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SAF44 stirred public interest on BBL

Norwegian William Hovland, operations chief of the International Monitoring Team.From Interaksyon.                     By ELLEN T. TORDESILLAS THERE was something amusing in the narration of Mamasapano Mayor Tahirodin Benzar A. Ampatuan that reflects a trait common to many Filipinos. Mayor Ampatuan (yes, the Ampatuans of the 2009

Feb 11, 2015

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Norwegian William Hovland, operations chief of the International Monitoring Team.From Interaksyon.
Norwegian William Hovland, operations chief of the International Monitoring Team.From Interaksyon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By ELLEN T. TORDESILLAS

THERE was something amusing in the narration of Mamasapano Mayor Tahirodin Benzar A. Ampatuan that reflects a trait common to many Filipinos.

Mayor Ampatuan (yes, the Ampatuans of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre are still very much a force to reckon with in Maguindanao) said that at about 1:30 in the afternoon of Jan. 25, members of the joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) arrived to stop the battle between the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police on one side and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on the other side.

The fighting had been raging since dawn. The SAF commandos were on their way out of the area after they accomplished killing one of their targets, Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir alias ”Marwan”, high in the terrorists list of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. Marwan had a $5 million price of his head.

Their other target, Basit Usman, a bomb expert was able to escape.

Ampatuan enumerated the nationalities of the members of the CCCH who came. He said one was “Amerikano.”

The mention of the name “Amerikano” sent alert signals because the past days there have been reports, denied by government officials, about the direct involvement of Americans in the operation that cost the lives of 44 SAF and 18 MILF fighters.

Americans helping  in retrieval of casualties.Pictures of American soldiers helping in the retrieval of the dead and the wounded have raised questions if they are allowed to be in the combat area in the country.

Immediately, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles corrected Ampatuan saying the guy was “Norwegian.”

Sen. Loren Legarda asked Ampatuan why he thought the guy was American. Ampatuan replied, “Kasi maputi at matangkad, (Because he was white and tall.)

Legarda looked amused.

Mayor Ampatuan is not the only who thinks anybody who is “white” is American. (What about African-American?).

Legarda asked SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas Jr. why they gave Marwan’s cut off finger to the FBI instead of the National Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing. The suspended SAF commander requested for an executive session for him to answer the question.

The answer to that could be the reason why Aquino was gung-ho about Oplan Exodus to the point of making a mockery of the basic principle of chain of command, so vital in governance.

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Feeling the anger of the public, the House of Representatives suspended indefinitely the deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Peace Agreement signed March 27,2014
Peace Agreement signed March 27,2014

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, head of the ad hoc committee, said they will wait for results of the investigations on the Jan. 25 carnage, which had been mishandled bigtime by Malacañang. “We want to know first what really happened in the incident and what should be done in relation to the provisions in the BBL… so we will not have this kind of occurrence again,” he said.

The indefinite suspension is bad news for Malacañang, which sees the law as the ultimate solution to the problem in Mindanao and didn’t want the tragedy to get in the way.

In fact, a week after the tragedy, while the 42 of the 44 SAF heroes were lying in state at Camp Bagong Diwa, the committee continued deliberations after a one day, just One Day, suspension.

A member of the committee, who wanted indefinite suspension to honor the 44 SAF, said they were surprised to see Malacañang allies attend in full force, something which they didn’t do in earlier hearings.

The first statement that came out of Malacañang the day after the tragedy was not a condemnation of the massacre but a declaration Mindanao peace process will push through.

“Ang pananaw ng pamahalaan ay hindi nagbabago. Mahalaga ang peace process sa Mindanao, mahalaga ang pagpasa ng Bangsamoro Basic Law at patuloy pa ring itinataguyod ang prosesong pangkapayaan,(The government’s view is unchanged. The Bangsamoro Basic Law is important in the peace process in Mindanao and we will continue to carry it out.),” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said.

The suspension of deliberations derails the original timetable for the BBL which was passage by the House in March and signing into law by December.

Not only is the timetable derailed. Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, former AFP chief –of-staff and member of the ad hoc committee, said if it is passed, it will be a watered down version. “We need to satisfy two issues: One, the constitutionality issue, and two, reconciling the different interests of different groups.”

Biazon further said, “There is a need for us to examine more closely the issue of territorial boundary definitions. There are many provinces not part of the current ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) that are vying to be part of the Bangsamoro.As regards the coordination provision, do the Navy and Coast Guard have to coordinate whenever they move within what is our territorial waters? If the Air Force needs to fly over the Bangsamoro, do they need to coordinate? There are so many questions.”

“I assure everyone, the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be watered down,” Biazon said.

The death of the 44 SAF commandos has forced Aquino to go slow on what he thought was his ticket to the much coveted Nobel Prize. Many of those who were apathetic to the peace process with the Muslim rebels are now interested to know more about the law that would create profound changes in life in the country.

Everything happens for a reason.

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