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.
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.