The ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the House of Representatives suspended on Monday, January 26, discussions on the proposed measure following the clash between police and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Maguindanao.
The panel adopted House Resolution No. 1834 filed by Muntinulupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon seeking to put on hold the hearings, particularly on the provisions on national defense, security and public order “until after the submission of reports by appropriate government bodies on recent incidents of violence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”
The ad hoc committee was about to wind up discussions when the encounter happened Sunday dawn, Jan. 25.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc committee, said discussions on the four key issues would not be resumed “unless we get an explanation from the four agencies.”
“We are calling for a full-blown investigation on why this occurrence happened …we expect them to act soonest to bring those responsible to justice,” Rodriguez said.
He said the ad hoc committee expected the investigation on the incident to finish February 2.
Rodriguez acknowledged that the suspension of the discussions was a setback and could affect the target deadline for the approval of the proposed measure in the House. Congress leaders said the proposed BBL should be approved by March.
“Certainly, the death of the policemen and other innocent person is a setback because how can we proceed with all these threat happening?” he said.
Zamboanga Representative Celso Lobregat, one of the lawmakers critical of the proposed measure, said the incident prompted the committee to put on hold the discussions.
“After the incident, we can’t say it’s business as usual,” Lobregat said.
Biazon, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the reports from the investigation should contain among others, a determination of the elements of the government involved in the incidents, the dissident group, and violations of existing laws and ceasefire agreements.
According to the lawmaker, the report will be important to the ad hoc committee on its discussions of the proposed BBL on the:
*fragmentation of powers and authorities on national defense and security and public order;
* creation of a separate AFP Command in the autonomous region;
* authority of the Chief Minister over the Philippine National Police as compared to the existing constitutional provisions on the powers of the local chief executives; and,
* shape of the normalization provisions.
The clash between the PNP-Special Action Force and the MILF over the weekend left at least 50 dead, reports said.
In a separate statement, the Philippines Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) said the incident would be a “big blow to the Mindanao peace process,” adding that it showed the lack of sincerity of the Aquino government toward genuine peace in the region.
“The mere fact that government troops entered the area of the MILF without even coordinating with it despite prior GPH-MILF peace negotiations is proof of treachery,” ILPS-Phils secretary general Norma Biñas said.
“President [Benigno] Aquino [III], as Commander-in-Chief, and local government Secretary [Manuel] Mar Roxas, with his jurisdiction over the Philippine National Police and its elite Special Action Force (SAF), should explain the armed aggression on the Moro people,” Biñas added.
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said the clash was triggered by lack of coordination on the SAF operation.
The ILPS-Phils also warned of a humanitarian crisis as thousands of civilians are evacuating the battlefield fearing more clashes between assaulting government troops and fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), joined by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).