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NSA shoots down Bangsamoro army

The Bangsamoro autonomous region under the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) can’t have armed units independent of the command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) as they can be used by some groups to advance their own interest, National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said during the Senate subcommittee hearing on the BBL yesterday.

Under the BBL, the creation of a Bangsamoro Military Command is being proposed .
During the inquiry, Esperon said a separate command might be used by leaders “for their own interest.”
“I take the position that we should not create a command that will be under the control of the autonomous region,” Esperon said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Eastern Mindanao Command and Western Mindanao Command would be “enough and sufficient” for the proposed autonomous region, he said.
“The armed forces would be better able to serve the purposes of defense and security without becoming a potential instrument of the leaders or of personalities in an area for their own interest,” Esperson said.
Esperon said the military may be “flexible” on the possible creation of task groups in the proposed Bangsamoro area.
Section 147 of the proposed BBL provided that the defense of the Bangsamoro entity shall be the responsibility of the central government and that “the central government shall create a Bangsamoro Military Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the Bangsamoro.”

“Qualified inhabitants of the Bangsamoro territory shall be given preference in the leadership of Command for assignments in the said Bangsamoro Military Command,” it added.
Esperon added the BBL will allow the “peaceful transition” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from an armed group to a “legitimate political actor.”
No BBL means trouble
Failure to pass the BBL will result in a “grimmer picture” as the Moro people are “beginning to lose faith in the peace process,” Esperon said.
He said the Marawi siege last year was an indicator of “growing discontent” among the Moro community.
“The succesful conclusion of the peace process is still the most effective vacctination against the risk of violent extremism in our country,” Esperon said.
Sen. Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the subcommittee on BBL, committed to passing the proposal on third and final reading by March this year.
“The threat of violent extremism and radicalization looms even larger if its socio-economic, political and cultural drivers are not addressed,” Esperon said.
A “complex mixed of grievances resulting from diminution of ancestral homelands, poverty and underdevelopment, marginalization and poor governance, should be addressed and the passage of the BBL is arguably the most effective legislative response to these grievances,” he said.
The BBL, he said, would allow the peaceful transition of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from an armed group to a “legitimate political actors competing in fair and free elections.”
Esperon said the political and economic developments in the region would also lead to the settlement of one of the long-standing armed conflicts in the country, which would also allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to focus more on external security.
Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) member Jose Lorena said the creation of a military command for the autonomous region is already provided in Republic Act 9054, which strengthened and expanded the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“Since it is already vested in that law, the BTC did not change it, except the name, because it is provided,” Lorena said.
Akbayan Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on her fellow lawmakers to shift focus and collectively work in passing the “long-delayed” BBL.
“Even as I continue to add my voice to defending the integrity and independence of the Senate, I call on my fellow lawmkers both in the Senate and the House of Representatives to shift focus and devote time and energy to passing the BBL. Instead of the endless and self-serving talks on extending the term limits of public officials, let us deliberate the passage of laws, such as the BBL, that will benefit the people,” said Hontiveros.
“It’s time that we pass this long-delayed measure. It is an institutional recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people. We must once and for all address the historical injustices committed against our Muslim brothers and sisters, help build lasting peace and support them in realizing their dream of self-determination,” Hontiveros added.
BBL bill filed
Last January 17, Hontiveros filed Senate Bill 1652 or the “Bangsamoro Basic Law”, which was derived from the version provided by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
In the BBL version of the BTC adopted by Hontiveros, the Bangsamoro territory will cover the present geographical area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and all other contiguous areas where there is resolution of the local government unit or a petition.
Hontiveros said that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed in 2014 between the Philippine and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a landmark agreement that promised peace in Mindanao. However, she said, four years after the signing of the CAB, there is still no enabling law for the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity.

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