From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 13): AFP, BIFF clash in Maguindanao
Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO
Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines clashed with Muslim rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) Tuesday, with four members from the rebels killed, an official said Wednesday afternoon.
Major Dante Gania, Public Affairs Officer of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the clash happened in Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha at around 12 noon Tuesday.
He added there were no casualties from the government side and that residents reported to them the number of fatalities from the rebels.
“The fighting started after BIFF members conducted sniping in the area,” Gania said.
After the firefight, Gania said soldiers scoured the area and found traces of blood and some units of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) and drug paraphernalia.
He that they are still waiting for a progress report on how much shabu was found.
A statement issued to the press said that the “Panels have reached agreement on substantial portions of the document, and have developed a shared understanding of the remaining challenges and unsettled issues, which they will bring back to their principals for further guidance.”
The specific date was set “in order to allow the Office of the President to submit the same to Congress as soon as possible.”
The recent meeting was said to have covered specific issues such as fiscal autonomy, administration of justice, development planning and budget transfers to Bangsamoro, among what many believe was an article-by-article discussion of the proposed BBL.
The Basic Law, as drafted and submitted last April 14 and April 22 by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to the Office of the President, contains 18 articles and 244 sections printed in 97 pages.
After two months of waiting, or on June 21, BTC received the copy of the Palace-reviewed BBL containing comments and proposed revisions.
Series of meetings
Apparently, the “reviewed BBL” did not sit well with the MILF and BTC, thus leading to several meetings in July and August.
On June 24, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim met with President Benigno Aquino III at the Sheraton Hotel in Hiroshima prior to the opening program of the Conference on Peace organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Two days thereafter, MILF Chief Negotiator and BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal described the reviewed BBL as “heavily diluted” in a speech he made at an international gathering in Istanbul, Turkey.
On July 3, the BTC issued a resolution elevating to the GPH and MILF Peace Panels its concerns over the BBL.
The Panels then met on July 8 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur; 18 to 21 and 25 to 27 in Manila; and August 1 to 10 in Davao City.
The President also called for a meeting with the BTC in Malacanang on July 24.
On August 14, the two parties are expected to face again each other in what many hope would lead eventually to a mutually accepted BBL by August 18.