 deadline. (The Philippine Star, February 11, 2015: Bangsamoro Basic Law not dead – Speaker)

In other reports: Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on BBL said that while the 37th and last committee hearing of the provisions on national defense, security and public order has been suspended, the AHCBBL will continue consolidating its reports on the 36 previous hearings. But when the several groups investigating the Mamapasano incident can come out with the “whole truth”– the condition for the lifting of the suspension — makes really indefinite the holding of the 37th AHCBBL hearing.

The representatives from Muslim Mindanao are one in urging the early passage of the BBL. In contrast, the group of military and police officers turned congressmen are very critical; they and the majority Christian representatives – possibly indifferent in their silence and visibly antagonized by the Mamasapano incident – can delay the BBL enactment and imperil its approval.

Former EU ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald, chair of the Third Party Monitoring Team that assesses the implementation the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, noted with alarm the setback, due to the Mamasapano incident, of the Mindanao peace deal despite its significant progress. However, heWithout making predictions, but hoped the commitment to the peace deal of the government and MILF would prevail. (The Manila Standard Today, February 14, 2015: Peace pact took a hit, foreign monitors say)

From the Palace: Last February 10, Malacañang reiterated its call on lawmakers to pursue the Bangsamoro peace process with warning through Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma that the only alternative the peace process is widespread instability that will result in the breakdown of security and violence. (philstar.com, February 10, 2015: Palace warns lawmakers anew against junking Bangsamoro peace talks)

Troubling Signs

Two congressmen agree with Speaker Belmonte (The Philippine Star, February 14, 2015: House: BBL can still be passed under P-Noy’s watch). However, they revealed signs of troubles that lie ahead. Another assured the passing of a watered-down BBL.

Rep. Celso Lobregat: On the premise that the BBL “… will indeed bring peace and development to Mindanao, then we should approve it, but not in the form it was presented to us.” But doubting its approval by June, “… we can try to pass it toward the latter part of the year or next year before the end of the President’s term.”

Rep. Rodolfo Albano III: “There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us. We all want to ferret out the truth behind the Mamasapano massacre of 44 of our policemen and in the process provide justice to them, and to be able to finesse the BBL into an acceptable, constitutionally compliant peace agreement.”

Rep. Rodolfo Biazon: “I assure everyone, the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down because we need to satisfy two issues: One, the constitutionality issue, and two, reconciling the different interests of different groups.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 10, 2015: Biazon: Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down)

Biazon has stated the two main reasons why, as predicted by the Senate and House leaders, the BBL would be disapproved if put into a vote today. While it’s difficult, it might be easier to insure constitutionality than making the BBL acceptable to all.

Conflicting Group Interests

Conflicting group interests emanate from (1) the fear of diverse groups of losing their rights under existing laws or of these rights being diminished; and, (2) the unacceptable and revolting perception that the Moros will become more privileged than other groups. Reconciling the different interests is in reality easier than imagined.

Of the “(1)”, the BBL has provisions guaranteeing rights. Why not just wait and see how the guarantees are going to work. If the guarantees turn out unsatisfactorily, the Congress can reconcile the pertinent laws and the BBL provisions through amendments.

Of the “(2)”, there is a need to re-examine biases and prejudices to understand the many historical political, social and economic realities that have bred the injustices at the root of the Moro problem and rebellions. The challenge to the Christian majority in and out of the Congress is to sacrifice their biases and prejudices to correct the injustices done to the Moros in the past centuries. TO BE CONTINUED

(Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.)

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MIND DA NEWS| Aquino Speech 2: Posers http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-aquino-speech-2-posers/ http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-aquino-speech-2-posers/#comments Sat, 14 Feb 2015 01:43:43 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=5287 ]]> GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews) – President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s address to the nation last January 28 was an apology; the second one last February 6 was an assurance. In both, the President intended to dissipate a gathering storm, calm a threatening crisis in the aftermath of the well-planned Mamasapano police operation gone awry. Let’s join him.

But as he sought to dissipate the gathering storm and calm a threatening crisis, his second address raised some posers that if not well understood can worsen the storm and the crisis. His assurances have been met with dissatisfaction – not just from his critics but most notably from the angry he had sought to pacify – according to media reports.

His Principal Messages

While addressing the nation, the President was obviously speaking in particular to the Philippine National Police and the relatives of the 44 members of Special Action Forces who died in the Mamasapano operation. In brief, his messages were:

First: Our policemen and soldiers make the greatest sacrifice when fighting “those who wish for continued violence and discord” in “our desire for lasting peace and security”.  This the SAF commandos did in the covert operation in Mamasapano against the Malaysian international terrorist Zulkipli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Moro terrorist Abdulbasit Usman. Marwan was killed but the “triumph” was at the “heavy” price of 44 commandos killed.

His assurances: (1) Re- his responsibility: “As President and Commander-in-Chief, I am fully responsible for any result—any triumph, any suffering, and any tragedy—that may result from our desire for lasting peace and security.”

(2) To the widows and relatives of the 44 commandos: “Just as I was responsible for your loved ones, so too am I responsible for you; it is my duty to ensure that the sacrifices made by your relatives are repaid. My promise to you remains unchanged: During my remaining 17 months in office, I am doing, and will continue to do, everything I can to guarantee your families’ well-being.”

Second: Considering the risks and recalling the many failed operations the police and military had previously launched against Marwan, he assured: “When it comes to the operations reported to us, we have always reviewed them to learn the lessons they may carry, especially when our troops are slain.”

Reflecting on the Mamasapano debacle: “This is why I continue to ask: Was there anything more that could have been done to avoid this tragedy?”

Third: From his “own investigations” and his “own interviews of those who participated in this operation”, this fact “clearly emerged that: The situation our troops found on the ground was vastly different from what was expected under the plans.”

Fourth: He fully laid the blame on the SAF chief, Police Director Getulio Napeñas. “As commander, he had full knowledge of the entire plan, together with the dangers that came with it; he would be the first to know if the plan was being executed correctly. He should have known what was happening at every moment.” From “what had transpired”, he said, Napeñas could have decided when “the mission could have been aborted or postponed, or when the plan could have been dramatically changed”.

Fifth: He announced the resignation of the suspended Police Director General Alan Purisima. Acknowledging the vital role Purisima had played in the efforts to capture Marwan and Usman and recounting his long personal association with Purisima, he said it was painful for him to accept Purisima’s resignation.

.Sixth: Obviously, parrying the call for his resignation from some sectors especially the left, he assured: “I fulfill, and I will continue to fulfill, my duties as President. The morale of our Special Action Force troops needs to be raised. Their status as a fully operational unit needs to be restored.” He assured, too: “As there are those who seek to drive a wedge between the AFP and PNP, we will make sure they do not succeed; we should not waste the good working relationship between the AFP and PNP.”

Seventh: He sent a strong message to the members and leadership of the MILF:

“From the onset, I have considered you brothers on the path to peace. Until now, I am confident that you will help us in seeking justice; that those who have done wrong should be held to account, especially if it is confirmed that there were SAF troopers who were executed despite being wounded and defenseless. Your efforts to limit the movement of the BIFF are a good first step.

“Now about Usman, let me point out the following: If he remains within your territory, or is protected by one of your members, we expect you to surrender him to the authorities. If not, we expect you to do everything you can to help capture him. And if even this is not possible, do not interfere with our pursuit of Usman.

“May this serve as a warning and a reminder: We will get Usman, whatever you decide, regardless of who provides a safe haven for him, regardless of where he may be hiding. Let no one doubt: We are partners in pursuing peace and justice. To those who have lost their way, who would still stand in our way, remember this:  You are fighting the State, and we will run you over.”

Eighth: His assurance: “To all those working with us towards peace: We are fully committed to continuing the fight.” And warning: “And I say to those opposed to our objective, especially those who resort to violence: Mark my words, you will feel the sharpened and strengthened might of a unified Filipino nation.”

Poser 1

He stated: “Like you, I want to know the whole truth behind this incident.” What does he mean? In “Third” above, he said he had clearly seen the main cause of the debacle and, in “Fourth”, he fully blamed Napeñas for this. Corollary to the “Fourth”, why did he accept Purisima’s resignation if Napeñas was fully responsible (“Fifth”)?

What did he clearly see? “While studying what had transpired”, he saw (1) “the situation on the ground was so different from what had been envisioned in the plan”; (2) “no coordination had taken place regarding expected assistance” from the military; (3) “the Armed Forces could render little aid, if at all, because they were not given sufficient time to prepare”.

Poser 2

What more truth does he want to know? He said, “I have complete confidence that the truth will be uncovered through the comprehensive and unbiased investigation of the Board of Inquiry. We are awaiting its results.”

His assurance: “We are doing everything to uncover the truth. The report that will emerge from this investigation will provide invaluable lessons, to ensure such a tragedy will never happen again. There will be changes.”

Will the Board of Inquiry, composed of PNP top brass, sacrifice the good PNP image to the whole truth? Why did he not form a commission like the Agrava Commission to do the “comprehensive and unbiased investigation”?

Poser 3

He expects Napeñas to explain to the BOI (1) why “there was no coordination”, (2) why the mission continued “when it had deviated so far from the original plan, and our troops were already in grave danger”, and (3) the many other questions that plague his mind.

The last mission update to the President on the Mamasapano covert operation was at Malacañang on January 9, 2015. With Purisima briefing the President were Napeñas and Police Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez. Purisima was already under suspension. Did he question the absence of PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, a break – hence, lack of coordination — in the PNP chain of command? Why did he tolerate Purisima’s usurpation of Espina’s authority? He was told the AFP would be informed at the start of the operation. Did he question this improper coordination?

Yet, in “Second” above, he said: “When it comes to the operations reported to us, we have always reviewed them to learn the lessons they may carry, especially when our troops are slain.” Did he do this after the January 9 briefing until the deployment of the SAF forces starting January 22?

In wanting to know the truth now, does he already know the truth but is afraid to face it?

Why did he state in “First” above, “I am fully responsible for any result” yet he fully blamed Napeñas?

Poser 4

What is the full import of the President’s message to the MILF, actually the content of his letter to the MILF Chairman?

This warning is serious: “Let no one doubt: We are partners in pursuing peace and justice. To those who have lost their way, who would still stand in our way, remember this:  You are fighting the State, and we will run you over.”

It is repeated in “Eight” above: “And I say to those opposed to our objective, especially those who resort to violence: Mark my words, you will feel the sharpened and strengthened might of a unified Filipino nation.”

The MILF has remained silent except when  in response to (1) the demand to surrender Usman: Chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told the media, “We cannot surrender what we don’t have;” (2) the demand for justice for the 44 slain commandos: the MILF will act according to the Government-MILF Agreement; and (3) the invitation of the Senate to its committee hearings: “We are still a revolutionary organization until the Agreement is implemented” – meaning, the BBL is passed and the Bangsamoro established.

In fine, assurances laden with posers are less reassuring. Is a surprise that, as reported by media, the widows and other relatives of the 44 slain commandos as well as many in the PNP rank and file were not happy?

(Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.)

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MIND DA NEWS| BBL Cast in Limbo http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-bbl-cast-in-limbo/ http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-bbl-cast-in-limbo/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 02:13:11 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=5143 ]]> GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews) – The urgent Mindanao peace measure, the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill (HB 4994, SB 2804), is not doomed; but House Ad Hoc Committee on BBL (AHCBBL) has cast it in limbo when its chair Rep. Rufus Rodriguez announced the indefinite suspension of its hearings on the remaining contentious issues. The House has targeted the end of March to pass HB 4994.

As reported in The Philippine Star (February 9, 2015: House suspends BBL hearings indefinitely) and the Philippine Daily Inquirer (February 9, 2015: House suspends BBL hearings) the hearings and deliberations will resume after the Congress has the full truth about “Operation Exodus” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25 and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has satisfactorily proven its sincerity in negotiating peace with the government.

Rodriguez said in the Star report: “We cannot meet our self-imposed deadline of endorsing our version of the BBL this month and having it passed by the House before our Lenten break next month because of this unfortunate incident in Mamasapano” – referring to the encounter between the Philippine National Police commandos and the Moro rebels last Janary25 that left 44 commandos, 18 MILF and four civilians dead.

In the Inquirer report, the hearings will be suspended “until the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) surrenders Filipino terrorist Basit Usman and its members who participated in the massacre of Special Action Force (SAF) commandos on January 25”.

The conditions to lift the indefinite suspension of the hearings cast the BBL in limbo:

First: The AHCBBL will determine the full truth about “Operation Exodus” debacle from (1) the reports of the Philippine National Police and of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; (2) the investigation of the Department of Justice to file charges against those responsible for the death of the 44 policemen; and, (3) the probes being conducted by the House and the Senate.

The PNP and AFP chiefs have already submitted their reports. The “(2)” and “(3)” having just started, they can really make the suspensions of the hearings “indefinite” gauging from how long congressional and DOJ investigations can drag on.

Second: Satisfactory proofs by the MILF of its sincerity in negotiating peace with the government can be “an exercise in futility”. (1) MILF explanations will be drowned in inveterate anti-Moro bias and prejudice. (2) MILF reports regarding the “misencounter” will have the “Chinaman’s chance” of prevailing against the PNP and AFP reports. (3) To expect the MILF to surrender Filipino terrorist Basit Usman and its members who participated in the killing of the SAF commandos is “barking at the moon”.

Both the “first” and “second” conditions are crucial in determining the position of the lawmakers on issues critical to the formation of the Bangsamoro police, military, defense and control of the interior secretary still pending for public hearings. These issues seen against the MILF involvement in Mamasapano, we believe, will, not just, “likely … come up in the joint hearing of House committees on public order and safety, peace, unification and reconciliation and on national defense”.

While the AHCBB has been holding closed-door sessions for the past two weeks, writing the House version after conducting 36 public hearings and consultations in Mindanao and other parts of the country, the indefinite suspension will indefinitely delay the passage of the bill. Rodriguez doubts “if we can finish our work in the committee before our annual mandatory adjournment in June. We are no longer following any deadline or timetable.”

Irony The wisdom and cautiousness of Congress must be respected. But the importance of the BBL and the Bangsamoro should be weighed against the satisfaction of the outrage the Mamasapano debacle has regrettably roused. Ironically, to cast the first in limbo is to invigorate the roots of the second – satisfying the outrage of the present is sowing more for the future.

Let’s glance back at the beginning of the Moro grievances since 1900. The Moros lost their sovereignty over Mindanao and Sulu and suffered injustices under the dominant Christian Filipinos tolerated by the Americans whom the Moros were trusting. These and the Moro struggle for freedom and justice were documented in the 1921 Sulu Petition, the 1924 Zamboanga Declaration, the 1934 Dansalan Petitions to address the grievances, and the 1935 Dansalan Declaration in response to the denial of the “Petition”.

The Manila policies and programs that perpetuated the injustices continued fueling the grievances since the establishment of the Republic in 1946. The efforts of the government to establish Autonomy for the Muslims under the Moro National Liberation Front starting from 1976 (President Ferdinand E. Marcos) to 1996 (President Corazon C. Aquino with President Fidel V. Ramos) were perceived insincere. Moro extremism in the forms of terrorism and kidnapping for ransom worsened the peace problem in Muslim Mindanao.

The 17-year negotiation with the MILF from 1997 (last two years of President Ramos) to 2014 (President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III) spanning four administrations yielded the most hopeful solution to the Moro Problem – the establishment of the Bangsamoro in which the Central Government (Christian Filipinos) will share sovereignty for the Moros to determine the Bangsamoro political, economic and social co-existence with the rest of the country in peace and justice.

The assumption in the Government-MILF agreement embodied in the BBL to establish the Bangsamoro is that once the Moro extremists would see that the Moro autonomy is right, they would abandon their arms and join the Bangsamoro in peace – thus, ending the futile efforts of the government to end Moro rebellions since Kamlon in the 1950s. The assumption is correct if pursued with sincerity.

The MILF have shown their utmost sincerity and cooperation. They sat down with the Office of the President to “refine” the BBL draft. They have commended the BBL to the wisdom of the Congress notwithstanding their desire for the Draft to have the slightest revision during the legislative process.

Yet, the MILF sincerity in negotiating peace with the government is now being questioned in the wake of the Mamasapano debacle. That is the focus of the outrage and of the AHCBBL’s indefinite suspension of the final hearings on the BBL. But on sober thought should it not be the sincerity of the government that should be questioned?

The prevention of armed encounters between the military and police on one hand and the MILF on the other is covered by the May 6, 2002 AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) Communique. Any military or police operation against criminal elements in MILF controlled areas must be coordinated with the MILF. The 6th Infantry Division that has jurisdiction over the six Lanao and Cotabato provinces has officially acknowledged the many successful military operations in coordination with the MILF.

In fact, some of the recent military operations were against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) whose areas of operation inter-lap with the MILF controlled areas – being a splinter group of the MILF. Marwan was with the BIFF in Mamasapano close to the MILF 105th and 108th Base Commands. The PNP-SAF chief said they did not trust the MILF – hence, the non-coordination. So the debacle! Who is insincere?

How long the BBL will remain in limbo and whether the BBL, if eventually passed, will establish the Bangsamoro which is the “right autonomy” as promised to and accepted by the Moros according to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro will depend on whether the legislators will be or not be satisfied with the MILF sincerity.

The Congress will make the historical difference. The BBL is the bird in its hand. Let it live as it should and the Mamasapano debacle will be the last; kill or maim it and more will happen to no end.

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.]

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COMMENT| Marwan Dead at Pyrrhic Cost http://mindanaotimes.net/comment-marwan-dead-at-pyrrhic-cost/ http://mindanaotimes.net/comment-marwan-dead-at-pyrrhic-cost/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 02:39:45 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=4816 ]]> GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews)– The question now is no longer “Is Marwan (alias of Jemaah Islamiyah bomb-terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir) dead?” His death has been confirmed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation through DNA testing at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. (INQUIRER.net, February 5, 2015: DNA test on Marwan done in US—FBI)

He was reported killed in his hut in Pidsandawan, Mamasapano, Maguindanao by the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) commando at about 4 o’clock dawn last January 25. A portion of the corpse’s right index finger was sent to the FBI for DNA testing to confirm it was really Marwan the SAF had killed. The DNA matched with that of Marwan’s brother, Rahmat Abdhir, 51, held as prisoner 10743-111 at the Lompoc low security federal correctional institution in Santa Barbara, California, USA.

Unless Marwan surfaces somewhere to disprove the FBI finding, this is conclusive: Marwan is dead – and most significantly – at Pyrrhic cost. In his February 6, 2015 address to the nation, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III said, “The operation against Marwan was successful” but “…we paid a heavy price.”

Referred to in the historical allusion of “pyrrhic” are the direct and collateral costs in getting one wanted person — including the stake in the final solution of the Mindanao, better known as Moro, problem.

Decoy Info Dead, Too

That rendered dead, too, info decoy reports from two sources to muddle the government report about Marwan’s fall – one from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF-Misuari) and the other from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

That from the MNLF through its spokesman lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla said: “As far as the MNLF is concerned, Marwan is alive (The Philippine Star, February 2, 2015: Marwan alive, MNLF insists).” The report, though, was incoherent. At one point, “Marwan was in Lanao del Sur during the raid at his hut”; in two others, “an MNLF commander saw him at the BIFF camp” and “he was able to escape by pumpboat”.

That from BIFF (Inquirer Mindanao, February 2, 2015: BIFF: We don’t have Usman), from spokesman Abu Misri Mama, denied Marwan’s presence in Maguindanao and, cavalierly, his existence, saying: “Marwan is only a creation of the government and the [United States] to justify their intrusion into Moro areas.”

Both the MNLF and BIFF spokesmen said the photo showing Marwan dead was only manufactured – “photoshopped”. Will they challenge the FBI finding? Fontanilla had challenged the government to get a DNA report from an independent body to prove that Zulkifli was indeed the man slain during the raid.

Direct Pyrrhic Costs

Logistics: Even if true as reported (Inquirer Mindanao, February 5, 2015: US funded SAF operations to get Marwan—source), that the Mamasapano operation was “fully funded by the US”, the report did not mitigate the cost. Equipping and training 392 commandos since 2010 for the dirty job until deployment for the January 25 operations must have cost millions in dollars – in billions of pesos plus the post-operation costs.

Lives: A total of 66 lives, not including Marwan’s, were lost – 44 SAF, 18 MILF and four civilians. The SAF casualties were nine of the 42 members of the 84th SAF Company dispatched to Pidsandawan to get Marwan and 35 of the 36 members of the 55th deployed in Tukanalipao – the lone survivor PO3 Robert Lalang.

Just a Note: In media reports and official statements, only the 44 SAF commandos are considered casualties.  Is that correct and fair?

Collateral Pyrrhic Costs

Demoralization: Morale in the rank and file of the PNP sank low. Not only the death of the 44 commandos but the feeling that they had been abandoned and that the President, the commander-in-chief, was insincere in his condolence dealt the blow. This may pass away soon. But still it’s too high a price in exchange for an international bomb-terrorist with no guarantee the bombings would stop. His trained bomb makers – hundreds, at least – are still there to carry on the terrorism.

Breach in chain of command: No matter how the PNP Command and the Palace would explain that “professionalism” on the top is intact the breach in the chain of command had been admitted. The SAF commander, Police Director Getulio Napeñas, by-passed his immediate superior, OIC Director General Leonardo Espina; he briefed the President but not DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas III who has direct supervision over the PNP. He directly reported and took orders from suspended PNP Director General Alan Purisima.

This had led to the “lack of coordination” – the major cause of the Mamapasano pyrrhic operation. It’s hard to understand. And it’s hard to admit the indicators that, the series of “Oplans” to get Marwan being the US baby, the SAF was harnessed by the US military for the task starting 2010 with Purisima and Napeñas – hence, the “by-passing”. Two reports – “Inquirer Mindanao, February 5, 2015: US funded SAF operations to get Marwan — source” and “Philipine Daily Inquirer, February 5, 2015: Marwan is dead, DNA test done in Singapore” – are most revealing.

In the first report, the “source” must be one of the survivors of SAF 84th and 55th. Besides his vivid narration of the training in the US facility in Zamboanga City since 2010, he revealed this about the January 25 Mamasapano operation:

A total of 392 SAF commandos were sent to Maguindanao as early as January 22; 42 members of the 84th were assigned to get Marwan and 36 of the 55th to serve as blocking force. The remaining 314 were to serve as reinforcement.

The 55th pleaded for reinforcement from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.; the pleas were monitored by the Americans, but they did not do anything. The Americans, whose main interest was the tissue sample of Marwan, were focused on the 84th and used a drone to track down its exact location. This explained why only a few were killed from the 84th but the 55th lost all except one, PO3 Robert Lalang. He is the “Robert”, the lone survivor, reported by ABS-CBN News on January 29.

He expressed resentment. “We can’t take this anymore. I hope my colleagues would get the justice they deserve.” His reference to “my colleagues” elicits the question: Is PO3 Lalang the “source”?

The second report featured in the end part Senior Insp. Recaredo Marasigan, “a member of the team”, obviously, of the 84th. He said the 392 SAF officers and men all volunteered for the highly covert operation. An intelligence researcher and analyst, he received and prepared all the intelligence information from the field.

He revealed the intricate intelligence gathering: information about the combined MILF and BIFF forces — the names of every commander, where they were and the number of forces totaling 1,009 all in all; the river channels, the number of houses in the area — four where Marwan was hiding plus 12 others within the 500-meter-to-1-kilometer radius of the targeted hut; the people, the terrain — aerial shots showing three river channels in the targeted area. DPAs (deep penetration agents) and drones must have been used.

Only that much he would reveal: “It is not within my authority to talk about who gave the orders” while admitting “this … mission … was an order from the top” and stressing “what the public needs to know is that we were all volunteers.”

If the orders came from the top PNP Command and the President, why could he not reveal it? Why were they just “volunteers”? The SAF is a regular branch of the PNP organized under President Fidel V. Ramos for special missions composed of regular enlisted men and officers, not volunteers.

The two reports provide clues to the puzzle of breach in chain of command involving especially Napeñas and Purisima and may also explain why the agreement to coordinate with the MILF was ignored.

Crisis: In the aftermath of the pyrrhic January 25 “Oplan Wolverine”, the outrage and chaos will not go away despite the all-is-well assurances from the PNP Command and the Palace. These — What really happened? Who was responsible? The MILF or Moros have to prove their sincerity. – continue nagging. There’s a demand for the President to resign; there’s a rumor of a coup de etát in the offing. The President had to address the nation for the second time in eight days last February 6 to ease the crisis.

Enigmatic Pyrrhic Cost

The loss of lives, the logistics in billions of pesos, and the threatening crisis arising were the heavy price paid for the “triumph” in killing Marwan. The crisis – hopefully, it will dissipate and vanish soon – the President addressed forthright in his speech last Thursday, February 6.

The President announced the resignation of suspended PNP Director General Alan Purisima; unequivocally blamed the SAF chief, Police Director Getulio Napeña (now suspended), for the lives lost; expressed amends to raise the sagging morale in the PNP rank and file and to assuage the grief of the widows and relatives of the 44 slain commandos; and, sent a strong message to the MILF demanding justice due for the part their fighters had in the “over-kill” and cooperation in getting Abdulbasit Usman.

But how the Mamapasano “fever” will affect the final solution to the Mindanao or Moro problem is enigmatic. Two posers stand in the way — (1) how the MILF can convince the members of the Congress of their sincerity in negotiating peace with the government; and, (2) how the MILF can keep their power, when the Bangsamoro is eventually set up,  to persuade diverse groups to abandon their arms and terrorism. What the MILF will do to satisfy the first poser tends to undermine the conditions vital to the second.

Ever since 1900, the thinking has been: Muslim Mindanao must conform to Christian Luzon and the Visayas. This spawned the so-called Moro Problem. This thinking has been radicalized with the Moro demand for autonomy: Muslim autonomy must be what the Christian Luzon and the Visayas think of autonomy according to the Constitution. This is at the root of Moro extremism like the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf.

Under the influence of the Mamasapano “fever”, the Congress may pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law – it might not at all – that will establish the Bangsamoro less autonomous than that promised to the Moros during the year-long or longer information campaign on the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement before the drafting of the BBL. Such Bangsamoro will harden Moro extremism and antagonize more the likes of BIIF and Abu Sayyaf. That will handcuff the MILF and the Bangsamoro government to forge unity and peace.

Obviously, as seen in the statements of some legislators and in the letter of the President to the MILF, the “show of sincerity” demanded of the MILF means taking a hard line against the BIFF – as an ally of the government. Should the MILF do this to the BIFF, as it has already done in Pikit, North Cotabato (Inquirer Mindanao, February 6, 2015: MILF vs BIFF fight erupts, Action seen as bid to save peace process), the extremists will turn MILF enemies, not estranged brothers willing to reconcile if the autonomy is right.

The establishment of the Bangsamoro that is truly autonomous – call it by any other term: substate, ministerial, asymmetrical – is the strongest gambit to lead Moro extremists back to a life of peace instead of defying the national police and the military even with the help of the American forces. Should the Mamasapano “fever” further close the already narrow minds of most members of the Congress and frustrate this gambit, the final solution to the century-old Moro Problem will be the most pyrrhic price of Marwan’s death

(Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.)

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COMMENT| BBL Innocent Victim? http://mindanaotimes.net/comment-bbl-innocent-victim/ http://mindanaotimes.net/comment-bbl-innocent-victim/#comments Sat, 07 Feb 2015 01:49:32 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=4609 ]]> GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews) – The 12-hour encounter, more or less, between the Moro rebels and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao from 2:30 a.m. (4:00 and 4:30 a.m. in another report) to dusk on January 25 was regrettable and unfortunate. The 44 SAF members killed (64 in an MILF report) were the tragic victims; the Bangsamoro Basic Law, an urgent bill pending in the Congress, can become the innocent victim.

A contingent of 392 PNP-SAF commandos was dispatched to Mamasapano to capture dead or alive the Malaysian bomb-terrorist Zulkipli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Moro terrorist Abdulbasit Usman. After a small team had allegedly surprised and killed Marwan in his hut in Pidsandawan at around 4 a.m., it withdrew toward Tukanalipao where a blocking force had been deployed. It was in Tukanalipao where the 44 members of the blocking force were slain.

The outrage from the Mamasapano fiasco has entangled the BBL by stoking the anti-Moro prejudice, rousing the hibernating Christian distrust for the Moro, and revving up the fanatical opposition to the peaceful solution of the Moro Problem. The BBL, the fruit of the 17-year negotiation between Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which will establish the Bangsamoro has nothing to do with the Mamasapano fiasco. Yet, it is being held hostage to compel the MILF leaders to admit guilt and make amends.

BBL Entanglement

Where are reason, fairness and truth in implicating the BBL and Bangsamoro? How the BBL is being entangled – held at gun-point, maligned – is outrageous. That’s bearing false witness against one’s neighbor.

It is being argued that the Mamasapano massacre showed the insincerity of the MILF in negotiating peace with the government. It is being asked why, if there is an existing peace agreement, the MILF attacked the SAF commandos who, being on legitimate mission, they were supposed to support. They, the MILF, betrayed the government.

The attack against the SAF commandos showed the Moro hostility to non-Moros in their controlled areas. Once the Bangsamoro is established, the Moros will restrict the entry of the non-Moro elements in their region.

The MILF must show their sincerity. They must surrender their commanders and fighters who killed the SAF commandos. They must return all the guns, other battle gears, shoes and other personal belongings stripped from the 44 dead SAF commandos. The BBL bill must be reviewed or better still if scuttled.

It must be asked: Why blame the MILF for the Mamasapano fiasco? Does the BBL embody the alleged MILF insincerity? Will the Bangsamoro be hostile to non-Moros?

Deliberate Evasion

Who is responsible for the Mamasapano debacle? Where must the buck stop?

Among the voluminous media reports since January 26 and still going on are the facts that deliberate evasions doomed the SAF operation to get Marwan and Usman. (Read in particular: Philippine Daily Inquirer reports of January 29, 2015: SAF chief: I am responsible; February 1: SAF chief: My men still alive at noon but no reinforcements came (1) and Army, MILF harmony turns fragile (2); February 2: ‘Don’t blame the military’, AFP to submit report finding SAF leader at fault; MindaNews, February 2, 2015: In pursuit of Marwan, deaths in the marshland; and, The Philippine Star, February 3, 2015: AFP ends inquiry, clears itself on SAF deaths).

The facts: (1) Police Director Getulio Napeñas, the SAF chief, by-passed his immediate superiors in command; (2) the military had been kept in the dark until the operation had been launched and the SAF forces, pinned down, desperately needed support; and, (3) there was no coordination with the MILF. When Napeñas admitted, “I am responsible”, he meant that the buck should stop with him.

Napeñas told Arlyn de la Cruz, Inquirer correspondent at large (PDI 2/1.1 above) that “his not coordinating the operation with his superiors ­– Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the PNP officer in charge, and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas – delayed the arrival of reinforcements, which cost the lives of his men”. He said “he just followed orders” without revealing whose orders he followed.

Reports point to suspended PNP Director Alan Purisima as the one who gave the go-signal. There are insinuations the President did. The plan to get Arwan was hatched in 2010 with Purisima in the lead role. The President in his televised address to the nation last January 28 said he had been continuously briefed about the plan. In another report, it was said he clarified that Purisima’s involvement ended on the day he was suspended by the Ombudsman.

Did Napeñas mean that because he did not coordinate with his superiors they, in turn, did not coordinate with the military? In the reports, it was the military reinforcements that arrived too late.

Had air, artillery and troop support started coming at 6 a.m. when the beleaguered SAF forces in Tukanalipao began calling, the blocking force could not have been wiped out by the MILF fighters. But the most fatal mistake was the non-coordination with the MILF according to the ceasefire agreement. Had there been coordination between the PNP-SAF and the MILF the Tukanalipao close fight – by the book, a “misencounter” – could not have happened.

The coordination between the AFP/PNP and the MILF through the AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) is spelled out in a Joint Communique signed on May 6, 2002. Armed encounters – okay, “misencounters” – between the military and MILF forces had always been due to “lack of coordination”.

In his article (PDI: 2/1.2 above) Karlos Manlupig cited the Army 6th Infantry Division’s spokesperson, Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, as confirming the effectiveness of the military and MILF coordination through the AHJAG. Among the many instances – from security to military operations – she mentioned seven from 2012, the latest of which was the fall of the main camp of the BIFF 2nd Division in SK Pendatun, Maguindanao, town just across Liguasan Marsh from Mamasapano.

In her report (PDI: 2/2 above), Cynthia D. Balana cited a military source who said that had the mission been coordinated with the military, the outcome would have been different because the military has many contacts in the MILF and that there had been no encounter between the Army and the MILF since 2010, “which means the MILF is faithful to the peace agreement”.

Yet, the MILF is insincere in negotiating peace; the BBL is maligned.

Inevitable Consequences

The Mamasapano mission or “Oplan Wolverine” was doomed right on the starting block. Secrecy without the necessary coordination proved suicidal. No amount of owning the responsibility, of finger-pointing, of passing the buck, of washing hands and of eulogies and honor awards could hide the betrayal of the 44 fallen SAF commandos by their superiors and others in the chain of command. As in classical tragedies, the tragic plot was irreversible.

To sum up the inevitable:

Unfamiliar with the terrain, the 80 (73 in the military report) commandos who went in were trapped. Did unfamiliarity explain why the rest of the 392-force did not enter to the rescue? In its investigative report, the military could only wonder.

The 6th ID had support and reinforcement ready by 9 a.m. But the lack of proper communications tied down the military. They could not launch artillery or air support without the precise coordinates; the troops did not have the exact location of the pinned down commandos. The military finally located the commandos to recover their corpses.

The AHJAG members were in Iligan City when contacted. They arrived at the scene together with the IMT (International Monitoring Group) at around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. Only then was a ceasefire ordered – too late for the SAF blocking force trapped in the cornfield. Yet, firing did not cease.

The SAF supreme commanders could only blame themselves. And, of course blame the MILF jointly with the outraged of the government and the public through the media.

The widows of the slain are now crying for justice.

Understanding Mamasapano

Among the few open-minded, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte commented on the Mamasapano incident in simple clear common sense (Luwaran, February 1, 2015: Government violated peace deal: Mayor Duterte). He said:

He, as part of the government, used the “tayo” or “we” point of view. “Pumasok ang SAF sa isang territory ng MILF, which in the first place, hindi tayo dapat pumasok. How can you correct that? Ikaw ay pumasok sa bahay ng isang tao, hindi ka naman imbitado. This is covered by a document signed by the Republic of the Philippines.”

Understanding the MILF view: “Sasabihin nila, kayo ang pumasok dito, kayo ang naghahanap ng away. May kasulatan tayo na hindi kami papasok dyan at huwag kayo papasok dito until after the peace process has been completed and there is a formula for peace already.”

In a nutshell: Despite their agreement to mutually respect each other’s home, the government entered the MILF house looking for a fight. So, fight it got.

While understanding the MILF, Duterte also blamed it together with the government. But instead of maligning the BBL and joining the voices to abort it, he urged that it be passed expeditiously. Meantime Government and MILF must “sort out things” and in response to the cry for justice, let justice fall on whom it should.

The Burden on the Congress

Members of the Senate and the House of Representative immediately responded with anger. They questioned the sincerity of the MILF in negotiating peace with the government and the wisdom of creating the Bangsamoro. The final hearings of the BBL in both Houses were partially suspended.

In the latest reports, the final hearings will remain suspended until the AFP and the PNP can submit their investigation reports. Monday, February 9, is the new deadline. These will weigh heavily on the fate of the BBL.

Ad Hoc Committee on BBL Chair Rufus Rodriguez said, “The report is crucial to help members make a decision on the BBL. Without the facts, we cannot move forward. There is a strong feeling among members for justice and more sincerity on the part of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) to cooperate and return the firearms they took away from our SAF.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 2, 2015: Lawmakers want full report on massacre by Monday) (Bold italics ours)

The legislators, we believe, will ascertain from the military and police reports the culpability of the MILF to bolster, rather than change, their present thinking based on media reports. The BBL should be deliberated according the wordings and construction of its provisions. Why tie it to their perceptions of the sincerity of the MILF based on the Mamapasano incident that, in the first place, was launched without coordinating with the MILF according the long-existing, trustworthy agreement? It doesn’t augur well!

The Senate and House leaderships have given the assurance that support for the BBL has not changed and it will be passed as recently schedule – the House, by the end of March. How binding is the assurance to the individual senators and representatives? How the Mamapasano fever has influenced their judgment, especially the uncommitted, will be seen during the plenary debates and the voting. In the Senate, two have withdrawn their sponsorship of SB 2804. Statements to the press of some others were not reassuring.

Even without Mamapasano, the BBL is being saddled with constitutional issues. After the final hearing of her committee on constitutional amendments, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, “The BBL cannot be passed as a mere piece of legislation at the Senate. It has to be done by revision or amendments” of the Constitution to pave way for the creation of a Bangsamoro government.

Under this circumstance, the BBL will be passed by a two-third vote of all members of each House of the Congress, not by a simple majority of the quorum; and, it will be ratified in a national plebiscite, not just by the Bangsamoro constituent core areas. If this happens, the BBL will have to leap over very high hurdles. However, if the leaderships can have the BBL passed by simple majority, the questions of constitutionality and plebiscite may be elevated to the Supreme Court. Hope remains alive.

But if the vote count will show that BBL is brought down in either or both the Senate and the House by the Mamapasano fever, it will be the innocent victim of the misadventure of the PNP-SAP and no hope can be expected from the Supreme Court. The aftermath will be enigmatic.

(Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.)

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MINDA DA NEWS| BBL Innocent Victim? http://mindanaotimes.net/minda-da-news-bbl-innocent-victim/ http://mindanaotimes.net/minda-da-news-bbl-innocent-victim/#comments Fri, 06 Feb 2015 09:09:15 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=4558 ]]> GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews) – The 12-hour encounter, more or less, between the Moro rebels and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao from 2:30 a.m. (4:00 and 4:30 a.m. in another report) to dusk on January 25 was regrettable and unfortunate. The 44 SAF members killed (64 in an MILF report) were the tragic victims; the Bangsamoro Basic Law, an urgent bill pending in the Congress, can become the innocent victim.

A contingent of 392 PNP-SAF commandos was dispatched to Mamasapano to capture dead or alive the Malaysian bomb-terrorist Zulkipli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Moro terrorist Abdulbasit Usman. After a small team had allegedly surprised and killed Marwan in his hut in Pidsandawan at around 4 a.m., it withdrew toward Tukanalipao where a blocking force had been deployed. It was in Tukanalipao where the 44 members of the blocking force were slain.

The outrage from the Mamasapano fiasco has entangled the BBL by stoking the anti-Moro prejudice, rousing the hibernating Christian distrust for the Moro, and revving up the fanatical opposition to the peaceful solution of the Moro Problem. The BBL, the fruit of the 17-year negotiation between Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which will establish the Bangsamoro has nothing to do with the Mamasapano fiasco. Yet, it is being held hostage to compel the MILF leaders to admit guilt and make amends.

BBL Entanglement

Where are reason, fairness and truth in implicating the BBL and Bangsamoro? How the BBL is being entangled – held at gun-point, maligned – is outrageous. That’s bearing false witness against one’s neighbor.

It is being argued that the Mamasapano massacre showed the insincerity of the MILF in negotiating peace with the government. It is being asked why, if there is an existing peace agreement, the MILF attacked the SAF commandos who, being on legitimate mission, they were supposed to support. They, the MILF, betrayed the government.

The attack against the SAF commandos showed the Moro hostility to non-Moros in their controlled areas. Once the Bangsamoro is established, the Moros will restrict the entry of the non-Moro elements in their region.

The MILF must show their sincerity. They must surrender their commanders and fighters who killed the SAF commandos. They must return all the guns, other battle gears, shoes and other personal belongings stripped from the 44 dead SAF commandos. The BBL bill must be reviewed or better still if scuttled.

It must be asked: Why blame the MILF for the Mamasapano fiasco? Does the BBL embody the alleged MILF insincerity? Will the Bangsamoro be hostile to non-Moros?

Deliberate Evasion

Who is responsible for the Mamasapano debacle? Where must the buck stop?

Among the voluminous media reports since January 26 and still going on are the facts that deliberate evasions doomed the SAF operation to get Marwan and Usman. (Read in particular: Philippine Daily Inquirer reports of January 29, 2015: SAF chief: I am responsible; February 1: SAF chief: My men still alive at noon but no reinforcements came (1) and Army, MILF harmony turns fragile (2); February 2: ‘Don’t blame the military’, AFP to submit report finding SAF leader at fault; MindaNews, February 2, 2015: In pursuit of Marwan, deaths in the marshland; and, The Philippine Star, February 3, 2015: AFP ends inquiry, clears itself on SAF deaths).

The facts: (1) Police Director Getulio Napeñas, the SAF chief, by-passed his immediate superiors in command; (2) the military had been kept in the dark until the operation had been launched and the SAF forces, pinned down, desperately needed support; and, (3) there was no coordination with the MILF. When Napeñas admitted, “I am responsible”, he meant that the buck should stop with him.

Napeñas told Arlyn de la Cruz, Inquirer correspondent at large (PDI 2/1.1 above) that “his not coordinating the operation with his superiors ­– Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the PNP officer in charge, and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas – delayed the arrival of reinforcements, which cost the lives of his men”. He said “he just followed orders” without revealing whose orders he followed.

Reports point to suspended PNP Director Alan Purisima as the one who gave the go-signal. There are insinuations the President did. The plan to get Arwan was hatched in 2010 with Purisima in the lead role. The President in his televised address to the nation last January 28 said he had been continuously briefed about the plan. In another report, it was said he clarified that Purisima’s involvement ended on the day he was suspended by the Ombudsman.

Did Napeñas mean that because he did not coordinate with his superiors they, in turn, did not coordinate with the military? In the reports, it was the military reinforcements that arrived too late.

Had air, artillery and troop support started coming at 6 a.m. when the beleaguered SAF forces in Tukanalipao began calling, the blocking force could not have been wiped out by the MILF fighters. But the most fatal mistake was the non-coordination with the MILF according to the ceasefire agreement. Had there been coordination between the PNP-SAF and the MILF the Tukanalipao close fight – by the book, a “misencounter” – could not have happened.

The coordination between the AFP/PNP and the MILF through the AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) is spelled out in a Joint Communique signed on May 6, 2002. Armed encounters – okay, “misencounters” – between the military and MILF forces had always been due to “lack of coordination”.

In his article (PDI: 2/1.2 above) Karlos Manlupig cited the Army 6th Infantry Division’s spokesperson, Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, as confirming the effectiveness of the military and MILF coordination through the AHJAG. Among the many instances – from security to military operations – she mentioned seven from 2012, the latest of which was the fall of the main camp of the BIFF 2nd Division in SK Pendatun, Maguindanao, town just across Liguasan Marsh from Mamasapano.

In her report (PDI: 2/2 above), Cynthia D. Balana cited a military source who said that had the mission been coordinated with the military, the outcome would have been different because the military has many contacts in the MILF and that there had been no encounter between the Army and the MILF since 2010, “which means the MILF is faithful to the peace agreement”.

Yet, the MILF is insincere in negotiating peace; the BBL is maligned.

Inevitable Consequences

The Mamasapano mission or “Oplan Wolverine” was doomed right on the starting block. Secrecy without the necessary coordination proved suicidal. No amount of owning the responsibility, of finger-pointing, of passing the buck, of washing hands and of eulogies and honor awards could hide the betrayal of the 44 fallen SAF commandos by their superiors and others in the chain of command. As in classical tragedies, the tragic plot was irreversible.

To sum up the inevitable:

Unfamiliar with the terrain, the 80 (73 in the military report) commandos who went in were trapped. Did unfamiliarity explain why the rest of the 392-force did not enter to the rescue? In its investigative report, the military could only wonder.

The 6th ID had support and reinforcement ready by 9 a.m. But the lack of proper communications tied down the military. They could not launch artillery or air support without the precise coordinates; the troops did not have the exact location of the pinned down commandos. The military finally located the commandos to recover their corpses.

The AHJAG members were in Iligan City when contacted. They arrived at the scene together with the IMT (International Monitoring Group) at around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. Only then was a ceasefire ordered – too late for the SAF blocking force trapped in the cornfield. Yet, firing did not cease.

The SAF supreme commanders could only blame themselves. And, of course blame the MILF jointly with the outraged of the government and the public through the media.

The widows of the slain are now crying for justice.

Understanding Mamasapano

Among the few open-minded, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte commented on the Mamasapano incident in simple clear common sense (Luwaran, February 1, 2015: Government violated peace deal: Mayor Duterte). He said:

He, as part of the government, used the “tayo” or “we” point of view. “Pumasok ang SAF sa isang territory ng MILF, which in the first place, hindi tayo dapat pumasok. How can you correct that? Ikaw ay pumasok sa bahay ng isang tao, hindi ka naman imbitado. This is covered by a document signed by the Republic of the Philippines.”

Understanding the MILF view: “Sasabihin nila, kayo ang pumasok dito, kayo ang naghahanap ng away. May kasulatan tayo na hindi kami papasok dyan at huwag kayo papasok dito until after the peace process has been completed and there is a formula for peace already.”

In a nutshell: Despite their agreement to mutually respect each other’s home, the government entered the MILF house looking for a fight. So, fight it got.

While understanding the MILF, Duterte also blamed it together with the government. But instead of maligning the BBL and joining the voices to abort it, he urged that it be passed expeditiously. Meantime Government and MILF must “sort out things” and in response to the cry for justice, let justice fall on whom it should.

The Burden on the Congress

Members of the Senate and the House of Representative immediately responded with anger. They questioned the sincerity of the MILF in negotiating peace with the government and the wisdom of creating the Bangsamoro. The final hearings of the BBL in both Houses were partially suspended.

In the latest reports, the final hearings will remain suspended until the AFP and the PNP can submit their investigation reports. Monday, February 9, is the new deadline. These will weigh heavily on the fate of the BBL.

Ad Hoc Committee on BBL Chair Rufus Rodriguez said, “The report is crucial to help members make a decision on the BBL. Without the facts, we cannot move forward. There is a strong feeling among members for justice and more sincerity on the part of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) to cooperate and return the firearms they took away from our SAF.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 2, 2015: Lawmakers want full report on massacre by Monday) (Bold italics ours)

The legislators, we believe, will ascertain from the military and police reports the culpability of the MILF to bolster, rather than change, their present thinking based on media reports. The BBL should be deliberated according the wordings and construction of its provisions. Why tie it to their perceptions of the sincerity of the MILF based on the Mamapasano incident that, in the first place, was launched without coordinating with the MILF according the long-existing, trustworthy agreement? It doesn’t augur well!

The Senate and House leaderships have given the assurance that support for the BBL has not changed and it will be passed as recently schedule – the House, by the end of March. How binding is the assurance to the individual senators and representatives? How the Mamapasano fever has influenced their judgment, especially the uncommitted, will be seen during the plenary debates and the voting. In the Senate, two have withdrawn their sponsorship of SB 2804. Statements to the press of some others were not reassuring.

Even without Mamapasano, the BBL is being saddled with constitutional issues. After the final hearing of her committee on constitutional amendments, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, “The BBL cannot be passed as a mere piece of legislation at the Senate. It has to be done by revision or amendments” of the Constitution to pave way for the creation of a Bangsamoro government.

Under this circumstance, the BBL will be passed by a two-third vote of all members of each House of the Congress, not by a simple majority of the quorum; and, it will be ratified in a national plebiscite, not just by the Bangsamoro constituent core areas. If this happens, the BBL will have to leap over very high hurdles. However, if the leaderships can have the BBL passed by simple majority, the questions of constitutionality and plebiscite may be elevated to the Supreme Court. Hope remains alive.

But if the vote count will show that BBL is brought down in either or both the Senate and the House by the Mamapasano fever, it will be the innocent victim of the misadventure of the PNP-SAP and no hope can be expected from the Supreme Court. The aftermath will be enigmatic.

(Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.)

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MIND DA NEWS| An inconclusive apology http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-an-inconclusive-apology/ http://mindanaotimes.net/mind-da-news-an-inconclusive-apology/#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2015 02:02:22 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=4186 ]]> IN A 23-PARAGRAPH, 2,328-word speech to the nation last Jan. 28 on the Jan. 25 Mamasapano PNP-SAF covert operation turned massacre, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III delivered an apology of the much-publicized fiasco instead of the expected condemnation of the brutal killing. The mutilation of the slain was expected to be condemned.

In any military or police operation against rebels or armed groups, casualties from the two sides are normal. But in Mamasapano, the killing of the 44 SAF commandos as officially confirmed was barbarically brutal. Most them bore shot in the head and were completely stripped of their battle gear including shoes – no guns, helmets, etc. beside them as shown in close-up television footages. Two theories persist: they were shot while lying wounded or after their surrender. There was a media report of the first.

In the speech there were narration of the encounter, commendation of the slain as heroes and assurance of the truth to come out from investigations by the PNP Command and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front but there was no condemnation to assuage the outrage.

With reference to the English translation of the Tagalog original, what did the speech say – bewailed as late by critics for coming out three days after the incident?

The President opened with the proposition “to report on what we know about the incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last Saturday and Sunday” for the reason that “you have a right to know what we know at this point”. [Paragraph 1] He proceeded to relate what had already been reported in the media [2], expressed his sadness as the father of nation for the slain proclaiming them as heroes, and declared “a National Day of Mourning to symbolize the sorrow and empathy of our entire country [3]”.

He said, “Marwan (Zulkipli bi Hir) and (Abdulbasit) Usman are not common criminals” as they have “a long string of outstanding warrants for their arrest” that were issued as early as 2002. To serve these warrants, he said, “our security sector, including the AFP, PNP, and NBI, has undertaken multiple operations to capture” them [4]. Clarifying his role, he explained that the AFP and PNP “are not always required to obtain my approval for each and every one of their operations” except, at “times when certain matters are elevated to my desk [5]” – giving three instances as examples [6].

He gave a recital of the bombings and other acts of terrorism attributed to Marwan and Usman [6], [7] and [8] to justify their being the primary targets of the Mamasapano operation.

He emphasized that serving the warrants of Marwan and Usman was a primary duty of the government, citing the 1987 Constitution. Pursuant to this, the decision of the PNP “to take action and serve the warrants” covertly when they “uncovered the precise location of Marwan and Usman” was justified and imperative [9]. He related how the SAF carried out the operation ­– almost exactly as reported in the media – and how “the bloodiest part of the clash happened [10]”.

He said, he, too, has “many questions surrounding the incident” the truth of which he expects “the board of inquiry to uncover.” Referring to “the briefings the PNP gave me about the continuing operations against Marwan and Usman,” he said he had “repeated countless times the need for proper, sufficient, and timely coordination” citing the many hazards, especially the terrain [11]. He cited the need for the SAF to properly coordinate with the 6th Infantry Division for support [12]. He wondered why, despite the “Yes, Sir” of the SAF director to his reminders, no proper coordination had happened [13], [14].

Instead of condemning the MILF, he explained, obviously in reference to the peace process in Mindanao and the prospective establishment of the Bangsamoro as agreed and provided in the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill now under deliberation in the Congress: “We have already made such great strides because we trusted one another [15]”.

In the past: “We have already proven that we can work together: in 2014, a Japanese national was rescued in Maguindanao; in that same year, we were able to prevent the explosion of a bomb in Maguindanao.”

In the present: “I have also read the statement of Chairman Al Haj Murad about the Mamasapano incident; the MILF’s formation of a Special Investigative Commission in order to determine the details of the incident constitutes a good first step.”

His expectation: “I am hopeful that the MILF will show, in the soonest possible time, even more concrete evidence of their solidarity in the pursuit of peace, towards the pursuit of truth, and the accountability of those responsible.”

He appealed to the nation to keep the peace.

First: He cautioned: “Let us also avoid spreading rumors and fueling speculation about the incident. … There is already a board of inquiry assigned to uncover the whole truth. Let us wait for the results of their findings [16]”.

Second: As a reminder: “We have already come such a long way in our quest to realize the peace that we have long desired for Muslim Mindanao. All sides exhibited great trust to reach this point.” As a warning: “The incident in Mampasano has already given rise to those who want to take advantage of this tragedy to undermine that trust; they wish to derail the peace process. There are even some already calling for a halt to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the House of Representatives and the Senate [17].”

Third: The call to abort the BBL is not an option. “This should not happen. The success of the entire peace process is contingent on this law [18]”.

The stakes are forbidding: (1) “If this law is kept from being passed at the soonest possible time, the peace process will be derailed; the status quo will remain.” (2) “If that happens, we cannot hope for anything but the same results: Citizens who take to the mountains after losing hope; individuals kept from gaining justice who instead choose to exact violence on their fellowmen. It would be as if we helped Marwan and Usman to reach their goals.”

The burden is ours: (3) “Do we want to return to the point when communities are ready, at a moment’s notice, to flee to evacuation centers, because of the threat of an encounter? If this were to happen, who would benefit?” (4) If the peace process were derailed, how many more graves would we have to dig?” (5) “How many more children will idolize Marwan; how many will want to grow up to be Usman; how many engineers will choose to build bombs rather than buildings?”

Fourth: He also appealed in memory of the “members of the SAF[who] lost their lives while fulfilling their duty to maintain the peace” not to make the peace process fail [19].

Fifth: This must be for the Congress. In order to realize peace, instead of aborting the BBL, he exhorted that we unite and, with “greater determination”, pass the BBL, form the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, hence, “widening the opportunities for all and correcting a political system where a few benefit to the detriment of the majority of our countrymen [20]”.

In closing: He guaranteed the maximum assistance of the state to “the families of the SAF members who perished” and asked the public to extend their utmost support [21]. He recapitulated his appeal for peace – to show compassion, not revenge – issuing the call “to all of my countrymen who desire peace, from lawmakers, to the members of the uniformed forces, to the leaders of the MILF, to our countrymen in the Bangsamoro, and to every decent Filipino [22]”. He bade all, “Thank you, and good evening [23]”.

The President, by his proposition and narrative, was a reporter or an informant. Of his narrative from Paragraph 1 to 14, only the briefings he got from the PNP regarding the continuing operations against Marwan and Usman were a revelation. The rest had been reported by the media.

His proposition in keeping the peace with emphasis on the passage of the BBL and the establishment of the Bangsamoro has to be appreciated and heeded; but, he has failed to address squarely the anti-Moro prejudice among the lawmakers, their blaming the MILF for the Mamasapano incident and their using of the BBL as a cudgel to force the MILF down to their knees. His avowed trust of the MILF [Paragraph 15] and his exhortations and appeal [Paragraph 16 to 20] do not squarely address the false issues.

Outside of the Congress, anti-Moro prejudice has also fueled outrage against the Moros, the false notions that negotiating with the MILF was a mistake and the proposal to scuttle the BBL because of the Mamasapano incident. These, too, should have been addressed squarely.

The failure of the PNP-SAF mission to coordinate with the MILF forces according to the Government-MILF ceasefire agreement and its mechanisms was an immediate cause of the Mamasapano “misencounter” – a recurrence of the same problem at the root of two bloody “misencounters’ in Albarka, Basilan. This should have been squarely addressed.

The President has said a lot in his apology of twenty-three paragraphs in 2,328 words. That has to be appreciated and heeded. But failing to address squarely concerns and issues that matter most, the apology was not as conclusive as it should necessarily be.

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.]

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