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Congress mangled BBL, critics say

Critics have slammed the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) measures passed by both Houses of Congress, saying these fail to recognize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination.

In separate statements, Suara Bangsamoro and Bayan Muna have dismissed the approved versions of the bills at the House of Representatives and the Senate as a betrayal of the Bangsamoro people’s long-running struggle for justice and autonomy.

The House of Representative passed HB 6475 Wednesday while the Senate passed Thursday Senate Bill 1717 a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte has finally certified the bills as urgent.

“This milquetoast [submissive one] that they are passing off as BBL leaves the Bangsamoro with no control over the resources of the area they define as our autonomous area,” Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson Jerome Aba said.

“Just like in the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Law), this BBL appoints the new Bangsamoro political entity to facilitate the wholesale selling of our territories and natural resources to foreign corporations under the guise of bringing growth and development to Bangsamoro areas,” Aba said.

In his speech explaining his rejection of the House of Representatives version of the BBL, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said he could not vote for a measure that is full of compromises.

“This latest and watered-down proposed BBL is unacceptable. This Substituted HB 6475 does away with all the efforts to push for the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination in the face of many limitations imposed by the government,” Zarate said.

Zarate added many provisions of the version submitted to Congress by the Bangsamoro Transition Council were deleted or changed.

“These include the downgrading of their territory to an autonomous region in the Bangsamoro, instead of simply ‘Bangsamoro’; the [bill’s] use of ‘geographical area’ instead of territory; and the conduct of plebiscites in the additional territory,” Zarate explained.

The Mindanaoan legislator added the deletion of the Bangsamoro’s exclusive control over power and energy, natural resources, public utilities, Bangsamoro police, and many others are also very important issues.

“The Substituted HB 6475 does not answer the Bangsamoro’s aspiration for their right to self-determination and genuine autonomy. This measure deserves to be opposed,” Zarate said.

Suara Bangsamo said it supports calls made by Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives to truly scrutinize the contents of the present BBL and called on their compatriots to oppose provisions they say compromise the fight of the Moro people for self-determination.

“As the government continue to disregard Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination, it is in the hands of Moro people to continue to fight for genuine right to self-determination,” Aba said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group accuses police, military of massacre in Matalam

A Bangsamoro group has accused the Philippine National Police (PNP) of the “massacre” of nine Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who have reportedly already surrendered before being mercilessly mowed down with automatic gunfire last May 25 in North Cotabato.

The Suara Bangsamoro said that in the guise of an anti-drug operation in Sitio Biao, Kilada Village, Matalam, North Cotabato, a combined PNP and military team swooped down on the victims who are members of the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The nine victims reportedly surrendered during the raid and were disarmed by state forces who then fired at them, killing all on the spot.

“This is not an isolated case of massacre and extra-judicial killings. On December 8, 2017, three members of the MILF were killed by joint anti-drug operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP in Brgy. Koronadal Proper, Polomolok, South Cotabato,” Suara Bangsamoro chairperson Jerome Succor Aba in a statement said.

On May 19, 2018, Mindatu Aminola, another MILF member from Brgy. Olonoling, Tupi, South Cotabato was also killed by state forces under the same pretext – anti-drug operation, Aba added.

Suara Bangsamoro said it believes the recent spate of killings and massacre were committed by state forces under the guise of ‘anti-drug’ operations.

Earlier, Police Superintendent Bernard Tayong, North Cotabato Police Office spokesperson said police and military operatives were serving a search warrant on suspected drug suspects Dadting Kasan and Intan Aban in Sitio Biao at about 11:15 p.m. on Friday when they were fired upon by the victims.

Kasan and Aban were among those killed in the incident.

The MILF, however, said the victims were their legitimate members.

MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) head Butch Malang said the nine fatalities were disarmed before they were shot at close range by policemen and soldiers on Friday and Saturday.

BIAF spokesperson, Von Al-Haq added the MILF aims to file a “strong protest” with the government section of the CCCH.

“Clearly, the Duterte administration, through its US-influenced military lapdogs, are using the ‘anti-drug’ campaign to pursue and cloak its counter-insurgency program – the ‘Oplan Kapayapaan,’” Aba said.

Peace spoilers

Aba added the Rodrigo Duterte administration is jeopardizing the hard-earned gains of the peace process between the government and various Bangsamoro groups such as the MILF.

“While the Congress is discussing the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the military and the police are also busy killing the primary stakeholders of its approval,” Aba said.

Aba said that like his predecessors, Duterte lacks sincerity in upholding peace agreements with its duplicity.

“While they talk about peace, they are also committing grave human rights violations, killings and massacres pursuant to its counter-insurgency programs,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro urged the Moro people and the MILF to demand justice to their fallen comrades.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Jerome Aba narrates ordeal in US

Jerome Aba, Sandugo co-chairperson, narrates his ordeal at the San Francisco International Airport when denied entry and interrogated by US immigration and homeland security agents for nearly 30-hours.

He was invited by Church groups to talk about the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Lift martial law in Mindanao now, Moro groups urge Duterte

Moro groups called for the immediate lifting of martial law in Mindanao and the pull-out of both Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States troops following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of the liberation of Marawi City after five months of fighting.

In a statement Thursday, Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro said they find it ironic that Duterte has already declared the city’s liberation from the Isis-inspired Maute group earlier this week

“Their (AFP and US military) continued presence, legitimized by the imposition of martial law in Mindanao and their so-called role as architects of Marawi’s rehabilitation, conveniently glosses over the myriad of violations that the military itself has perpetrated,” the groups said.

Duterte announced Marawi’s liberation on his seventh visit to the besieged city October 17, three days shy of five months of brutal fighting and aerial bombing.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte told AFP troops Wednesday.

The AFP however said Marawi has yet to be completely cleared of Maute fighters centered on an area less than a hectare in size near Lake Lanao.

National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana also preempted Duterte Monday, saying there is still no decision on the lifting of martial law.

“We are going to assess the entire situation in Mindanao, and we will make our recommendation to the President in due time,” Lorenzana told reporters.

Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro urged for the establishment of an independent body to probe reports of human rights violations in line with the conduct of military operations in Marawi.

The groups said the government should be held responsible for the death and displacement of Marawi residents and the destruction of their communities due to the intensive aerial bombardment.

They added that the rampant divestment and destruction of properties in Marawi, alongside the grave humanitarian situation in evacuation centers should not be dismissed following Duterte’s announcement.

“Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro stressed the Duterte regime’s accountability in the destruction of Marawi and the displacement of thousands of its residents,” they said.

The groups said that the policies and actions undertaken by the government have undermined efforts to resolve conflict in Moro areas, and have instead aggravated abuses.

They also warned about further resistance from the Moro people amid Marawi’s destruction and prevailing humanitarian crisis in evacuation centers around the city and in neighboring provinces.

“The Moro people are further pushed to fight against [Duterte’s] fascist policies,” the groups said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte’s Mindanao-wide martial law is unjustified–Joma

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has no or little justification to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao, National Democratic Front of the Philippines Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

After the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced the ongoing clash in Marawi City is a mere diversionary tactic by the Maute Group, Sison questioned if the invasion or rebellion is large enough to justify Duterte’s declaration.

“There is even an allegation the AFP made a ‘false flag operation’ to justify martial law,” Sison said.

Duterte reportedly declared martial law at five o’clock in the afternoon yesterday (10 pm, PH time) in Moscow to cover the entire Mindanao which will run for 60 days.

Warrantless arrests, imposition of curfew hours and other stringent security measures are to be implemented in connection to the declaration, reports said.

The reports said Duterte decided to cut short his state visit to Russia and is expected to fly back to the Philippines today.

National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana for his part also reportedly justified the inclusion of the entire region due to (security) problems in Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi tawi, as well as in Central Mindanao with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the New People’s Army.

Sison warned Duterte not to be another Ferdinand Marcos and use the Marawi clashes as justification to declare martial law in the entire Philippines.

“Ganyan din ang ginawa noong 1971-1972 nang sinubukang disarmahan ang Kamorohan sa Marawi rin,” Sison said.

Sison said Marcos’ martial law left behind bitter memories of abhorrent abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, incarceration of many civilians, evictions and forced evacuations as well as confiscation of land and property.

“Duterte is playing with fire if he thinks it is a solution to Philippine problems,” Sison said.

Earlier, Moro organization Suara Bangsamoro called on the AFP not to conduct aerial bombings in Marawi, fearing civilian lives and livelihood will become collateral damage.

“We have received reports that aerial and artillery bombing will be conducted by the state forces to eradicate the Maute Group in the city,” Suara Bangsamoro chairperson Jerome Succor Aba said.

Instead of putting the city under military siege, the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front, and other religious leaders should talk to the Maute Group and come up with agreements to restore peace in the city, the group suggested.

“However, diplomatic talks between Moro leaders and the Maute Group will not prosper if the AFP will continue its military operations and bombings,” Aba said, adding that the Moro people in Mindanao is capable of solving this problem in a diplomatic way to avoid civilian casualties and human rights violations.

“We call on the Duterte Administration to address the peace instability through talks and diplomatic means,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro said the Maute Group has ties with Islamic State (IS) militants and are frustrated with the direction the Moro’s struggles for self-determination are heading, forcing them towards IS.

“The establishment of a new caliphate and a global Islamic State has become an inspiring goal to the group because of the government’s insincerity and tokenism in resolving the core problems of the Moro people – inequity in the distribution of wealth and resources, government neglect to basic social services, lack of job opportunities, right to self-determination, among others,” Aba said.

Aba believes that the Maute Group is aware that the Philippine Government is not serious in implementing its agreements with the MILF and likened the situation with how The Tripoli Agreement with the MNLF has largely been ignored in the past.

Meanwhile, the Maute Group has taken over a hospital and burned a cathedral and a school since it derailed an AFP police operation at two o’clock yesterday afternoon, sources said.

The main building, science laboratories and library of the Protestant-owned Dansalan College were burned down while professors and students are trapped elsewhere in campus as exit points were blocked by both AFP and Maute troopers, United Church of Christ in the Philippines pastor Juliet Solis said.

Dr. Fedilinda Tawagon, Dansalan College president, asked for a helicopter rescue for the trapped victims, Solis added.

Marawi’s main road is also being controlled by black-clad men with high powered assault rifles, reports said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)