PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

MAGUINDANAO FARMERS PLOW IN FEAR AT KILLING FIELDS
[“If I’m not careful, I might hit a bomb, it could explode and I might die,”]


APRIL 5,,,,This photo taken on March 31, 2015 shows people eating their lunch inside a school turned into a temporary evacuation center in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao. Thousands of residents fled their homes as soldiers pursued rebels, some of whom were tagged in the killing of 44 police commandos in January. AFP PHOTO 
- Farmer Lot Pangaoilan gazes toward a vast cornfield in the Philippines’ rebel-infested South, hoping that one day he will be able to farm his land without fear of being killed. For two decades, he has been plowing his three-hectare land by hand and with the help of a carabao (water buffalo), worried that if he uses a heavy motor tractor he might detonate an explosive. “If I’m not careful, I might hit a bomb . . . it could explode and I might die,” Pangaoilan, whose leathery skin, cloudy eyes and thin frame make him look much older than his 50 years, said. Two months ago, the farmer’s marshland village of Tukanalipao was the site of a day-long battle between Muslim militants and police that left more than 60 people dead as security forces hunted down alleged top terrorists. READ MORE...

ALSO: Mindanao blackout; Technical glitch, not terror attack – Palace


APRIL 6....DAVAO CITY, Philippines - A massive power outage hit Mindanao on Easter dawn engulfing much of the island in darkness for up to seven hour in some areas. Initial reports said the power went out past midnight affecting many areas including Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Agusan, General Santos City, Zamboanga City, Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, Surigao City, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Cotabato City. The islands of Siargao and Basilan were not affected, reports said.  The whole of Mindanao was plunged into seven hours of darkness as a sudden blackout yesterday, initially spawned fears of a terror attack or the start of a looming energy crisis until authorities resumed power and called it a result of a “technical glitch.”  Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla saidthat the system-wide blackout started at 1:01 a.m., but the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) fully restored power at 7:50 a.m.  DOE Director Mylene Capongcol said “initial indications (as reported to them by NGCP) showed 3-phase fault at Aurora-Nagamin line 1 and 2 and Agus 6 power transformer.”  The NGCP said the line fault at the Aurora-Nagamin transmission line plus a technical glitch at the power transformer of Agus 6 hydropower plant was the culprit. Petilla said investigations have also been zeroed-in at possible contributing factors from the Agus 6 and 7 hydro plants. READ MORE...

ALSO: Deles blasts Bangsamoro, PNoy critics; MILF’s Iqbal says no option but to pass BBL


APRIL 6...DELES 
MANILA - President Aquino’s peace adviser slammed critics of the administration and of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for spreading “lies" and "deliberate misinformation” to discredit the peace process. Secretary Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, told a group of evangelical Christians at a forum on Monday that President Aquino’s critics had always wanted to put him down even before the Mamasapano fiasco happened. The deaths of 44 elite cops in an encounter with rebel forces on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguinanao has imperiled the fate of the BBL, a proposed law that seeks to create a new Muslim-led autonomous region in Mindanao after decades of armed conflict. The incident also caused President Aquino’s popularity to drop to record lows and led to calls for his resignation. Lies, misinformation  Without naming names, Deles said various groups “have been looking for opportunities to find an issue that would be thrown at the President, that would weaken him, and if possible, shorten his term.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: House to remove eight BBL provisions


APRIL 7...Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. STAR/File photo 
The House of Representatives will delete at least eight “unconstitutional” provisions from the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said yesterday. “Eight of these provisions are against the Constitution, while the ninth is not acceptable to most members from Mindanao,” he said in a television interview. Rodriguez chairs the 75-member ad hoc committee scrutinizing the draft BBL submitted by a joint panel composed of representatives from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The proposed law is the product of years of peace talks between the two sides. Rodriguez said five provisions in the BBL seek to create separate Commission on Audit (COA), Commission on Elections (Comelec), Civil Service Commission, Commission on Human Rights and Office of the Ombudsman for the planned new autonomous Bangsamoro region. “These provisions are unconstitutional because Congress cannot pass a law that will interfere with the functions and operations of independent constitutional commissions like the COA, Comelec and the ombudsman’s office,” he said.  He disagreed with the assertion of government peace negotiators that the problem could be remedied by changing the language of the questionable sections. READ MORE...

ALSO: Escudero blasted MILF panel; Why is Prof Ferrer still speaking for the MILF?


APRIL 7...Escudero 
SENATOR Francis Escudero on Monday blasted the government’s chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer for speaking again on behalf of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in connection with the International Monitoring Team’s report on the Mamasapano incident in which 44 police commandos were killed by Muslim rebels, including fighters from the MILF.
“Why is Prof. Coronel speaking for the MILF?” Escudero asked in a text message. Escudero and Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano have accused Ferrer and presidential adviser on peace process Teresita Deles of being mouthpieces for the MILF, with which the government is negotiating. Ferrer and Deles, the two senators said, are pushing the agenda of the MILF instead of the government, and have called on President Benigno Aquino III to replace them, a demand the President has ignored. In a news conference Monday, Ferrer presented the report of the International Montoring Team, which conducted its own investigation of the Mamasapano incident, in which 18 MILF fighters and five civilians were also killed. Quoting the report, Ferrer said the MILF, as an organization, did not provide sanctuary for Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman. READ MORE...

ALSO: House panel threatens to suspend Mamasapano probe, if...
APRIL 7...[The two panels have invited 46 resource persons, including Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Peace Adviser Teresita Deles, chief government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chief Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiator Mohaqer Iqbal, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, resigned Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima, and relieved PNP Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas. Also invited were SAF commandos who participated in the operation to arrest two international terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.]


STAR/File photo
MANILA, Philippines - Any flouting of rules or disruption of proceedings will be enough reason for the House committee on public order and safety to suspend today’s hearing on the Mamasapano incident, panel chairman Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer warned yesterday. “I will continue to be diplomatic since we’re all colleagues here. But I also have to be strict and may be forced to suspend the hearing to protect the inquiry. I don’t want the inquiry to be used or hijacked by any agenda,” Ferrer told The STAR over the phone yesterday. The hearing will be conducted jointly with the committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, chaired by Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman. Another hearing – possibly the last on the issue – is slated tomorrow. Ferrer, Salliman and other House leaders led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. met yesterday to reaffirm compliance with rules on committee hearings to prevent a repeat of the raucous proceedings last February where some lawmakers engaged in a shouting match. “The rules that govern inquiries are not new. We all know that and we’ve conducted and participated in so many hearings so they know their ethics, the appropriate decorum,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Peace panel head warns of a ‘very bloody’ war


APRIL 7...Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE  
A war born out of a radical movement, should the peace process fail, is likely to be a “very, very bloody” one, government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said Monday. Ferrer was asked by reporters during a press conference to expound on the warning issued by President Benigno Aquino III that the failure of the peace process could mean more “body bags.”   Mr. Aquino issued the warning during a speech on the first anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and after a police mission to capture three terrorists ended in a bloodbath because of the government’s failure to coordinate the law enforcement operation with the MILF as required by a ceasefire agreement. Ferrer said the peace agreement would remain in effect even after the Aquino administration, and only the timeline had been affected by the Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province. But she cautioned that while the MILF leadership has vowed to “stay the course of peace” even after the Aquino administration, “the problem would be if [the leadership] would have a hold on all its members.”  READ MORE...

ALSO ADVOCACY MindaNOW: Calvary for BBL & Peace Negotiators 
APRIL 7...[Fr. Eliseo Mercado, former Notre Dame University president and now consultant at the Institute of Autonomy and Governance in Cotabato City said it is time for the Aquino Presidency to “descend from Cloud 9 and buckle up to real challenge of what he wants to achieve in the peace process in Southern Philippines.”  Déjà vu: Mercado said Aquino was “bold to point to the ARMM as a ‘failed experiment,’ yet what appears now is he simply wants to reform the ARMM… If this would be the case, what else is new… We have seen this over and over again! Beyond the rhetoric and good press releases, the whole process appears going the usual way – a deja vu!”] Source: http://afrim.org.ph/newafrim/tag/jesus-dureza


Jesus Jess Dureza ----
(The author was Presidential Adviser for Mindanao for former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria M. Arroyo. He was also involved in the peace negotiations in the talks with the MILF and the CPP-NPA-NDF and initiated, while Presidential Peace Adviser, the Tripartite Review of the 1996 MNLF Peace Agreement. He is currently President/Chair of the Philippine Press Institute.) DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 April) — Christianity’s traditional annual “Calvary” is over now. But for the peace workers and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the long road of Calvary is still continuing. When Philippine chief peace negotiator, Prof. Miriam “Iye” Coronel – Ferrer called me by phone soon after Mamasapano to clarify certain points on the “coordination” issue hounding the incident, I clearly recalled my parting words for her. I told her: “Iye, I dread being in your shoes at this time”. “CATCH 22.” Indeed, I was in those very same shoes before as peace negotiating panel chair from 2001 to 2003. I tell you, it’s not an easy job. Worse, it’s a thankless job. It puts one in a “catch 22” situation, meaning whichever way a negotiator goes, he or she is in a bind and in an unenviable position. Why so? Simply because the task is not only to negotiate with the armed rebels on the OTHER SIDE of the negotiating table. Unknown to many, the equally difficult task is the “negotiations” that a negotiator must do with those on the SAME SIDE of his table. Meaning, your own colleagues in government and the public at large who usually disdain giving favors or concessions to armed rebels who are understandably perceived as “enemies” or the “bad guys” who blackmail government. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Maguinanao farmers plow in fear in killing fields


This photo taken on March 31, 2015 shows people eating their lunch inside a school turned into a temporary evacuation center in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao. Thousands of residents fled their homes as soldiers pursued rebels, some of whom were tagged in the killing of 44 police commandos in January. AFP PHOTO

MANILA, APRIL 13, 2015 (MANILA TIMES) April 5, 2015 10:30 pm - Farmer Lot Pangaoilan gazes toward a vast cornfield in the Philippines’ rebel-infested South, hoping that one day he will be able to farm his land without fear of being killed.

For two decades, he has been plowing his three-hectare land by hand and with the help of a carabao (water buffalo), worried that if he uses a heavy motor tractor he might detonate an explosive.

“If I’m not careful, I might hit a bomb . . . it could explode and I might die,” Pangaoilan, whose leathery skin, cloudy eyes and thin frame make him look much older than his 50 years, said.

Two months ago, the farmer’s marshland village of Tukanalipao was the site of a day-long battle between Muslim militants and police that left more than 60 people dead as security forces hunted down alleged top terrorists.

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The latest carnage has seriously jeopardized efforts to end a four-decade Muslim separatist rebellion, which has claimed 120,000 lives, dimming hopes again that people such as Pangaoilan will be able to prosper in peace.

The nation’s biggest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), signed a pact last year, agreeing to give up its struggle in return for an autonomous homeland in the poor southern region of Mindanao.

But the January 25 battle in Pangaoilan’s village — in which 44 police commandos, 17 rebels and at least three civilians died — triggered a huge political backlash that threatens the passage of a proposed national law endorsing the autonomous region.

Deep poverty The new region would take in large parts of Mindanao, which the nation’s Muslim minority of roughly five million people regard as their ancestral homeland, including Pangaoilan’s village.

Despite fertile farming lands, vast mineral resources and idyllic beaches ripe for tourism, the region is the poorest in the country with nearly half of the population living in poverty, according to government data.

Tukanalipao, with no electricity or running water, is a typically depressed Muslim community in Mindanao.

Its 1,600 residents live in palm thatch houses on wooden stilts, with corn and rice farming their only source of regular income.

Pangaoilan has six children but he was not able to afford to send them to school.

Military chiefs say villages like his make good recruiting grounds for the MILF, which has about 10,000 fighters, and other rebel groups.

In a typical cycle of violence and poverty that builds resentment, a military offensive launched after the January battle against a small breakaway rebel group opposed to the peace process displaced 120,000 people.

Two displacement camps with tarpaulin tents lie on a road close to Tukanalipao, although the military last week declared the offensive over and hopes the displaced people will soon return home.

Corn farmer Haji Maul said he had been in and out of evacuation shelters three times during the offensive to escape bursts of fighting near Tukanalipao, but this was not unusual.

“It has been a very difficult life for me and my family,” Maul, 60, told Agence France-Presse, as troops wearing helmets and with their rifles pointed to the ground patrolled the parched earth, alongside water buffalos, chickens and dogs.

Building peace As part of its efforts to promote the peace process, President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s administration has increased annual infrastructure spending on the region from P8 billion in 2010 to P24 billion this year.

In Tukanalipao, a sore lack of infrastructure is symbolized by a rickety patchwork of logs that its residents use to cross a stream and get to their farmlands.

When the stream overflows during the rainy season, work stops as farmers cannot get their animals across because the improvised bridge might fall apart, according to Pangaoilan.

This week, the government broke ground on a concrete and steel bridge to replace the wooden structure.

Tukanalipao and the surrounding township of Mamasapano has become a “representation” of the Muslim region, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told AFP as he guided journalists through the area to witness the inauguration.

“Our presence here today and these symbolic projects are meant to deliver a message that poverty is the root cause of conflict and that we are sincere in pursuing peace,” Abad said as he stood alongside supportive MILF leaders.

The symbolic impact was deepened by building the new bridge in the same area as the deadly battle two months ago, showing the government and the MILF remained partners in peace even in the most volatile of areas.

“One of the requirements of building peace is development, we need development,” MILF army spokesman Von Al Haq said in a speech at the inauguration ceremony.

But without a final peace pact, infrastructure spending appears destined to offer only small Band-aid solutions.

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told AFP, “Without a political settlement, these socio-economic projects are just part of counter-insurgency.”


MANILA BULLETIN

Mindanao blackout; Technical glitch, not terror attack – Palace by Myrna Velasco April 6, 2015


DAVAO CITY, Philippines - A massive power outage hit Mindanao on Easter dawn engulfing much of the island in darkness for up to seven hour in some areas. Initial reports said the power went out past midnight affecting many areas including Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Agusan, General Santos City, Zamboanga City, Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, Surigao City, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Cotabato City. The islands of Siargao and Basilan were not affected, reports said.

The whole of Mindanao was plunged into seven hours of darkness as a sudden blackout yesterday, initially spawned fears of a terror attack or the start of a looming energy crisis until authorities resumed power and called it a result of a “technical glitch.”

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla saidthat the system-wide blackout started at 1:01 a.m., but the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) fully restored power at 7:50 a.m.

DOE Director Mylene Capongcol said “initial indications (as reported to them by NGCP) showed 3-phase fault at Aurora-Nagamin line 1 and 2 and Agus 6 power transformer.”

The NGCP said the line fault at the Aurora-Nagamin transmission line plus a technical glitch at the power transformer of Agus 6 hydropower plant was the culprit.

Petilla said investigations have also been zeroed-in at possible contributing factors from the Agus 6 and 7 hydro plants.

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Malacañang, for its part, was to declare the sudden power outage in parts of Mindanao as technical failure and not the result of any security problem.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said this possible cause of loss of power in the south is now being verified by the DOE.

Capongcol said that while power has been fully restored in the level of the NGCP, bringing back electricity service completely could take longer at the level of the distribution utilities and electric cooperatives, hence, some consumers experienced stretched power interruptions until mid-day on Sunday.

“NGCP restored at 7:50 a.m. Sunday its power transmission services to affected power customers in Mindanao…all NGCP substations are now operating normally,” company spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza has noted.

The affected areas included Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Agusan, Cagayan de Oro City, General Santos City, Bukidnon, Zamboanga City, Surigao City, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, South Cotabato and North Cotabato.

Elizabeth Ladaga, of the NGCP in Zamboanga City, said all local electric cooperatives and distribution utilities are normalizing now after the entire Mindanao island suffered power failure.

In the CARAGA Region, field engineers and technical men of National Power Corporation (Napocor) and NGCP are joining hands in checking the alleged report of the 100MegaVolt power station in Agus plant in Lanao that might be the cause the full power shortage.

“We cannot still determine the real cause of the power cut and we are still investigating on the ground of our transmission line,” said an NGCP field engineer, who requested anonymity.

Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol F. Matugas, chairperson of the Regional Development Council, said: “We hope that power will continue to normalize so that our business community will not be affected.”

Alabanza has emphasized that NGCP “remains in close coordination with the electric cooperatives and distribution utilities in the process of normalizing their own systems.”

She added that the transmission firm is “still investigating the cause and extent of the incident.” A reported was expected for submission to the energy department on Sunday also.

The Mindanao-wide blackout occurred despite earlier government assurances of efforts to keep a stable power supply in the country.

Last month, President Aquino said the government has tapped a “menu of options” to plug the potential power supply deficiency in Luzon this summer, including the dispatch of hydropower plants and the swift rehabilitation of Malaya power plant Unit 1.

Aquino admitted that the country’s power situation has been “complicated” for the longest time but assured the government has taken proactive steps to boost clean and reasonable priced energy supply.

The last time a system-wise blackout pestered the grid was last year and after several pronouncements of possible causes of the incident, it was eventually blamed to the Steag power plant. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling, Nonoy E. Lacson, Mike U. Crismundo, Joseph Jubelag and Alexander Lopez)


ABS-CBN

Deles blasts Bangsamoro, PNoy critics; MILF’s Iqbal says no option but to pass BBL by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News Posted at 04/06/2015 1:32 PM


DELES

MANILA - President Aquino’s peace adviser slammed critics of the administration and of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for spreading “lies" and "deliberate misinformation” to discredit the peace process.

Secretary Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, told a group of evangelical Christians at a forum on Monday that President Aquino’s critics had always wanted to put him down even before the Mamasapano fiasco happened.

The deaths of 44 elite cops in an encounter with rebel forces on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguinanao has imperiled the fate of the BBL, a proposed law that seeks to create a new Muslim-led autonomous region in Mindanao after decades of armed conflict.

The incident also caused President Aquino’s popularity to drop to record lows and led to calls for his resignation.

Lies, misinformation

Without naming names, Deles said various groups “have been looking for opportunities to find an issue that would be thrown at the President, that would weaken him, and if possible, shorten his term.”

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The perfect opportunity was the Mamasapano incident, she said.

“We know that there is a group that does not want the President to succeed,” said Deles. “If you don’t want the President to succeed, certainly you don’t want the peace agenda to succeed.”

Following the Mamasapano incident, several lawmakers withdrew their support for the BBL and vowed not to approve it without amendments. They argued that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has been pushing for the bill, is not a trustworthy partner in the peace talks.

A number of legislators also criticized the government peace panel for supposedly speaking for the MILF and defending its interests. The Senate’s investigation report on Mamasapano, for instance, said the panel suffered from a “wanton excess of optimism” in dealing with the group despite its lapses.

“Everything has been used. Lies, deliberate misinformation,” Deles said. “There’s the public shaming of people who have been defending the peace process and standing up for it.”

‘Now or never’

At the same forum organized by the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the country has no choice but to see the BBL become a reality, calling it an “opportunity that knocks once.”

He said that if the bill is not approved by June 2015—the deadline that leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives had set—it would be hard to tell when it will ever be passed.

“There is only one option as far as the MILF is concerned and also for government, and that is to pass the BBL,” Iqbal said. “There is no other option but to pass the BBL.”

Iqbal warned of increased frustration among Muslims, lawlessness in many parts of Mindanao, and a spark in radicalism if the Bangsamoro bill is not approved. He added that MILF forces would not let go of their firearms.

“We are decommissioning our firearms. But until the BBL is passed and implemented, we will hold on to our firearms,” he said.

Shortened timetable

Amid doubts on the MILF’s sincerity and criticisms on the bill, Senate and House deliberations on the BBL will resume this month.

Although the BBL’s timetable has been shortened because of the Mamasapano incident, Deles said the Bangsamoro government can still be formed in time for the 2016 elections.

Should Congress approve the measure in June, a plebiscite on the BBL would be held in September, she said. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the proposed region’s interim government before leaders are elected, will hold office from October 2015 to June 2016.

Deles said the BBL is open to amendments, but the peace panel hopes Congress would maintain the provisions the government and the MILF agreed on under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“We never said it could not be touched,” she said. “What we will fight for is that the CAB provisions should not be diluted in the BBL.”


PHILSTAR

House to remove 8 BBL provisions By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 7, 2015 - 12:00am


Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives will delete at least eight “unconstitutional” provisions from the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said yesterday.

“Eight of these provisions are against the Constitution, while the ninth is not acceptable to most members from Mindanao,” he said in a television interview.

Rodriguez chairs the 75-member ad hoc committee scrutinizing the draft BBL submitted by a joint panel composed of representatives from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The proposed law is the product of years of peace talks between the two sides.

Rodriguez said five provisions in the BBL seek to create separate Commission on Audit (COA), Commission on Elections (Comelec), Civil Service Commission, Commission on Human Rights and Office of the Ombudsman for the planned new autonomous Bangsamoro region.

“These provisions are unconstitutional because Congress cannot pass a law that will interfere with the functions and operations of independent constitutional commissions like the COA, Comelec and the ombudsman’s office,” he said.

He disagreed with the assertion of government peace negotiators that the problem could be remedied by changing the language of the questionable sections.

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“No, the problem is not the wording or the language. Even if we change the language, those provisions would still violate the Constitution. The envisioned Bangsamoro region cannot have its own audit agency or election body. The Constitution provides that we have only one COA, one Comelec, whose jurisdiction is national in scope,” he said.

He said the other constitutionally questionable sections require the President to coordinate military operations with the chief minister of the Bangsamoro region and empower such chief minister to have “control and supervision” over police forces in the region.

Rodriguez pointed out that the coordination requirement would diminish the power of the presidency, while giving the chief minister authority over policemen in the Bangsamoro region would run counter to the constitutional provision that there should be a national police force that is civilian in character and under the control of the National Police Commission.

As for the parliamentary setup in the envisioned new Bangsamoro regional government, the Cagayan de Oro lawmaker said Article X of the Constitution “gives Congress the power to prescribe a different political structure best suited for autonomy.”

“Having a parliamentary structure in Bangsamoro while we have a national presidential system of government is not against the Constitution,” he said.

Under the draft BBL, the new autonomous Muslim region would have a parliament whose members are elected at large. The parliament will choose the region’s chief minister.

Some resource persons invited by the Rodriguez committee to its hearings have asserted that having a regional political structure different from the national presidential system would go against the Constitution.

Rodriguez said the provision authorizing the conduct of a plebiscite in any territory contiguous to the Bangsamoro region where 10 percent of residents want to join the autonomous regional government is not acceptable to Mindanao lawmakers.

“It will allow a creeping expansion of the Bangsamoro region,” he said.


MANILA STANDARD

Escudero: Panel still speaking for MILF
By Macon Ramos-Araneta, Maricel V. Cruz | Apr. 07, 2015 at 12:01am


Escudero

SENATOR Francis Escudero on Monday blasted the government’s chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer for speaking again on behalf of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in connection with the International Monitoring Team’s report on the Mamasapano incident in which 44 police commandos were killed by Muslim rebels, including fighters from the MILF.

“Why is Prof. Coronel speaking for the MILF?” Escudero asked in a text message.

Escudero and Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano have accused Ferrer and presidential adviser on peace process Teresita Deles of being mouthpieces for the MILF, with which the government is negotiating.

Ferrer and Deles, the two senators said, are pushing the agenda of the MILF instead of the government, and have called on President Benigno Aquino III to replace them, a demand the President has ignored.

In a news conference Monday, Ferrer presented the report of the International Montoring Team, which conducted its own investigation of the Mamasapano incident, in which 18 MILF fighters and five civilians were also killed.

Quoting the report, Ferrer said the MILF, as an organization, did not provide sanctuary for Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman.

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Marwan was killed during the execution of Operation Exodus, the covert police operation to serve his warrant of arrest, but Usman escaped.

But the IMT report also said some members of the MILF might have had knowledge about the whereabouts of Marwan and Usman.

The IMT is a multinational body headed by Malaysia, the peace talks’ facilitator, tasked with monitoring the implementation of the peace agreements between the government and the MILF.

But Escudero said he would like to first see the IMT report before commenting on its findings.

Opposition Senator JV Ejercito rejected the IMT conclusion that the MILF did not coddle Marwan.

“That is very hard to believe! That is ridiculous!” he said.

He noted that Marwan’s hut was situated a few meters away from the house of the MILF commander and the mosque.

He also called into question the role of Malaysia, which has supported the MILF.

A Senate investigation earlier concluded that the MILF had protected Marwan and Usman.

In the House, a member of the independent minority bloc said no amount of media hype and spin would overcome the constitutional infirmities of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the lynchpin in the government’s peace agreeent with the MILF.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz said mass actions and propaganda tricks, including the mobilization of known Aquino supporters in the private sector, would not make the BBL in its current form conform to the Constitution, even if so-called peace-oriented groups mount a thousand peace summits.

“They have been on a PR (public relations) blitz for some time and it appears that the peace council or summit is the latest peg to push the BBL,” De la Cruz said.

De la Cruz said what the Palace was doing was a tacit admission that the BBL was indeed a “bad product.”

“As PR practitioners say, the best way to dump a bad product is to promote it – and BBL is one such product,” De la Cruz said.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the minority bloc, agreed that no amount of spin would make a bad law good.

“The fate of the BBL is a legislative act. It is dependent on how both chambers of Congress would be dissecting, amending or revising the proposed BBL so that all provisions which are offensive to and execrable to the Constitution are excised from the measure,” Albano said.

1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvstre Bello III and Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat said the BBL in its present form will not pass the test of constitutionality.

Bello lamented that President Aquino would want the BBL to be his legacy to the Filipino people at the expense of violating the Constitution.

Lobregat, member of the 75-man ad hoc panel on the BBL, said the peace pact being pushed by the Aquino government should have resolved constitutional issues.

“We are for peace. But the BBL will not pass in its present form. We need a BBL that is just, fair, acceptable, feasible and consistent with the Constitution and existing laws,” Lobregat said.

But Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc panel on BBL, said that his panel will approve the BBL measure next month.

“We are going to make sure that unconstitutional provisions are removed,” Rodriguez said.


PHILSTAR

House panel threatens to suspend Mamasapano probe, if... By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 7, 2015 - 12:00am


STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Any flouting of rules or disruption of proceedings will be enough reason for the House committee on public order and safety to suspend today’s hearing on the Mamasapano incident, panel chairman Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer warned yesterday.

“I will continue to be diplomatic since we’re all colleagues here. But I also have to be strict and may be forced to suspend the hearing to protect the inquiry. I don’t want the inquiry to be used or hijacked by any agenda,” Ferrer told The STAR over the phone yesterday.

The hearing will be conducted jointly with the committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, chaired by Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman. Another hearing – possibly the last on the issue – is slated tomorrow.

Ferrer, Salliman and other House leaders led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. met yesterday to reaffirm compliance with rules on committee hearings to prevent a repeat of the raucous proceedings last February where some lawmakers engaged in a shouting match.

“The rules that govern inquiries are not new. We all know that and we’ve conducted and participated in so many hearings so they know their ethics, the appropriate decorum,” he said.

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He said it was ironic that those who were unruly in the first hearing were the same ones who have been pressing for the immediate resumption of the inquiry.

Salliman was not ruling out the holding of an executive session on the issue before the end of this week.

Ferrer also said the joint inquiry would strictly follow the rule that only members of the two committees would be allowed to actively take part in the proceedings.

He said non-members may participate but can neither make a motion nor vote. The two panels have a combined membership of some 70 House members.

He said at least 30 lawmakers have lined up to ask questions and are given five minutes each.

The two panels have invited 46 resource persons, including Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Peace Adviser Teresita Deles, chief government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chief Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiator Mohaqer Iqbal, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, resigned Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima, and relieved PNP Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas.

Also invited were SAF commandos who participated in the operation to arrest two international terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz lashed out at President Aquino for contesting the findings of the PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI) and the Senate on the Mamasapano incident but said nothing about the MILF’s own findings.

“So does this mean that President Aquino agrees more with the contents, narration of facts and conclusions of the 35-page MILF? Which, then, among the PNP-BOI, Senate and MILF reports does the President find closer to the truth on what really happened in Mamasapano?” De la Cruz asked.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said Aquino should pinpoint which portions of the findings of the BOI and the Senate were “guesswork or innuendoes.”

Not forcing P-Noy

Even as lawmakers belonging to the so-called Makabayan bloc are determined to get to the bottom of the Mamasapano incident, they cannot force President Aquino to respond to their 20 questions on the issue, according to Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

He was responding to the call of the seven-member Makabayan bloc for Aquino to be required to attend the inquiry or be asked to answer its questions in a sworn statement.

“We cannot force the President to attend the hearings. We cannot require him to answer any of the Makabayan questions. That is because of the constitutional provision on the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government,” Rodriguez told ABS-CBN News.

He said the hearing committees could send a request, but it would be up to the President to respond or not.

The inquiry is a prelude to the resumption of the work of the Rodriguez panel on its version of the proposed BBL on April 20.

The Makabayan bloc will insist on having the hearing committees invite the President, but members belonging to the majority are expected to vote it down. Makabayan members are part of the minority.

Rodriguez said he agreed with the President’s spokesmen that he has already answered most of Makabayan’s 20 questions.

However, he said he also agrees with his seven party-list colleagues that Aquino could clarify some issues.

For instance, he said the President has not touched on the participation of United States personnel in the SAF operation in Mamasapano.

“But the involvement of six Americans has already been sufficiently discussed by former SAF chief Director Napeñas, and by the investigation reports of the Senate and the PNP Board of Inquiry,” he added.

He said Aquino and security officials, including Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, also need to clarify what they did to help embattled SAF commandos.

The President, Gazmin, Catapang, Roxas and other officials were in Zamboanga City almost the whole day of Jan. 25, when two SAF teams were battling Muslim guerrillas.

The teams were the 84th Seaborne, which assaulted the hideout of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and its blocking force, 55 SAC (Special Action Company).

Rodriguez said he wants to know why it took military commanders in Maguindanao 11 hours to fire blank artillery rounds at the location of 84th Seaborne.

“I am not satisfied with their explanation. They fired the blank rounds at 6 p.m., which admittedly saved most of the assault team. But by that time, the blocking force had already been nearly wiped out,” he said. “Had they fired those blank rounds early on in response to frantic text messages from Napeñas, some members of 55 SAC could have been saved.”

Napeñas had claimed that Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, who heads AFP’s Task Force Central Mindanao based in Maguindanao, disallowed early artillery support “due to the peace process with the MILF.”

He said Pangilinan allowed the firing of blank rounds late in the afternoon because the location of 84th Seaborne was not an MILF community.

The 38-member assault team killed Marwan but lost nine men in ensuing daylong clashes with BIFF fighters. Two other targets – Amin Baco, another suspected Malaysian terrorist, and Marwan’s Filipino associate Abdul Basit Usman, escaped.

Only one of 36 commandos belonging to 55 SAC survived the eight-hour gun battle with MILF guerrillas. The MILF claims it lost 18 men. At least five civilians also died in the fighting.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, meanwhile, said the President does not have to say anything more about the issue of the Mamasapano clash. – With Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy


INQUIRER

Peace panel head warns of a ‘very bloody’ war Nikko Dizon @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:14 AM | Tuesday, April 7th, 2015


Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

A war born out of a radical movement, should the peace process fail, is likely to be a “very, very bloody” one, government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said Monday.

Ferrer was asked by reporters during a press conference to expound on the warning issued by President Benigno Aquino III that the failure of the peace process could mean more “body bags.”

Mr. Aquino issued the warning during a speech on the first anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and after a police mission to capture three terrorists ended in a bloodbath because of the government’s failure to coordinate the law enforcement operation with the MILF as required by a ceasefire agreement.

READ: Aquino says PH stands to lose more if BBL not passed

Ferrer said the peace agreement would remain in effect even after the Aquino administration, and only the timeline had been affected by the Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.

But she cautioned that while the MILF leadership has vowed to “stay the course of peace” even after the Aquino administration, “the problem would be if [the leadership] would have a hold on all its members.”

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Violent groups

And the disillusioned members could go the path of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in the Middle East, Jemaah Islamiyah or al-Qaida-type groups “that [use] different modes of organizations and violence.”

“That is the direction we are all afraid of,” Ferrer said.

“It is a real threat, that kind of radicalization toward the [IS-like] groups,” she said. “It is a religion-based ideology that would be more intractable, or more difficult and very, very bloody if you go through the history of religious wars,” she said.

Ferrer said the junking of a Moro homeland deal in August 2008 by the Supreme Court led to the MILF losing some of its commanders.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was “born out of that disappointment,” Ferrer said.

She said the new pursuits of such breakaway groups were unlike that of the MILF or the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) where the “agenda before was [for the] recognition of their unique identity within the Philippine context” and therefore was autonomous.

FLASHBACK: MINDANAO NEWS

COMMENT: BBL-- To Wait for the 17th Congress? By Patricio P. Diaz on November 21 2014 8:43 pm

ADVOCACY MindaNOW: Calvary for BBL & Peace Negotiators By Jesus G. Dureza on April 5 2015 9:12 pm


Jesus Jess Dureza ----
(The author was Presidential Adviser for Mindanao for former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria M. Arroyo. He was also involved in the peace negotiations in the talks with the MILF and the CPP-NPA-NDF and initiated, while Presidential Peace Adviser, the Tripartite Review of the 1996 MNLF Peace Agreement. He is currently President/Chair of the Philippine Press Institute.)

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 April) — Christianity’s traditional annual “Calvary” is over now. But for the peace workers and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the long road of Calvary is still continuing.

When Philippine chief peace negotiator, Prof. Miriam “Iye” Coronel – Ferrer called me by phone soon after Mamasapano to clarify certain points on the “coordination” issue hounding the incident, I clearly recalled my parting words for her. I told her: “Iye, I dread being in your shoes at this time”.

“CATCH 22.”

Indeed, I was in those very same shoes before as peace negotiating panel chair from 2001 to 2003. I tell you, it’s not an easy job. Worse, it’s a thankless job. It puts one in a “catch 22” situation, meaning whichever way a negotiator goes, he or she is in a bind and in an unenviable position.

Why so? Simply because the task is not only to negotiate with the armed rebels on the OTHER SIDE of the negotiating table. Unknown to many, the equally difficult task is the “negotiations” that a negotiator must do with those on the SAME SIDE of his table.

Meaning, your own colleagues in government and the public at large who usually disdain giving favors or concessions to armed rebels who are understandably perceived as “enemies” or the “bad guys” who blackmail government.

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Let’s not forget: rebels take up arms because they cannot get redress for grievances within the normal system or they use the force of arms to seek demands. Hence negotiating with them to forge agreements is a tricky and sensitive work.

Most important of all, factor in the fact that all rebels (MILF, CPP-NPA-NDF, MNLF) consider it a matter of negotiating principle that they do NOT adhere to nor do they operate within the ambit of our laws and Philippine Constitution while our own government negotiators MUST NOT go beyond those sacrosanct parameters.

How to navigate this is inscrutable to ordinary mortals. But negotiators must somehow find a way.

FOR PRINCIPAL.

The negotiator represents a principal, in our case, the Philippine president no less, who in turn represents all Filipinos.

This is not only true for the government negotiators. This also applies to MILF negotiators. MILF chief negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal merely represents his own principal MILF Chair Murad Ibrahim and the MILF Central Committee, the equivalent of government’s Cabinet and its claimed followings of Bangsamoro people.

PRIOR APPROVALS.

During my time, a general but comprehensive framework with a negotiating strategy must first be formulated to be approved by the principal, the President with the concurrence of the Cabinet thru its Security Cluster. And every time there were important agreements to be forged in the course of the negotiations, I had to get approvals first before I could commit important consensus points to the other panel.

There were specific instances of periodic consultations as new factors and points emerged in the course of the peace talks. In fact there were instances where I would find it more difficult to “negotiate” with our government side than with the rebels across the table.

There were times where it took President Arroyo herself no less to over-rule some Cabinet opposition for me to have the authority to “go ahead” in order to break some impasse in the talks or avert a breakdown.

PROTOCOLS.

I remember one instance when I was already in Malaysia about to sign a document with the MILF.

Due to some objections by some cabinet officials who were all in Manila, I had to suspend the signing ceremony and took the first plane out to Manila where I had a quick huddle with the Cabinet Security Cluster then flew back on the same day to Kuala Lumpur when things were clarified. Of course, these protocols were required due to the nature and implications of signed agreements.

“MINI MAX.”

Generally, before the panel embarked on a foreign trip (usually to Malaysia or to Libya) to attend a round of negotiations, the negotiating positions in the agenda item for that meeting were discussed and cleared and the panel given the mandate to negotiate and commit.

There was such a thing as “mini-max” in negotiations, getting inputs coming from government agencies and the Cabinet with a range of options from the minimum to the maximum. Anything “in between”, the panel can commit.

Anything “beyond the max” will have to get prior clearance or approval. In other words, a negotiator works on the basis of what has been authorized and processed. This was the procedure during my time.

I could not tell how the Aquino panel did its work. But I was surprised to know that the BBL that was finalized, signed and sealed by the two panels, had to be retrieved, re-drafted and “cleaned up”‘ by Malacanang before the final version was submitted to Congress.

I wondered why: either Malacanang did not monitor closely and just gave the negotiators a free hand or the Chair Iye’s panel exceeded its mandate. Or it was pure hubris only to be shaken back to reality by Mamasapano?

But I can tell you that the work of a negotiator is not an easy job. One usually walks a tight rope.

And in the eyes of the public, any error in judgment is the negotiators’ responsibility. The whole government though must bear responsibility — the President primarily.

IN DEFENSE OF FERRER. \

With Mamasapano, the whole scenario was radically altered.

While during our time the Filipinos at large were not too keen and focused on the peace negotiations except for the affected sectors, today an angry and awakened sector at large must be mollified. Mamasapano was a monkey wrench. I just could not picture myself now in the shoes of Chair Ferrer with all the challenges she and all the peace negotiators and peace workers are now facing.

Truth to tell, I credit her for her composure and clarity in defending and explaining the collective outcome of a difficult, tedious and crafty procedure that is now being publicly scrutinized, torn to pieces — even demonized.

DEFEND PACT.

It is not fair that we should take it personally against Chair Ferrer for standing pat on the signed documents, as she is being pilloried today. Having forged an agreement together with the MILF negotiators, she is duty bound to stand by it and defend it.

For her to do so does not mean she’s taking the side of the MILF as she is unfairly charged. In the same vein, MILF Chair Mohaqher Iqbal has to defend the same agreement and MILF should not, in the same vein, charge him of being pro-government.

They jointly forged an agreement and they had to stand by it, no matter what. If Chair Ferrer is being ” roasted” by the public after she worked hard to get a peace settlement, Chair Iqbal will get more roasting from the MILF if he too falters, for sure.

RESIGN?

At a critical time like this, there is a call for Chair Ferrer to resign. Perhaps that can be the most expedient escape from it all but to me, that’s the last thing a negotiator should do at this time. One worth her salt does not dismount at the time when she is most needed to give clarity to a muddled situation, however difficult or inscrutable the work appears to be, however tempting and convenient it would be to leave and go back to quiet private life.

This is a time to work and face the music. There is another time to call it quits and quietly dismount. I trust Chair “Iye”‘will continue to hold her ground as she does — and which she must.

MY OWN STORY.

I have my own story about resignations to tell, although a bit different from what Chair Ferrer is facing today.

When the Arroyo government assumed office in 2001, the peace process was in disarray. I was appointed as the chief negotiator with the principal task of restoring the abandoned peace talks due to the Mindanao “war” policy of former President Estrada.

Within a short period, we signed the framework “agreement for peace” in Tripoli, Libya in a few months to re-start and pick up the pieces for the resumption of peace talks. For two years, we signed other milestone agreements.

I RESIGNED.

Things went well until 2003 when something happened. I was on the verge of resigning in a huff as chief negotiator due to an incident.

I refused to put my concurring signature on a prepared “Minutes” that was presented to me containing points I did not concur in during our meeting. It was handed to me for signature by MILF’s Musib Buat when I was already back home in Manila .

Normally, Minutes of Meetings were discussed to the last comma before heading back home. This one was different.

But instead of totally refusing to sign, I annotated the minutes with some notes. This ruffled the feelings of the MILF and the Malaysian facilitators and they said I altered the minutes.

Because of this, I was convinced that my effectivity as negotiator was seriously undermined. But I refused to immediately resign or dismount at that time because it would be disruptive of the over-all peace efforts. It took another subsequent incident (an attack by MILF on Siocon town of Zamboanga del Norte) and a lull in the peace talks that gave me an excuse to hand in my resignation to the President.

Sec. Silvestre “Yong” Afable took over from me but he also eventually resigned too. Then retired Army Gen. Rodolfo “Rudy” Garcia took over from Sec. Yong in whose watch, the Supreme Court ruled the “Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain” (MOA AD) as unconstitutional. I also served the OPAPP position only to turn it over to Sec. Hermogenes Esperon when I became Press Secretary.

BANGSAMORO DREAM.

An additional note.

When MOA-AD was signed and later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, although I was no longer at OPAPP but at the Malacanang press office as press secretary, I aggressively defended and explained the MOA-AD knowing the implications of depriving the Bangsamoro an opportunity to achieve its long dream and aspiration of self-governance and self-determination.

But what I cannot still understand up to now is why our present government panel and the MILF did not learn from the lessons of the failed MOA AD and merely re-languaged those provisions that failed the constitutional test. Well, all those are behind me now. I have now the luxury of just reminiscing and viewing things from a distance — but definitely not in a detached manner given that what happens to the Bangsamoro aspirations will affect me and the rest of the nation.

CALVARY.

Today, how we deal with the present challenges and discordant noises involving the proposed BBL will be crucial. But in the meantime, it is still a continuing Calvary for Chair Iye Ferrer, together with all those who work for peace — including the BBL as well.

Whether BBL’s “crucifixion” will eventually come now or later is of no moment. Whatever happens in the unsettled maze of Mamasapano, I am confident that all peace efforts are bound to somehow “resurrect“. Maybe not now. But inevitably later.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Atty. Dureza’s piece is from his syndicated column, Advocacy MindaNOW).


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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