No independent Bangsamoro police force, says lawmaker

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2014 04:10 PM | Updated as of Jan 29 2014 12:10 AM

MANILA -- A congressman who witnessed the signing of the normalization annex of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday said the pact will not lead to the creation of a separate police force for the Bangsamoro.

This, a day after Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon warned that a provision of the annex will lead to a creation of the Bangsamoro police force, which could be separate from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman said, "Ang leadership ng PNP sa regional police force will come from the PNP. That means na ang ibig sabihin ng regional police force, it is under ng leadership ng PNP, 'di hiwalay sa structure."

House deputy speaker Pangalian Balindong added, "If you have read the framework agreement, the Bangsamoro government will also be addressing this problem of peace and order. They cannot do it now, they're not yet organized. Once a basic law is in place, they will organize the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces and Bangsamoro police forces. They will organize a regional police force in coordination with the AFP [Armed Forces], with the PNP."

On Monday, Biazon reminded the government that the Constitution allows for only one police force, civilian in character and national in scope.

Balindong said the Bangsamoro police force will address and neutralize the armed elements in the Bangsamoro areas once these are formed.

"Once the Bangsamoro is organized, that's their role. They should neutralize all elements."

Balindong views the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as one of those elements. The BIFF launched another round of atrocities down south.

"Let's not equate what's happening...the problem with BIFF and other groups, [with the MILF]. These are groups that are opposing the present peace talks. They have no ceasefire agreement. The problem should be addressed as a law enforcement problem. Wala silang ceasefire with Philippine government. If we allow this as an obstacle, there will be no chance the problem will be contained."

Balindong and Hataman, along with Representatives Lilia Macrohon-Nunio, Teddy Baguilat, Zajid Mangudadatu and Jesus Sacdalan, represented the House of Representatives as witnesses in the signing of the normalization annex.

BASIC LAW

Balindong said they are waiting to tackle the basic law that will be presented to by the transitory commission, and "as mentioned in the agreement that was signed previously, this will be certified as urgent by the president."

Hataman expects the proposed Bangsamoro basic law presented as soon as possible.

"We're hoping ASAP, ang daming trabaho ng lower House. Hopefully before, may ma-submit satin ng draft yung transitory commission. It depends on them. The soonest they can submit the draft laws, immediately, the House peace and reconciliation committees will immediately agenda it in the committee level."

Balindong added, "Given the fact that the House will have a break from March 25 to May 5 in our conversation 2 senators present in Kuala Lumpur, the timetable to finish the drafts will be submitted May 5 because we will be on break. There's still time to discuss that. The transitory commission will start, they have already started working on basic draft. Once the draft is completed, we will send it to the president, who will certify to its urgency but that's not yet final, that's the consensus among members of the House and 2 senators, that it should be submitted to Congress May 5."

The MILF will lead the transitory commission that will draft the Bangsamoro basic law.

Balindong said this has to be finished in time for the next presidential election. "This has to be finished before 2016. The target is 2016 so they'll be able to participate in the 2016 election but before 2016, the transitory commission will be led by the MILF. That's our understanding."

Hataman concedes the peace agreement won't solve all the problems of Mindanao but it's a start. "We still have to wait for the draft Bangsamoro basic law. We're hoping na walang major na kailangan we amend the Constitution…Very clear na 'di conclusive, 'di conclusion ng problem, ng rebellion sa Mindanao particularly sa Muslim areas. Tingnan natin sa macro and micro, maganda may take off tayo. Kung may barilan sampu dati 2-3 maiwan kung may 100 na baril baka mabawasan…"

"It's premature to talk about constitutionality. That's one of the functions of the transitory commission in the drafting of the basic law," Balindong added.

Balindong also revealed that the peace agreement will allow for the expansion of areas covered by Bangsamoro. In addition to the core provinces, predominantly Muslim areas will be allowed to petition to join.