Thursday, July 19, 2018

5 ASG gunmen, soldier killed in Sulu encounters

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 19): 5 ASG gunmen, soldier killed in Sulu encounters

Army troopers conducting focused military operations encountered around 20 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) gunmen on the boundary of Barangay Tanun and Liang, Patikul Sulu after midnight Thursday, resulting in the death of four ASG members and a soldier.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu reported that combatant from the army’s 45th Infantry Battalion (45IB), led by a Lieutenant Colonel Salvador, encountered the group of ASG sub-leader Almujer Yaddah.

The firefight resulted in the killing of four Abu Sayyaf gunmen and the wounding of four more on the enemy side.

Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo, JTF Sulu commander, confirmed that one soldier was killed and two more troopers were wounded in the same encounter.

“The wounded soldiers were airlifted to Camp Navarro General Hospital early this morning for further medication,” Pabayo said.

Meanwhile, while conducting pursuit operations, elements of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion led by Major Grezula engaged in an armed confrontation with more or less 20 ASG members under Almadjan Sahidjuan, alias “Apoh Mike,” in Barangay Tabu-Bato, Maimbung, Sulu at 9:30 a.m. today.

Heavy skirmishes ensued, resulting in the killing of one ASG member, based on the body. One M16 rifle was also collected at the scene of the clash.

“My salute to our fallen soldier and my prayers for the other two who are currently recuperating at CNGH,” said Lieutenant General Arnel B. dela Vega, commander Western Mindanao Command. “With the support from the local government and the populace, the sickening problem of terrorism will soon be put to an end.”

Top cop in Cordillera warns public against NPA’s deceptive recruitment

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 19): Top cop in Cordillera warns public against NPA’s deceptive recruitment

The Police Regional Office-Cordillera (PRO-Cor) has warned the public against the deceptive method of recruitment being employed by the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the nearby provinces of Pangasinan, Ilocos, Isabela, and Cagayan.

Chief Superintendent Rolando Z. Nana, PRO-Cor director, made the revelation as he appealed to the public to be responsive by providing information to the police on the location and movements of NPA rebels recruiting new members.

Nana said that five victims of recruitment by the NPA have narrated their experience as they surrendered recently to government authorities.

“Beware the armed men who seek your help to carry their things. If you do, you may never be able to return home to your family,” Nana quoted one of the five surrenderers as having testified.

Speaking in their native Isneg dialect, three of five the five young men from Pudtol, Apayao appealed to their town mates to avoid being fooled by the NPA, said Nana.

They said they were working in the fields or cutting wood in the forests or fishing in the river when approached by armed men seeking their help to carry sacks of rice to Paco Valley.

They helped in carrying the food items to the NPA camp. However, they found themselves not allowed to leave and forced to undergo rudimentary training while being threatened not to disclose to anybody about the NPA activities.

The regional director (RD) recalled that the three NPA members had sought the help of Barangay Captain Fontanilla Melad, of Malibang in Pudtol in surrendering to authorities last July 4.

“With our collective efforts, we can make a difference in securing our people from any terror acts. That is the Filipino spirit of bayanihan,” said Nana as he vowed that government forces would act swiftly once information on NPA activities is relayed to them.

US to give Philippine police $26.5 million to fight terrorism

From the Stars & Stripes (Jul 19): US to give Philippine police $26.5 million to fight terrorism

Philippine Rangers Capt. Alex Estabaya and Capt. Ramse Dugan, who fought in the battle to liberate Marawi from Islamic State insurgents, stand in Marawi City, Philippines, in November.  SETH ROBSON/STARS AND STRIPES

The United States will give the Philippines $26.5 million over the next two years to boost police counterterrorism efforts.

“The assistance will include training, equipment, and other support to build comprehensive law enforcement capacity within a rule of law framework to deny terrorist operations, funding, and movement,” the U.S. Embassy in Manila said Thursday in a statement announcing the funding.

The Philippines is battling Islamic State-inspired terrorists, including those ejected from the southern city of Marawi following a bloody siege last year. Leftist groups such as the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army also pose a terror threat in the islands.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said it has committed $26.4 million to helping communities impacted by the Marawi conflict.

The U.S. gave Philippine law enforcement $32 million in 2016 but canceled the provision of 26,000 M4 assault rifles to police over concerns about extrajudicial killings in maverick President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.

Under President Donald Trump, ties have warmed with an end to public criticism by U.S. officials of the counter-narcotics effort and more robust military engagement.

The new law enforcement funding will help pay for the investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases and programs to counter radicalization to violence and violent extremism, the embassy said.

The support parallels U.S. efforts to build counterterrorism capabilities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In March, for example, the U.S. delivered six ScanEagle surveillance drones worth $13 million to boost counterterrorism capabilities among other things.

“The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines and will continue to provide whole-of-government support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts as we work together to address shared threats to the peace and security of both of our countries,” the embassy said.

Preacher assures Muslims' support for peace and order in Cordillera

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): Preacher assures Muslims' support for peace and order in Cordillera

MUSLIM COMMUNITY SUPPORT. Muslim leader, Imam Bedijim Abdulla, explains the participation of the Muslim community in keeping the peace and order in the Cordillera region. Abdulla, vice chairman of the multisectoral Regional Advisory Council for the Police Regional Office in Cordillera, was guest speaker at the celebration of the Police Community Relations Month held in Camp Bado Dangwa in Benguet province on Tuesday (July 176, 2018). (Photo by Pamela Mariz Geminiano)

BAGUIO CITY -- The Muslim community in Cordillera is one with police authorities in keeping the peace and order situation in this upland region and in ensuring the safety of all locals.

This was the assurance made by Imam Bedijim Abdullah, a Muslim preacher living in Baguio City and the vice chairman of the multi-sectoral Regional Advisory Council (RAC) that helps the Police Regional Office in Cordillera (Procor), particularly in its Crime Laboratory Service.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Thursday, Abdulla said it is in the Muslim community's interest to ensure the safety of all sectors, since what threatens the city or the region also threatens them and their livelihood.

“Our businesses, our families, our children, and our people would all be affected if we do not work together,” Abdulla said.

As an official helping police authorities in Cordillera, Abdulla also visits provinces in the region to check on the local situation.

The Muslim leader also gave the same assurance of Muslims' cooperation with police authorities during a press conference for the celebration of the Police Community Relations Month at Camp Bado Dangwa in Benguet province.

Abdulla said the Muslims support the Philippine National Police's campaign against criminality and ensuring Cordillerans' safety, since their brothers also reside in various parts of the region.

He said he, himself, representing the Muslims, is in close coordination with the authorities in the region to curb security threats from unscrupulous persons, including those coming from the Muslim community.

“Every time we, Muslims, are requested to appear in consultations, we always attend to prove how supportive we are, and how committed we are for the betterment of everyone,” he said.

He said Muslims also join activities initiated by the police and the local governments regarding peace and order.

He added that Muslims also report crimes and the possible commission of crimes to the authorities.

He said as a Muslim teacher, he, for his part, is obliged to educate people, who do not understand the teachings of Islam.

Abdulla also serves as an Imam or preacher at the Baguio City Jail to help reform fellow Muslims, who "have lost their path".

He added that the Muslim community raises funds to help provide equipment that would help cops do their work more efficiently. This, he said, is particularly true for the equipment at the crime laboratory service, where he serves.

"I have seen their condition. They are lacking equipment and other facilities that are needed to do their jobs, so what we did was we conducted fund raising events," he related.

The proceeds, he continued, were used to buy office supplies and laboratory equipment and to build additional evidence rooms. “We are doing our best in contributing to nation-building," he said.

4 ASG members surrender to Sulu governor

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): 4 ASG members surrender to Sulu governor

Four members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have surrendered to the provincial government in Sulu, an official said Thursday.

Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan II said the four ASG bandits, who surrendered to him on Tuesday, brought along with them three rifles, a pistol and ammunition.

Tan said the surrender was facilitated by the officials of Barangay Anuling, Patikul and the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion headed by Lt. Col. Amadeo Cruz.

Tan declined to name the four ASG surrenderees, saying they were placed under debriefing by military authorities. He called on other ASG members to surrender and to avail of the government’s integration program.

Since January this year, 127 ASG members have already surrendered to the military in the province of Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi, and in Zamboanga City.

The military said its offensives against the ASG will continue until all of the group's remaining hostages, including foreigners, are rescued.

NPA leader killed in Zamboanga del Norte clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): NPA leader killed in Zamboanga del Norte clash

A New People’s Army (NPA) rebel leader was killed while two soldiers were wounded in a clash in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, the military reported on Thursday.

Maj. Ronald Suscano, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division information officer, said the clash broke out while the a team of military and police personnel were on a law enforcement operation around 7 a.m. Wednesday in the town of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte.

Suscano identified the slain NPA leader as Edwin Lapinig, alias Ka Baz, Platoon Basil commander of the Mobile Regional Guerrilla Unit (MRGU) under the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC).

Suscano said the clash ensued as Lapinig opened fire that prompted the troops to engage Lapinig's group.

He said Lapinig has standing warrant of arrest for the crime of murder issued by the court in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental.

He added the slain NPA leader was involved in the recent killing of two soldiers; disarming of policemen in Don Victoriano Chiongbian, Misamis Occidental and burning of heavy equipment of a construction firm undertaking government project here in Region 9.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, congratulated the joint military and police operatives for the successful law enforcement operation.

“We will continue the security operations in our area of responsibility in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the people,” Murillo said.

He urged the families, relatives and neighbors of remaining NPA rebels to convince them to surrender and live peacefully with their loved ones.

Rescued from Sayyaf, families return to Zamboanga Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): Rescued from Sayyaf, families return to Zamboanga Norte


Col. Hernani Songano, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) deputy commander for marine operations (right), on Wednesday turns over the Javier family to Vice Mayor Jaime Felizarta of Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte. Marine troops rescued the Javier family on Tuesday in Sulu. (Photo courtesy: Western Mindanao Command PIO)
The two families rescued by marine troops from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) went home to Zamboanga del Norte on Thursday, the military reported.

Rescued in Barangay Gata, Talipao, Sulu on Tuesday evening were couple
Feliciano and Elsa Javier, both 28 years and their five-month-old son, Vincent; and couple Junior and Rica Javier, both 22 years and their five-year-old son, Val. Feliciano and Junior are brothers.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the Javiers were fetched from this city by Vice Mayor Jaime Felizarta of Sirawai town, Zamboanga del Norte.

After their rescue, the victims were transported to the headquarters of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) in Zamboanga City on Wednesday.

Besana said they were later turned over to Felizarta by Col. Hernani Songano, NFWM deputy commander for marine operations.

The victims worked as caretakers in a farm in Sitio Maasom, Barangay San Nicolas, owned by Valiente Felizarta, the municipal engineer of Sirawai, and a brother of the vice mayor.

They were abducted by a kidnap-for-ransom-group led by Jamilon Tukalan, alias Jamilon Wahab, from Felizarta’s farm on June 28 and were later handed over to the ASG.

Vice Mayor Felizarta said over local television that the Javiers had seen the other hostages, who are still in the hands of the ASG in Sulu. Among them were Jade Quimbo and Jose Duterte, who were separately kidnapped in Zamboanga del Norte last year.

Quimbo, son of Vice Mayor Eddie Quimbo of Labason, Zamboanga del Norte, was kidnapped in downtown Labason in September last year.

Duterte, 62, and his wife, Jessica, 52, were abducted in Barangay Sta. Maria, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte in March last year. Jessica was released months later last year.

Felizarta said the Javiers will return to their work despite their abduction.

FVR to launch new book

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): FVR to launch new book  

Former President Fidel V. Ramos will launch his 14th book titled “Undying Service to the Filipino” at the Manila Hotel Champagne Room at 4 p.m. Thursday (July 19).

His latest book is jointly published by the Ramos Peace and Development Foundation (RPDEV) and Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation.

“Undying Service to the Filipino” is a compilation of selected “ sermons from his weekly FVR column in the Manila Bulletin Sunday column “On Empowering the Filipino People.”

“Through this book, we aim to continue fulfilling the Filipinos’ intrinsic duty of imparting the values of transcendent events in nation-building to those who now bear the torch of national leadership and most especially to our younger generations. We should never tire in inspiring them to aspire for excellence and find honor in making self-sacrifice towards a common good. They need to know—and, from time-to-time, have to be reminded—what their elders had fought and died for, in the service of God, country, people, and the environment,” the RPDEV Foundation said in a statement.

The book is part of RPDEVs continuing education advocacies and publications program in line with its four main program areas namely: Enduring peace in the Asia-Pacific region, sustainable development, socioeconomic diplomacy, and democratic governance.

PRRD Year 2: Gov't dedicated to protecting PH territory, sovereignty

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): PRRD Year 2: Gov't dedicated to protecting PH territory, sovereignty

The Duterte administration remains focused on protecting the country's national territory and sovereignty.

This was emphasized by National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon during the "Tatak ng Pagbabago" Pre-SONA Forum held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City Wednesday.

Esperon said this is demonstrated by the continuous maritime and air patrols conducted by the military in various parts of the country.

"To ensure maritime domain awareness, the Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND-AFP) conducted naval surface patrols to cover more than 180,000 nautical miles of our maritime domain and more than 2,400 flying hours of maritime air patrol," Esperon stressed.

Augmenting these patrols are the littoral monitoring stations, installed in various parts of the country, which help in the detection and monitoring of more than 66,000 foreign and domestic vessels in Philippine waters.

"To maintain effective occupation over Philippine islands and features, our Armed Forces deployed personnel to these areas. Further, the DND began rehabilitation of structures in these islands. The construction of the beaching ramp and repair of runway in Pag-asa Island are now ongoing," he added.

Esperon also noted that the government continues to engage China regarding the Philippines' concerns in the West Philippine Sea, through high-level visits and meetings, including the bilateral consultation mechanism.

"These efforts seek to improve the ability of both sides to manage developments in the WPS so as not to escalate tensions; to widen access of Filipino artisanal fishermen in Scarborough Shoal; and to protect our environment and marine ecosystem," the NSA stressed.

Boosting these efforts are the Philippine government's active participation in the ASEAN-China processes for the peaceful management and resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.

Esperon said this underscores the importance of the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety and the Conclusion of an Effective Code of Conduct (COC).

And to ensure that the military has the capability to fully secure the country, the NSA said the AFP has completed a total of 27 modernization projects from the start of the Duterte administration in 2016 up to March 2018.

"Meanwhile, a total of 13 projects are ongoing under the Horizon Two list of the Revised AFP Modernization Program," he added.

US aid boosts PH’s counterterrorism efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): US aid boosts PH’s counterterrorism efforts

The United States will contribute USD26.5 million over the next two years to boost counterterrorism support for Philippine law enforcement agencies.

The assistance will include training, equipment, and other support to build comprehensive law enforcement capacity within a rule of law framework to deny terrorist operations, funding, and movement; investigate and prosecute terrorism cases; and counter radicalization to violence and violent extremism.

This support for non-military rule-of-law approaches to addressing terrorist threats will complement our sustained commitment to building the counterterrorism capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines and will continue to provide whole-of-government support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts as we work together to address shared threats to the peace and security of both of our countries,” the statement read. (US Embassy PR)

PAF looks for possible sources of combat choppers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): PAF looks for possible sources of combat choppers

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is now identifying possible sources of combat utility helicopters capable of meeting its specifications, an official said on Wednesday.

"We are going to talk to them to one by one so the Philippines, in this case, the Air Force will get what is best for our conditions," PAF chief Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar said in an interview.

Possible sources of the PAF's combat utility helicopters include South Korea, Italy and even Russia, Kintanar said.

"We sent a team there (Russia) just to look (at) the helicopters that they have offered, we have tried it," the PAF chief added.

Kintanar hoped that the contract for the combat utility helicopters will be finalized within the year.

Once procured, the aircraft will replace the country's cancelled 16 Bell 412 EPI order from Bell Helicopter and Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) last February.

The move came after the Canadian government ordered the review of the PHP12-billion deal between the Department of National Defense and CCC following reports that the Philippines is planning to use the helicopters against the insurgents.

"While the combat utility helicopters being purchased are primarily for the purpose of transporting personnel and supplies, the Department believes that it does not owe the Canadian government any justification for an outright purchase of equipment from a privately-owned company," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong earlier said.

Duterte likely to sign BBL before SONA: Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): Duterte likely to sign BBL before SONA: Palace

President Rodrigo R. Duterte will possibly sign into law the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday (July 23), MalacaƱang said on Thursday.

The bicameral conference committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate approved on Wednesday the reconciled versions of the measure seen to end decades-long conflict in Mindanao.

“It is possible that it (signing) could be on Monday,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a regular Palace press briefing.

Roque thanked the lawmakers, as well as the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), for approving the bicameral conference committee report of the BBL.

“Because they have already finished the bicameral conference on the BBL, our President can sign it before his SONA. I’m not sure when. Anytime now he can actually sign as soon as we receive the consolidated version of the proposed Republic Act that he will sign,” he explained.

Roque said both the House and the Senate can ratify the bicameral report when they meet separately on Monday morning to open the third regular session of the 17th Congress.

“The ratification will happen there. It can be done because it (BBL) was certified as urgent bill,” said Roque, a former lawmaker.

Under the final version, the BBL will be renamed the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro seeking to abolish the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and replace it with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

According to media reports, the new Bangsamoro region will be composed of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur plus six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of North Cotabato.

Palace to study US stand on PH’s arms deal with Russia

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): Palace to study US stand on PH’s arms deal with Russia

MalacaƱang on Thursday said it will look into report that the Philippines could breach sanctions imposed by the United States against blacklisted Rosoboronexport if the country will purchase grenade launchers from Russia-state owned firm.

“Let me state the official position, we will study the matter,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during Palace press briefing when asked for comment on Reuters’ report.

According to report, the Philippines had agreed in October last year to purchase PHP400 million (USD7.48 million) worth of 750 RPG-75 rocket-propelled grenade launchers from Rosoboronexport.

Roque, a professor of international and constitutional law, questioned the US' legal basis to impose sanction on country like the Philippines that has “absolute immunity as a sovereign state”.

“I do not know how they can enforce a US domestic legislation on a sovereign state,” Roque said.

Roque expressed doubts whether the Philippines will violate the US sanctions on the Russian firm since “the sale will be most likely in Russia”.

“Number two: I do not know how US law could be applicable to a transaction that will be done outside of the United States,” Roque said.

“The goods are in Russia and the delivery in the Philippines. So what is the relevance of the US laws. It does not make sense if US laws have the effect of super laws applicable to anyone even outside of their jurisdiction specially if one party is a sovereign state,” he added.

As sovereign state, Roque said the Philippines has “immunity and we are free to enter into contracts as we pleased and we are not bound by any domestic law particularly where the transaction will not occur in US soil”.

Quoting an anonymous Philippine defense official, the report said the US has not officially notified the Philippines about the restrictions on Rosoboronexport which US blacklisted in April.

Roque said he has no idea if the arms deal will proceed but “the official stand is, we will study the matter”.

“But off hand, I am giving the legal position of the Palace that we do not see how we are bound by a US extra-territorial piece of legislation,” he said.

BI orders deportation of Aussie nun

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): BI orders deportation of Aussie nun

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday ordered the deportation and inclusion in its blacklist of missionary nun Patricia Anne Fox, barring her from re-entering the Philippines.

In a 10-page decision, the BI Board of Commissioners, headed by Commissioner Jaime Morente, said the Australian nun has violated the conditions of her missionary visa and for undesirability.

“Wherefore, we find Fox Patricia Anne, Australian national, in violation of the limitations and conditions of Commonwealth Act (CA) 613, Section 9(g) missionary visa and undesirable under Act 2711, Section 69 and ORDER her deportation to Australia, subject to her submission of all appropriate clearances and the inclusion of her name in the BI’s Blacklist, thus barring her re-entry into the country,” the decision read.

The Bureau said Fox’s participation in political rallies, fact-finding missions, and conferences in various areas of the country as admitted by Fox herself in her Memorandum and as shown by photographs of her political activities, “is contrary to the conditions laid down by said Orders and her representations when she applied for a missionary visa.”

The BI was referring to the missionary visa it granted to Fox on Sept. 5, 2014 and was renewed on July 21, 2016, to render her religious and missionary works in Quezon City.

The decision also supported the ruling of its special prosecutor that charged Fox for being undesirable alien under Act 2711, Section 69 for engaging and openly participating in political activities in the country.

“To our mind, her participation in these political rallies and protests in collaboration with labor or cause-oriented groups is not within the ambit of the religious missionary visa granted her. We find the messages posted in the banners such as ‘Free All Political Prisoners’; ‘to respect human rights’; ‘resume peace talks’; ‘to implement genuine agrarian reform’; ‘to ban destructive mining’; ‘to respect workers’ security of tenure and provide them decent and humane wages’; or ‘to protect the OFW’ as undoubtedly dealing with political issues rather than purely religious or missionary concerns,” the decision added.


Fox said she learned about the order from a text message from her lawyer, noting that she has not yet seen the order.

“I haven’t seen the order… I just got the text from the lawyer… I’m not sure of the details yet,” she said in a telephone interview.

Fox just attended the 5th Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCEN5) where she together with other participants conversed with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle held at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on Thursday.

She admitted that she was disappointed over the decision and will talk with her lawyers on what they will do next.

“Well of course I'm disappointed but that’s the order, and we’ll look at what we can do about it,” the 71-year old nun said.

Fox's lawyers said they will challenge before the Department of Justice (DOJ) the decision of the Bureau.

“We'll file a motion for reconsideration. She is ordered deported and placed in watchlist. We are studying it now,” said lawyer Sol Taule of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, counsel for Fox, in a telephone interview.

The deportation case against her stemmed for her active participation in political rallies.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque urged Fox to follow and respect the deportation order.

“Thats the law. Dura lex sed lex (the law is harsh, but it is the law),” Roque said in a text message to Palace reporters.

Senators laud bicam approval of BBL

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): Senators laud bicam approval of BBL

Several senators on Thursday lauded the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as they expressed their collective hope that the landmark measure would at last bring peace and stability in Mindanao.

Senator Joel Villanueva said Congress has finally approved a measure that everybody hoped will bring peace and promote development in the Bangsamoro region.

“We hope that this can be the start of a peaceful and progressive future for the Bangsamoro, the people of Mindanao and the Philippines as a whole. We sincerely hope that the passage of this measure will usher a new era of collective prosperity and harmony for our brothers and sisters in Mindanao and the Filipino people,” Villanueva said.

Meanwhile, Senator Sonny Angara hailed the BBL as an unprecedented step towards fulfilling everyone’s aspiration to bring peace and development in the Bangsamoro region.

“Umaasa tayo na sa sandaling mapagtibay ang panukalang ito ay masasaksihan na natin at mararamdaman na ng mga kababayan natin sa Mindanao ang tunay na kapayapaan at pag-unlad sa kanilang rehiyon na ilang dekada nang binabalot ng sigalot,” Angara said.

(We are hoping that once this measure is enacted into law, we, and our countrymen in Mindanao, will witness and experience true peace and development in their region that has been beset by decades of conflict.)

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said passing the BBL is a big step towards peace and ending poverty in Mindanao.

He urged all Filipinos to unite to ensure that all families in the Bangsamoro region would benefit from the law’s passage.

“Bantayan natin na maabot ng makasaysayang repormang ito ang mga matatayog na hangarin na kapayapaan at kaunlaran para sa mga kapatid nating Bangsamoro,” Aquino said.

(Let us remain vigilant that this historical reform reaches the ultimate goals of peace and development for our Bangsamoro brothers.)

On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said while he lauds the landmark BBL as a tool to bringing peace and stability, he is concerned that the basic governance issues hounding soon to be replaced Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for decades will still remain due to the absence of an anti-dynasty provision.

"The BBL is pro-peace peace and stability but it lacks teeth to reform the prevailing politics and governance in ARMM that resulted in its provinces being one of the poorest in the country," Drilon said.

Drilon, who has fought for the inclusion of an anti-political dynasty provision in the BBL before it was struck down in the bicam, said "the absence of this very powerful provision" could put to naught other measures that Congress has put in place to promote good governance in the Bangsamoro region.

"Unfortunately, the future of the Bangsamoro region will be in the hands of a very few families again, because of our failure to prevent political dynasty. Unless political dynasty is addressed, there are always threats of failure of governance in the ARMM,” Drilon said.

The BBL, which has been renamed the Organic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), is set to be ratified by the Senate and the House of Representaitives on July 23, the first day of the Third Regular Session of the 17th Congress.

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign the measure into law before he delivers his State of the Nation Address on the same day.