by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
Published in Journal.com
House panel head insists fugitive MNLF leader, rebel chieftain must be allowed to join Bangsamoro Law discussion
THE chairman of the 75-man ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro basic law will Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to reconsider her rejection of his proposal to suspend the arrest warrants against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) chief Umbra Kato to allow them to participate in the marathon hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the panel chairman, said De Lima should see the wisdom of consulting Misuari and Kato as he lamented the latter’s position that inviting the two fugitives in the hearings is “not legally defensible.”
“We will formally write Secretary De lima to appeal her rejection,” Rodriguez, A LAWYER, said.
De Lima had argued that the proposal deals with a very complex matter, adding the ad hoc committee could get the positions of Misuari and Kato on BBL without their physical presence during the panel hearings.
In a separate , opposition Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the 12-man House contingent to the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) representing the minority bloc, said the panel should forgo calling Misuari and Kato, stressing “they will just muddle the issue and we don’t need their inputs.”
For his part, Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman, an ad hoc committee vice chairman, said the panel should submit to the wisdom of the DoJ.
“The idea was that to consult first the DoJ and other concerned agencies. Since the DoJ has already made their position, I think it’s unnecessary already for us to insist,” Hataman-Salliman, who chairs the House special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, explained.
Last week, Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. backed the proposal to invite Misuari and Kato, stressing they are very important stakeholders in the peace process with the MILF.
“l do support the proposed of the warrants of arrest as well as proposal to grant them safe conduct pass to attend the ad hoc panel’s hearings,” said Belmonte, A LAWYER. “All important sectors should be consulted.”
But House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, who chairs the House Committee on Rules and a lawyer, said it would be hard to interfere with the mandate of the judiciary which has the sole authority to temporary suspend the arrest warrants against Misuari and Kato.
“I don’t know how the committee can legally go about it (inviting Misuari and Kato), considering that we have no power to the implementation of the warrants of arrest,” Gonzales stressed.
This Wednesday, the panel will begin its formal hearing on BBL with officials and representatives from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and Department of National Defense (DND) as resource persons.
Charges of rebellion and violation of international humanitarian law over the three-week Zamboanga City siege last year that left hundreds of people killed and thousands homeless were filed against Misuari and 83 of his followers.
In the case of Kato, authorities want him accountable for the attacks in the villages of North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte in 2008 that left over 40 dead and thousands homeless. Reports quoted BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama that their group would not participate in the peace process as Kato vowed to pursue all means to derail the peace process between the government and the MILF and establish an independent Islamic state.
An opposition lawmaker Albano warned yesterday his fellow legislators to carefully study and review every provision of the BBL as the passage of an ambiguous and contentious peace pact might set a precedent and trigger a demand for self autonomy by indigenous groups in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and others.
Albano, who openly supports the government’s quest for a lasting peace in strife- torn Mindanao, disclosed that leaders of indigenous tribes and civil society groups in are now seriously watching Congress’ handling of the BBL and its passage.
“I have received reports that the Cordillera Administrative Region is seriously studying the legality of asking full autonomy from the central government, once the BBL is passed,” Albano said. “We should not be surprised if indigenous groups who have lived in the Cordillera’s for centuries will be asking for full autonomy that will be enjoyed soon by the Muslims of Mindanao if the BBL is enacted into law.”
As he issued this warning, Albano called on all legislators to scrutinize word for word, sentence per sentence, phrase by phrase the draft BBL to determine its legality and constitutionality as this will be a landmark measure once passed into law.
“The BBL if enacted into law will set a precedent for other regions in the Philippines, like the CAR, to demand the same autonomy provided by the BBL to Muslim Mindanao as this will replace the ARMM, which, de facto and historically and thus logically — is a counterpart administrative, autonomous region like CAR, ” Albano said.
The CAR is a region in the country that is composed of six provinces: Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province; and the regional center – Baguio. It encompasses most of the areas within the Cordillera Central mountains of Luzon, the largest mountain range in the country and to numerous indigenous tribes.