Biazon dares MILF to help hunt BIFF, Abu Sayyaf

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 30 2014 07:25 PM | Updated as of Jan 31 2014 03:25 AM

MANILA - Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon wants the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to help government go after the breakaway group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Biazon, a former defense secretary and chairman of the House of Representatives defense committee, said asking the MILF's help in capturing BIFF renegades and Abu Sayyaf terrorists would be a "test case" for the Moro group.

"If possible, with the assistance of MILF, habulin na ang BIFF. If the MILF will do this, the MILF will seem like, to us, indeed they are serious in restoring peace in Mindanao. Pwede sila tumulong eh. If the MILF will be tested, addressing the problem of the BIFF is an opportunity for them, they should help government finish the issue of the BIFF. Isama na nila yan Abu Sayyaf," Biazon said.

"Magandang test case for the MILF. We run after BIFF and they will help," he added.

The Philippine government and MILF recently signed the fourth and final annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), paving the way for the the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The peace accord would give Muslims a large degree of autonomy in the south, including control of much of the region's natural resources.

The MILF has been leading a rebellion in the southern Philippines since the 1970s aimed at winning independence or autonomy for the country's Muslim minority in Mindanao, which they regard as their ancestral homeland.

About 150,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.

The peace accord is expected to be signed within weeks and President Benigno Aquino is aiming for it to be fully implemented before he steps down in mid-2016.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, previously said the MILF has been assisting government troops in neutralizing the BIFF.

Learn the lessons of previous peace accord

Meanwhile, Biazon also urged the government to learn its lessons from the failure to decommission the firearms of the Moro National Liberation Front, a rival group which signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996.

"Kailangan matututo tayo sa eksperiyensiya natin sa [MNLF]. Integration into the Army, Philippine National Police. Kung naintegrate talaga at nadispose ang armas, hindi mangyayari ang nangyari sa Zamboanga," he said, referring to an MNLF siege in Zamboanga City last year.

Biazon wants the government to pass the enabling law for the implementation of the peace agreement before President Aquino steps down from office in 2016.

"I would like to see this law enacted before the end of the year. Kung ito ipapasa malapit na sa election in 2016, di natin alam ano nasa isip ng susunod na president," he said.

Biazon, however, pointed out that not all of the concessions sought by the MILF can be granted by the President or Congress.

"The level that may prove difficult is the demand by MILF that may require a constitutional amendment. Here, it's not just power of the President, Congress, but sovereign power of the people will be invoked in the form of ratifying proposed amendments to the Constitution," he said.

The Bangsamoro basic law is supposed to amend the organic law creating the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

"Inirekomenda ko sa [House] na bumuo ng ad hoc committee kasi kung simpleng batas ito, nire-refer lang sa isang committee. This law that we are going to pass is complicated," Biazon said.

The congressman said the committee should be composed of chairmen of the committees on Constitutional and revision of laws, defense, interior and local government, exploitation of natural resources, mining, and probably the committee on Muslim affairs.

Despite what he believes are challenges, Biazon lauded both the government and MILF negotiating teams.

He attributes the success to changes in the style of negotiations, as well as a change of attitude of Malaysia as mediator.

"They avoided resolving contentious issues in plenary. Pag may contentious issues maghiwa-hiwalay sila kasi pag sa plenary niyo tinangka, magkakatigasan nang posisyon. Ito nakita kong magandang pamamaraan na ginawa nila.

"The Malaysian Prime Minister issued a statement addressing the problem of Burma, Thailand, the Philippines in relation to Islamic communities. Sabi ng PM, kayo mga nasa bansa na iba ang estraktura ng gubyerno, pag-aralan niyo na kayo mabuhay sa ilalim ng stratktura ng gubyerno. Pinagsabihan niya mga Islamic communities."