President Aquino meets with retired generals opposing the BBL

By Joann Santiago

MANILA, Sept. 22 (PNA) — A two-hour meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and the retired generals who are questioning the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was held in Malacanang on Monday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a press briefing on Tuesday, said the President met with members of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) to thresh out the latter’s concerns on the issue.

He said the former uniformed officials were able to explain their take on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the BBL.

In return, the officials were informed about the amendments on the proposed law and the continued coordination of the Executive branch with the lawmakers, Coloma said.

He added that the constitutionality issue of the proposed measure and how this would be addressed was also discussed.

“At dahil nagkaroon ng malayang palitan ng pananaw, sa aking palagay ay mas nagkaroon na ngayon ng pagkakaunawaan sa magkabilang panig hinggil sa kanilang posisyon at mahalaga ‘yung tinukoy ni General (Edilberto) Adan doon sa pagtatapos ng pagpupulong na bagamat meron silang mga agam-agam o reserbasyon, sa kabuuan ay lubos silang sumusuporta sa pagsusulong ng prosesong pangkapayapaan sa Mindanao,” he said.

In a statement, Coloma said the President informed the retired generals that the “baseline from which the peace negotiations started were the provisions of Republic Act No. 9054 or the Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“The President thanked them for accepting his invitation to the meeting and asked them to air their concerns,” he added.

Former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and Adan, AGFO president who served as Commanding General of the Philippine Army (PA) and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), spearheaded the group of generals during the meeting.

For the government side, those who attended the meeting included Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles.

Last Sept. 14, a paid advertisement — a manifesto signed by 31 retired generals of the AFP, Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) — was published in a major daily.

The manifesto stated that the BBL is not the best solution to address the peace and order problem in Mindanao. (PNA)