POSTSCRIPT / December 27, 2012 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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PH tells US: We’ll face CN alone, if we’ve to!

CONGRESS SUPPORT: Both chambers of the Congress have approved resolutions supporting the Framework Agreement that Malacañang signed Oct. 15 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the creation of a new political entity in Muslim Mindanao called Bangsamoro.

The resolutions came on the heels of President Noynoy Aquino’s signing on Dec. 17 of Executive Order 120 forming a transition commission of 15 members, at least half of them (including the chairman) being MILF nominees, to finalize the legal paperwork for the Bangsamoro.

The congressional resolutions addressed the confusion over the Framework Agreement that Malacañang has represented as a contract between the Philippine Government and the MILF. The Executive is just one of the three branches of the government.

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ANNEXES HANG: Since the Legislative branch was never part of the negotiation and the formalizing (signing) of the Framework Agreement, it is now belatedly being brought into the picture to firm up the Palace claim that the MILF agreement was with the government.

The deeper involvement of the legislature will come later when the Congress is asked to approve the Bangsamoro Basic Law supplying the legal basis for creating the Bangsamoro (the Moro Nation) according to the wishes of the MILF.Malacañang seems to have accepted the 12,000-strong MILF as the authentic voice and representative of the estimated five million Muslim Filipinos (five percent of the 100-million population).The annexes that will flesh out the framework in detail have not been finalized. Malacañang and MILF panelists continue to disagree on some issues in their talks in Kuala Lumpur, according to reports.

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TIGHT SKED: How can a new law validly replace the existing/functioning Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – whose creation was mandated by the Constitution itself — with a newfangled Bangsamoro embracing territory larger than the ARMM?

There is lingering fear that the new Moro Nation, envisioned as a sub-state, could evolve into a full-fledged state and might inspire similar separatist or liberation fronts.

It is likely that the Bangsamoro’s creation will be challenged before the Supreme Court. But with President Aquino packing the tribunal with his appointees, that may recede as a problem.

The President has expressed his intention to deliver the promised Bangsamoro to the MILF – with the United States and US-UK allies looking on approvingly — before the end of his term in 2016.

The timetable is quite tight. Malacañang better make sure it does not fumble in the rush.

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STRAIGHT TALK: Two weeks ago, there was startling news that said the Philippines has told the United States that “with or without the Americans,” it will take a stand on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with China.

Roy C. Mabasa of the Bulletin wrote that this position was made clear by Philippine military officials to their US counterparts in their last Mutual Defense Board meeting in Honolulu.

“As soon as we sat down, we asked them (US military officials) if we could just talk freely, and that was what happened,” Flag Officer-in-Command Alexander Pama of the Philippine Navy told Mabasa in an interview.

I am not aware of any official denial or clarification issued on the Bulletin report.

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WISH LIST: Pama reportedly said that before the MDB meeting, he told Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr., then armed forces chief of staff, “to do away with the agenda of the meeting” and be frank with their counterparts.

“Let’s not talk about the wish list, we are not looking at Santa Claus,” Pama said he told the US officers. “This is where we are coming from and we just want to know if you are on board.”

The Americans were reportedly told that if they were not “on board” with the Philippines, “we will have to do it alone, because, in the first place, it’s ours.” (He was apparently referring to Panatag shoal and other disputed isles.)

“Whether we like it or not, the issues on sovereignty and the challenges will remain there,” Pama stressed. “That (West Philippine Sea) is ours.”

He explained, “We just want to get out (of that meeting room) having the mutual feeling that we are both reliable partners.”

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STILL FRIENDS: Pama reported that eventually the US panel agreed to the “wish list” of the Philippine military, “because those are the things that we need for us to be a reliable partner in whatever challenges that will exist.”

“Of course, they have to go back to their usual party line that they don’t have any position on territorial disputes,” he said. “But what’s important there is our military-to-military relationship.”

What if the Philippine request were turned down? Pama said, “At the very least we understand each other.”

“You have your interest, we have our interest. We have a common interest, we work together, well and good,” he said. “Beyond that we are still friends.”

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CAMI ELECTIONS: The Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) will hold its general meeting and elections at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the “Bale Balita” (House of News) in the Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga. The members will elect 15 trustees to the board who will then choose the officers for the next two years.

Registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004, CAMI is a non-profit, non-partisan professional organization of Capampangan members of print, broadcast and allied media. More information can be secured from Secretary-General Joe Cortez, (+63)9293897540. Or tweet or email me.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 27, 2012)

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