BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/14 February) — Valentine’s Day became an occasion to push for the resumption of deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which have been put on hold following the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left 44 elite policemen, Moro rebels and at least four civilians dead.
Police, military and civilian officials led by 6th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan and government peace panel head Miriam Coronel-Ferrer biked along the 105-kilometer highway from Cotabato City to this new provincial capital town to sound off renewed appeals for Congress to pass the draft BBL.
Organizers said the biking event, dubbed the Bangsamoro Bike for Love, symbolized the desire of Mindanao-based police, military and civilians for enduring peace and justice through the passage and implementation of the BBL.
Mangudadatu said the event also disproved notions that the Mamasapano clash had wedged a gap between the military and the police as institutions.
The bikers made three stopovers along the highway, the last in this town where the 4th Sagayan Festival underway to drumbeat calls for amity, peace and understanding in the province.
The Bangsamoro, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao upon its approval in a plebiscite, hit a snag when the Senate and the House of Representatives suspended its deliberations in deference to their separate probes on the Mamasapano clash last Jan. 25.
The clash left 44 police commandos, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels and some civilians dead, scores wounded and thousands of villagers displaced.
Close to 400 members of the police Special Action Force went to Mamasapano on Jan. 25 to get terror suspects Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was reportedly killed in the raid while Usman managed to escape.
Some lawmakers cited the incident to question the MILF’s sincerity in helping quell lawlessness in the conflict areas.
In the Senate hearings this week, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal reiterated the front’s commitment to work for lasting peace in the region. He stressed that nobody wanted the Mamasapano clash to happen.
Ferrer, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Q. Deles maintained that the Mamasapano clash should be treated as an issue separate from the BBL.
They said the proposed law is an instrument that could bring about lasting peace in the region.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman yesterday returned to Mamasapano along with actor Robin Padilla, a convert to Islam, to support calls for the passage of the BBL.
Hataman warned scrapping the BBL might rekindle hostilities and put to waste billions of pesos that have been infused in the ARMM in the transition towards the Bangsamoro.
ARMM Public Works Secretary Emil Sadain said that infrastructure projects alone in the region have cost the government P29.5-billion since 2012.
Sadain broke down the sum as follows: 2012 – P1-billion (projects 96% completed); 2013 – P1.5-billion (projects 80% completed); 2014- P5-billion (projects 40% completed); 2015 – P10-billion (projects to kick off); and P12-billion proposed for 2016.
He said the projects covered concreting of local and national highways, waterworks systems, bridges, and vital wharves.
Private business investments in ARMM were recorded at P3.9 billion last year, and P900 million so far this year.
Regional investment board officials said the bulk of the capital went to Maguindanao, where at least P14.5 billion of investments from foreign firms has been in the pipeline for implementation this year or the next. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)