FILIPINOS WANT PEACE FOR MINDANAO
Senator Chiz Escudero said the present form and shape of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may seal the peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but this would not necessarily translate to peace in the entire Mindanao region.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the government should take a hard and close look into the leadership composition of the MILF who sits in the negotiating table for the BBL following the bloodbath in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.
“The BBL will be hard pressed to get the Senate and Congress’ nod after this fatal incident which gave away the leadership or lack thereof of the MILF over the area,” the senator said.
Putting a time frame to pass the proposed legislation is unlikely at this point after many questions cropped up as a result of bloody clashes between the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police and the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups operating in Mamasapano.
“Are we talking to the right people for dealing with the entire community of the BBL area and its residents?” Escudero said. “I once said that I have doubts if the MILF can truly represent the BBL area and its residents, including the indigenous peoples, the Christians and other groups also endemic to the area.”
He added: “Now more than ever we should press for the scrutiny of the MILF’s capability to supervise and control their ranks after the Mamasapano massacre. Do they have influence over the entire MILF, the BIFF and other private armed groups?”
According to Escudero, if the BBL is passed, the MILF will be given at least P75 billion aside from the annual Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and the Bottom-up budget (BuB).
“Sa totoo lang, ang galing ng panig at panel ng MILF. Nakuha nila lahat ng pwede at gusto nilang makuha sa BBL at sa mga kasunduan. Ang tanong ko: Anong mapapala ng pamahalaan at ng nakararaming Pilipino?” the senator asked.
The fund is even larger than the P70 billion budget of the PNP and is close to the P90 billion allocation for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). According to Escudero, if taxes and other fees and charges will be added, the MILF will have a spending package bigger than that of the country’s military.
Escudero explained that the Mamasapano clash, which resulted in the deaths of 44 SAF troopers, served as an eye-opener for lawmakers to further scrutinize the provisions of the BBL.
“I believe we should be grateful to the SAF 44 who gave up their lives for the country and pave the way for us to look into the details of the peace process because if this incident did not happen, the BBL could have been passed effortlessly and we will be bombarded with this problem one day,” Escudero pointed out.
He cited a provision in the BBL that the Shari’a High Court’s decision is final and executory, which the senator said is totally in violation of the Constitution which provides that the country’s Supreme Court (SC) has the final say and has the sole right to review all cases.
Escudero also scored a provision that says that the Judicial Bar Council created under the BBL has the authority to discipline a Shari’a judge. “The rule of judicial procedure solely lies within the power of SC, as provided by the Constitution. Not even Congress can pass a law to interfere with the Constitution.”
However, Escudero still expressed support for the peace process while highlighting the importance of setting the bars high in crafting the provisions of the BBL and seeking justice for the slain SAF troopers – a move that is beneficial to parties involved in the peace agreement.
“Wala namang may ayaw na matuloy ang peace process, wala namang may ayaw ng kapayapaan sa Mindanao. Wala namang may gusto ng giyera at kaguluhan sa Mindanao. Subalit ang tanong, paano natin makakamit ang kapayapaang iyan? Ano ang paraan para marating natin ang kapayapaang yan? At dapat timplahin at sabayan ng hustisya ang kapayapaang isinusulong ng gobyerno at hinahangad natin sa Mindanao. Hindi maaaring puro kapayapaan na lamang, maski papaano makamit yan at maski ano at sino masagasaan. May halaga na kailangan nating pagbayaran nito,” Escudero stressed./MP