Aquino urges lawmakers to pass BBL ‘in timely manner’

MANILA  – With the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in question, President Aquino gathered congressmen at Palace, on Monday, explaining himself on the Mamasapano debacle that killed 44 police commandos, and in an apparent bid to salvage the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The President also told congressmen led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte that the Department of Justice has been “gathering information and evidence so that appropriate charges may be filed in court,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

High in the President’s agenda was the BBL, which would carve out a new Bangsamoro territory in Mindanao. The massacre of 44 Special Action Force troopers by MILF fighters and other armed groups in Mamasapano has raised serious doubts on the sincerity of the MILF to talk peace with the government.

“While acknowledging that the enactment of the BBL has been delayed, he emphasized the importance of approving the measure in a timely manner, so as to pave the way for the holding of a plebiscite and if the people will approve the same, to give the members of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority sufficient time to demonstrate their capabilities,” Coloma said.

In explaining his role in the Mamasapano operation, the President showed congressmen text messages between him and then Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima, who has been suspended by the Ombudsman, during the Mamasapano operation.

At 5:45 a.m. on Jan. 25, Purisima told the President that “Marwan was killed and one SAF trooper was wounded. The body of Marwan was left behind but pictures were taken. The troopers are now (in the) withdrawal phase and progress report to follow,” based on the record showed to congressmen.

To which Aquino replied supposedly: “Why could they not contain and/or overwhelm 15-20 member opposing force.” Citing the text exchange, Coloma said the President had been earlier informed that “160 SAF troopers were directly involved in this operation plus provisions for other PNP and AFP units to assist.”

At 11:37 a.m. Purisima informed the President that “…the main effort is withdrawing and according to (the) director (of the) IG (intelligence group) we still have our contact with the(m) and will hit them again sir,” Coloma said.

“The President said that he had given specific instructions to (the SAF chief Getulio) Napeñas on the need for coordination with the AFP and for Purisima to inform PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina. However, he found out later that these instructions had not been followed,” Coloma said.

The President also cited “instances, which would have clearly called for the mission to be aborted, but which was not done.”