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Justice for the 44 SAF should be prioritized over BBL approval

Photo by Official Gazette of the Philippines

An administration solon maintained that seeking justice for the 44 Special Action Force or SAF commandos slain in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao should be the primordial concern of legislators instead of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL.

“The passage of the BBL for the sake of peace and economic prosperity in Mindanao should be subsumed to the greater interest of the majority of Filipinos and that is giving justice to the SAF 44, which is what should be prioritized by the government,” Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian said.


Gatchalian, who is a member of Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC, made the statement as the nation observes the 40th day since the death of 35 troopers of the 55th Special Action Company and nine commandos of the 84th Seaborne Company.



Related Story: PNoy should disclose SAF operation details in Maguindanao

The 44 SAF officers and men were killed in a police operation to neutralize international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano.


The NPC, which has 39 members in the Lower House, has previously filed a resolution condemning in the strongest possible terms the massacre of the 44 SAF and called for an indefinite suspension of all proceedings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law until the completion and submission of the results of the probe.


“This may well be an ominous sign for us to step back, reflect and proceed cautiously in crafting a law that will truly and genuinely bring peace not only in Mindanao, but in the entire country as a whole,” stated in the NPC resolution.


Gatchalian said it will do well for the House of Representatives to wait for the filing of criminal charges against members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF before resuming deliberations on the BBL as the Board of Inquiry of the Philippine National Police is set to submit its report on Mar. 6 or Mar. 9.


The Department of Justice has announced it has already identified several MILF members behind the slaughter of 44 SAF troopers and will shortly file criminal charges based on available evidence.



Related story: NPC calls for justice for the 44 slain SAF troops



Gatchalian said he agrees with the position of the Bangsamoro Basic Law ad hoc committee that the passage of the measure will be difficult if the MILF will refuse to turn over its members who are involved in the Jan. 25 bloody clash with 44 SAF commandos in Mamasapano.


“The return of 16 SAF firearms by the MILF is already a good start for confidence-building measures. But this is not enough. Justice demands that MILF members responsible for the overkill should be surrendered by their leaders and let the courts decide on their case,” said Gatchalian, who is a majority member of the House Committee on Local Government.


Gatchalian said it was very unfortunate that the Mamasapano incident has adversely affected the economic development in Muslim Mindanao, considering that billions of investments have been parked in the soon-to-be-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.


Reports released as of Dec. 20, 2014 showed that P3.867 billion worth of registered investments have been reported by ARMM’s Regional Board of Investments or RBOI, which was double the amount in the previous year.


Registered investments from 2012 in the region were mostly in agribusiness, renewable energy, and mining.



Related story: Returned SAF firearms can be used as evidence vs MILF



“However, aid agencies which were optimistic about the region and the BBL are now adopting a wait-and-see attitude as there looms the possibility that the BBL might not be passed by Congress,” Gatchalian pointed out.

The Bangsamoro Development Agency had said some potential partners are holding back aid while waiting to see if and how the Mamasapano incident affects the local investment climate. (R. Burgos)