Friday, February 13, 2015

Revisiting the BBL

By Alejandro Del Rosario
Reacting to public outrage,  Congress deferred hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the aftermath of the bloody Mamasapano, Maguindanao encounter that cost the lives of 44 PNP-SAF men serving a warrant of arrest on Malaysian terrorist Marwan and another fugitive bomb-maker, Basit Usman.
We expect this is also the sense of the Senate which is investigating the circumstances leading to the encounter between a PNP Special Forces contingent and combined elements of the MILF-BIFF.  
Since the start of the House hearing, Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza has been urging Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and ad hoc committee chairman Rufus Rodriguez to defer discussion of the BBL measure due to the growing public clamor demanding justice for the Fallen 44. He warned that rushing the measure would evoke a strong reaction from the  public  whose emotions were running high. Atienza was met with stony silence by his colleagues and most likely looked at as an obstructionist.
With many House members now also hedging to take up the measure, Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) finally suspended hearings with no indication they would be resumed after the Mamasapano incident set back the Feb.9-16 timetable for second, third and final reading of the proposed draft. 
It now seems doubtful the proposed BBL can be passed before the end of Aquino’s term on June 30, 2016. Congressmen running for reelection are attuned to the sentiments of their constituents who are crying justice for the slain police commandos.  
Atienza has expressed misgivings about certain provisions in the BBL, particularly the ceding of a large territory in Mindanao to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which under the framework agreement will be allowed to have its own police force. This would make the Muslim rebels legally armed and dangerous.
”This is creating a state within a state. I’m for peace in Mindanao but not peace at all costs that would lead to the dismemberment of the nation. There’s no telling when the MILF will decide to secede from the Republic and declare its own state,” Atienza pointed out
Atienza’s concern is shared by many legal experts including members of Philconsa. Since the issue has been internationalized, a Bangsamoro accorded all the trappings of a separate entity can seek recognition as an independent state notably from sympathetic Islamic countries.
Atienza also took issue with Rodriguez that a plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Moro Law if passed by Congress would only be held in the region and areas concerned in the BBL.
“This is a national issue that concerns every Filipino and any referendum on it must be held nationwide, “ Atienza said insisting the citizenry must be consulted as the BBL is tantamount to changing the Constitution.
Our lawmakers should really think the BBL through as a large amount of national resources from taxpayers’ money will be allocated to defray the cost of a Bangsamoro homeland.
Senate hearing on SAF operation
If Monday’s Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano incident is any indication, we are in for a long hearing without really reaching any conclusive findings as to what actually happened on that fateful morning of January 25 in a desolate marshland in Maguindanao.
Resigned Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisma tried to extricate himself and President Benigno Aquino III from any blame in the botched police operation. Gen Getulio Napenas, the commanding officer on the ground claimed it was a judgment call on his part to send in the Special Forces team to Mamasapano on the basis of “actionable intelligence.” This was contrary to what he told reporters days earlier that he was taking orders directly from Purisima who he said was running the operation.
Under questioning by Senator Antonio Trillanes, Napenas said Purisima told him not to let DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP Officer-in-Charge Gen. Leonardo Espina know about the mission to capture Marwan.
It now appears that Purisima had been constantly briefing the President on the progress of the “get Marwan” operation since it was conceptualized months before and after his suspension.
On dogged questioning by Senator Grace Poe, Senate committee on public order chairperson and Senator Teofisto Guingona III, Purisma claimed he merely gave advice on the sensitive secret police operation during several meetings held at the White House, the official PNP chief’s residence in Camp Crame.This brought to light that Purisima continued to stay at the White House which he should have vacated when he was suspended after being charged by the Ombudsman for plunder and graft.
If the Mamasapano operation was a mess, this Senate committee hearing to determine the truth behind the events leading to the bloody encounter could yet be mission impossible.

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