July 22, 2018, 2:05 pm
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Ex-generals raise concerns over BBL, China Sea dispute

A GROUP of mostly retired military generals yesterday raised concerns over the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and government’s handling of the territorial dispute in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

The group, called Advocates for National Interest, was launched yesterday in San Juan “to promote and increase awareness of the national interest,” according to its spokesman, retired Constabulary Col. Mariano Santiago.

Some members of the group had experiences in the legislature and government service who are not necessarily anti-administration but merely advocating reforms.

Aside from Santiago, the other prominent members of the group who faced the media are former AFP Southern Command chief and former Visiting Forces Agreement Commission chairman Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, former AFP deputy chief of staff Vice Admiral Emilio Marayag, former customs commissioner and former ambassador to Indonesia Maj. Gen. Ramon Farolan; and retired Constabulary colonel and former Cavite Rep. Plaridel Abaya.

The other prominent members of the group who did not face the media were former Armed Forces chief Gen. Renato De Villa, a former defense secretary and executive secretary; Gen. Victor Ibrado, Alexander Yano, Rodolfo Biazon, a former Muntinlupa congressman; former PNP chief Director Gen. Ricardo Sarmiento; and former Army chief and current Association of Generals and Flag Officers chairman Lt. Gen. Raul Urgello, among others.

“Our main objectives are to advocate key measures that enhance national security, to advance public awareness on critical defense and security issues, and to support good governance and reform initiatives and policies that unite and strengthen the nation,” said Santiago.

Santiago said their top concerns are the proposed BBL, which will establish a new political entity in the South under the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; the South China Sea dispute; and corruption, criminality and effective delivery of justice.

“Our urgent and critical concern is the impending passage of the BBL. We stress that the BBL must not violate the constitution and that it will unequivocally ensure that the ARMM will forever remain part of the Philippines,” said Santiago.

While acknowledging that economic development and good governance are key solutions to addressing the armed conflict in Mindanao, Santiago said “there must be definitive provisions, with verifiable compliance in the BBL on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of the MILF” to achieve a long and lasting peace in the area.

On the South China Sea dispute, Santiago said: “We are also concerned with the developments in the West Philippine Sea, South China Sea. We are for a peaceful resolution of the dispute while asserting the national sovereignty rights in that maritime area.”

Adan said they have read two versions of the BBL being threshed out by the two houses of Congress and saw “potential violations” of the Constitution.

“Our group, as voiced out, wants to make sure and to emphasize that the resultant BBL must be in compliance with our Constitution,” said Adan.

Adan said the AFP and the PNP must remain under the control of the President as the commander-in-chief of the military and the police. “That is what is provided by law and that is what we would like to follow,” he said.

“We want to ensure and we advocate that there should be definitive provisions in the BBL that the MILF forces will be demilitarized, demobilized and reintegrated into mainstream society, something which is not in the draft BBL,” Adan added.
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