MANILA -- Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. warned that public trust for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would totally collapse if it will not surrender its troops allegedly involved in the January 25 Mamasapano clash.
In a statement issued Saturday, Marcos said the statement of MILF first vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar that the group would not surrender its men involved in the clash is not helping it regain the public trust it lost in the wake of the carnage.
"Vice Chairman Jaafar's statement clearly shows no respect for the rule of law and a blatant disregard to the feeling of the people crying out for justice for the SAF killed by the MILF fighters in Mamasapano. This will not help in regaining the people's trust in them," he said in a statement Saturday.
Marcos is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, which is conducting public hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a measure that will create a Bangsamoro political entity to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
He said the government, through the peace panel, should take a clear stand and state categorically that under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the framework agreement recognized by the government and the MILF as legally binding for both parties, the state can arrest MILF members charged with criminal offense under the existing laws of the land.
"The MILF's non-cooperation will bring into question the wisdom of continuing with the BBL hearings," said Marcos.
The Department of Justice earlier said 90 individuals from the MILF, its splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups (PAGs) have been recommended to be criminally charged in connection with the death of 35 troopers of the 55th Special Action Company (SAC) of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).
The DOJ-National Bureau of Investigation team was given another two months to further investigate the death of 9 other SAF troopers, this time from the 84th SAC, who died in an encounter in Barangay Pinsandawan. The 84th SAC neutralized international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan," while the 55th SAC served as a blocking force.
Jaafar earlier said in a radio interview that the MILF men should not surrender because they merely acted in self-defense.
"If the MILF leadership will not surrender their members, then the belief that they are protecting wanted criminals and terrorists will be reinforced," Marcos said.
'RAPS SHOULD NOT HAMPER PEACE PROCESS'
Meanwhile, the Palace said the DOJ was only doing its job when it recommended the filing of criminal charges against the 90 individuals.
Asked to comment on Jaafar's recent statement, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said: "Mayroon pong tamang lugar para ilabas yung mga ganitong depensa, at lalo kung kaso naman po ang kakaharapin, ay doon na lang po din pwedeng maipaliwanag yung ganyang depensa."
"Of course, the DOJ is only doing its job of initiating prosecution against persons who may be guilty of some criminal acts under our law, so hayaan po nating gumulong yung prosesong ito," she added.
She said the peace process should not be affected by any criminal proceeding in connection with the Mamasapano incident.
"It should be separate, really, because the peace process is proceeding on its own track. So it really should not... It really should be a separate discussion," she said.
According to Valte, the Palace remains optimistic that discussions on the BBL, the passage of which has been put in peril following the bloody encounter, will move forward.
"What we want to address really is for government to be able to reach some of these areas in Mindanao that have been in conflict for so long and to address poverty issues, health issues, and other social welfare issues that have been prevalent and have been connected to the conflict."
"So kahit po mainit pa yung mga emosyon, kahit marami hong tumututol, ipagpapatuloy lang po natin yung pagpapaliwang kung bakit naniniwala po tayong ang pagpasa ng BBL ay isang mahalagang hakbang para makamit yung kapayapaang ginugusto natin para diyan," Valte said.