Mar 272015

PNoy addresses nation a year after Bangsamoro peace accord

PNoy addresses nation a year after Bangsamoro peace accord. President Benigno Aquino III delivers another national address on Friday, March 27, a year after the Philippine government signed a comprehensive peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In his address, Aquino said he is enlisting the help of ‘citizen leaders’ to scrutinize the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. Rey Baniquet

President Benigno Aquino III’s initiative to form a citizens’ committee that will review the Bangsamoro Basic Law is an attempt to rally public support for Congress’ creation of a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, something that has come under serious doubt following the Mamasapano incident, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Friday.

Marcos, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said it would be better for the Aquino administration to promote further discussions on the proposed law and let Filipinos form their own opinion as regards the centerpiece of the peace agreement signed a year ago with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“It seems to be an attempt to sway the public to support BBL,” Marcos said in a text message to GMA News Online.

Marcos’ committee in the Senate and the House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL earlier suspended its deliberations after more than 60 people, including 44 police commandos, were killed in a clash between the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force and MILF fighters on Jan. 25, despite existing ceasefire mechanisms between the government and the rebels.

Senate scrutiny

Two other senators expressed doubt that Aquino’s panel of “citizen leaders” will achieve anything as regards the opinions of lawmakers and the public.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate oversight committee on the Local Government Code, said the creation of citizen council to scrutinize the BBL would have no consequence on the Senate’s deliberations of the measure.

“That would not affect the Senate’s treatment of the BBL,” Pimentel said in a text message.

Pimentel said there will be no overlapping of functions between the Senate and the council.

“That council is more useful for people’s education. Our issues in the senate are more of the constitutional issues,” Pimentel said.

Opposition Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said the committee “could help in increasing our people’s awareness on the specific provisions of BBL” but indicated that the MILF should take more steps to bring back the public’s trust toward the group and the peace process with the Moro rebels.

“But considering the result of recent surveys, the people are inclined to reject the proposed measures,” Ejercito told GMA News Online.

“For me personally, the main issue on BBL is trust. The MILF has to do a lot of things to bring back the people’s trust on them. And whatever would be the findings of the proposed council of leaders, measures like BBL still need to pass the approval of the Philippine Congress,” he added.

House leaders

Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat said Aquino’s panel could not replace Congress in deliberating the constitutionality of the BBL. He said the review should have been initiated before the bill was submitted to Congress.

“We need a BBL that is just, fair, acceptable, feasible and consistent with the constitution and existing laws.  The proposed BBL has been transmitted to Congress and both houses are deliberating on the measure,” Lobregat said.

“The Catholic church, business sector or a convenors council cannot replace Congress. This should have been done before the signing of the comprehensive agreement of peace(CAB). Is this now an admission that there was no genuine and proper consultation done by OPAPP and GPH panel?” Lobregat added.

Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, said Aquino’s committee of “citizen leaders” was an opportunity to get the public’s insight as regards the legislation.

“They should go to the grassroots to get the citizens’ comment and stand. It is very important because the people are now interested in BBL after the Mamasapano incident. After what happened in Mamasapano, the people are closely scrutinizing the BBL,” Rodriguez told GMA News Online.

He added that the analysis of the citizen leaders will also be of great help to the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives, which is set to resume its hearing on BBL soon.

“That will greatly help the committee determine which provisions of the BBL should be retained,” Rodriguez said.

Citizen leaders

Aquino on Friday announced that he was enlisting the help of “citizen leaders” from government, business, religious and civil society sectors to scrutinize the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The President said he tapped these personalities to refocus public discourse on the BBL following the botched January 25 Mamasapano operation, which left over 60 people dead including 44 police commandos.

“Batid ko po na ang mga pangyayari sa Mindanao, kasama na ang insidente sa Mamasapano, ay nagdulot ng pagdududa sa isip ng ating mamamayan. Ang resulta: Nailayo ang usapan sa obhetibong ebalwasyon ng BBL,” the President said in a nationally televised speech.

Among the members of the group that Aquino has chosen to review the BBL were Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, civil society leader Howard Dee, and peace advocate Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.

“Para tugunan ito, nag-imbita ako ng citizen leaders na kilala sa kanilang kaalaman at integridad,” Aquino said.

Resumption of deliberations

Marcos has suspended his committee’s deliberations on the BBL following the January 25 Mamasapano incident.

But after receiving copies of the respective reports of the Senate, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) about the incident, Marcos decided to resume his committee’s hearing of the BBL on April 13.

The House committed to the resumption of deliberations on the BBL after Aquino met with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and other House leaders and members in Malacañang earlier this month. Elizabeth Marcelo and Amita Legaspi/NB, GMA News

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