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MILF-SAF clash sets back talks on Bangsamoro bill

/ 06:07 PM January 26, 2015
Bangsamoro

Members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The death of nearly 50 people in a police encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a stumbling block for the passage of the Bangsamoro basic bill, a congressman heading the ad hoc Bangsamoro committee said on Monday.

“Certainly, the deaths (of elite cops) set back everything. Definitely, the hearings have been affected,” Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez said in a press conference with reporters.

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The committee was conducting its 37th hearing on Monday when it suspended its closed-door hearing in deference to the encounter in Maguindanao, which resulted in the death of nearly 50 persons. It remains to be determined, however, how many were from the elite cops and from the Moro group.

In case the MILF was involved, Rodriguez said Congress may be compelled to evaluate the peace deal between the government and the MILF, and even the Bangsamoro bill itself, which seeks to create another politically autonomous Bangsamoro entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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“There has to be an evaluation of the peace process, and even this bill here. That would be something that will douse the enthusiasm of the people,” Rodriguez said.

“(The MILF) has to clarify its role. They are our partners for peace,” he added, noting however that “there is still no issue of trust” with the MILF.

MILF lead peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said he hoped the attack would not hamper the talks for the Bangsamoro bill.

“The issues of peace and the Bangsamoro Basic Law are of paramount consideration. Nakakalungkot yung nangyari lalo na yung may namatay both sides… but there is more reason to pass the (Bangsamoro bill),” Iqbal said in a text message.

The incident happened Sunday in Maguindanao where the members of the police Special Action Force were in an MILF area to serve arrest warrants against two wanted Jemaah Islamiyah bomb experts.

But the elite cops were fired at by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and armed elements of the MILF 105th Base Command.

In a statement, a group of military and police officers turned lawmakers condemned the MILF and the BIFF on the attack against their uniformed colleagues, urging Congress to suspend its deliberations over the Bangsamoro bill pending the results of the investigation on the incident.

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The group, led by Magdalo party-list Representatives Gary Alejano and Francisco Acedillo, Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop, Pangasinan Representative Leopoldo Bataoil, and ACT-CIS Representative Samuel Pagdilao, also urged the lower chamber to conduct its own inquiry in the incident.

“As members of the House of Representatives and as former men in uniform ourselves in solidarity with our beleaguered comrades-in-arms, we condemn in the strongest terms these actions jointly perpetrated by the MILF and BIFF,” the group said.

Pagdilao, a former Philippine National Police director and one of the founders of the police Special Action Force, said Congress should reconsider the creation of a Bangsamoro police under the bill to “ascertain that chain of command will be respected … and to ensure that Bangsamoro police operatives will abide by the national government’s policies and programs against terrorists currently taking refuge in MILF controlled territories.”

Mindanao-based Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate also said the attack meant the search for peace in strife-torn Mindanao remains as “elusive” as ever despite the Bangsamoro bill.

“The recent incidents in Mindanao showed that finding genuine peace in Mindanao is still as elusive as before even as the Aquino government is rushing the passage of the Bangsamoro basic law. As it is now, very clearly there are groups that are apparently still left behind under the present scheme of things because it is not fully addressing the Moro people’s historical quest for self-determination,” Zarate said.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, Bangsamoro Basic Law, biff, Maguindanao clash, MILF, SAF
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