President Benigno S. Aquino III condoles with the family of the fallen Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) Troopers during the Necrological Service at the NCRPO Multi-Purpose Center of Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City on Friday (January 30). (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III condoles with the family of the fallen Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) Troopers during the Necrological Service at the NCRPO Multi-Purpose Center of Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City on Friday (January 30). (MNS photo)

MANILA, Feb 2 (Mabuhay) – A Moro official on Monday chided those calling for the suspension of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) following the January 25 encounter that resulted in the deaths of 44 elite policemen in Maguindanao.

“Those who call for war and the suspension of the peace process are people who, even in their nightmares, would never know the horrors and cruelties of war that the people of Mindanao, Muslims and Christians alike have been subjected to,” said Datu Abu Khayr Alonto, who chairs a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), during the resumption of the Senate hearing on proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Alonto said the Mamasapano incident should not stop the passage of BBL as it will ensure “that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.”

“We cannot support the resumption of war in Mindanao. The incident must compel us to approve the BBL,” he said, referring to the proposed law that Congress seeks to pass following the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF. In Alonto’s word, BBL is “anchored on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehesive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Agreements recognized and witnessed by the civilized countries of the world.”

Not a massacre

Alonto said the Mamasapano incident, which government authorities call a “misencounter,” was neither a simple police matter nor merely an issue of insurgency.

He also decried the use of the word “massacre”  to describe the January 25 incident, saying it is a dishonor to those who died, including the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).

“Those 44 PNP SAF commandos who are part of the 392 fully-geared combatants that entered the MILF base command alongside with their bounty hunter informants and civilian militia guides as well as those 17 mujahideen were killed all in the line of duty,” he said.

“The MILF defended their community and the PNP-SAF were under order from their superior and both sides fought valiantly to their last breath believing they are doing their duty to their nation and country. Saying it was a massacre is doing a great disservice to those man of valor,” he said.

Charter change

In his speech, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban insisted that the approval of BBL requires the amendment of the Constitution. He said these can be done simultaneously.

“My position is not to first pass to BBL and amend the Constitution.  This can be done simultaneously by Congress acting simultaneously as a legislative body and constitutional assembly,” he said.

He added that the BBL should be a subject of  a plebiscite not only on the affected areas in Mindanao but the entire country.

“Truly, the entire electorate must be involved in this decision, and prior to that, in the national conversation that should no longer be on semantics or legalism but on what is best for our entire nation,” he said.

No need for Cha-cha

Former Justice Adolfo Azcuna, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, for his part, said the BBL does not require Charter change as there is nothing odd on the  adoption of a parliamentary form of government in the Bangsamoro territory even if the country’s form of government is presidential.

“The present government is not strictly presidential in form. The framers [of the Constitution] believed a mix of structure of government would be good for the country as long as it is elective and representative of the political units,” he said.

“A parliamentary system will fulfill this requirement as it is representative and democratic. In our present form, the executive participates in the legislative work of the goverment. In Manila, for example, the Vice Mayor presides the Sangguniang Panglungsod,” he added.

Azcuna further said the Bangsamoro territory will not be a sub-state as it is not independent from the  Philippine government.

“They may have government and people and territory but absent independence they cannot be a sovereign state, it still forms part of the Philippine territory,” he said.

He added that unlike the previous government-MILF agreement, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the proposed BBL conforms with the Constitution.

“The MOA AD invalidated of the SC suffered many defects including failure of consultation. That has been remedied in the present set up. The absence of the mention of the Constitution in the MOA-AD was also addressed here, the BBL now states that it should conform with the Constitution,” said Azcuna.  (MNS)