POSTSCRIPT / December 10, 2013 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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MILF moves closer to statehood in talks

POWER-SHARING: We heard in horror the news that a Malacañang panel has signed with the MILF another annex of a comprehensive agreement for creating a Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao under the aegis of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Signed the other night under the watchful eyes of Malaysia was the document on power sharing. One of four annexes, it defines what powers are to be given to the Bangsamoro and what are to be retained by the Manila central government.

Previously signed were two annexes (1) on transitional arrangements and modalities, and (2) on revenue generation and wealth sharing. Still being rewritten are an annex on normalization and an addendum pertaining to Bangsamoro waters.

After the signing of the comprehensive agreement and the passing of an enabling Basic Law, a referendum (for acceptance or rejection) in the affected communities will be held. It is not clear if only the Bangsamoro area or the entire country will be asked.

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GOODBYE, SABAH: President Noynoy Aquino is expected to claim as an achievement the supplanting of the ARMM, which he described as a failed experiment, with the bigger Bangsamoro.

With due respect, the ARMM is not an experiment. Its creation (together with the Cordillera Autonomous Region) was mandated by the Constitution. Can it be abolished just like that?

Bigger question: Has Mr. Aquino been advised that once the Bangsamoro acquires a (1) defined territory with its own residual (2) population and a functioning (3) government and wins (3) recognition by foreign governments, it is ready to spin off as a separate state?

The President does not mind that cataclysmic turn of events possibly bugging his successors?

Recognition of Bangsamoro is a cinch. Waiting to have dealings with it are many Islamic states, the United States and its allies, including Great Britain and Japan. Malaysia, for one, is already playing a key role in the talks by acting as host and facilitator.

Other regions in the Philippines populated by ethnic minorities that are also harboring grievances may be watching the Bangsamoro initiative. If the Moros can do it….

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SLUSH FUND: Launching of the new Bangsamoro is widely seen as saying goodbye to the Philippine claim on Sabah, a decades-old issue in which the Aquino administration has not shown much interest.

It is intriguing that Malaysia, into whose federation Sabah was hurriedly included in 1963, is insistent on hosting the Bangsamoro talks. Kuala Lumpur was reportedly asked once to give way to Jakarta as facilitator, but refused to budge.

Sources also disclosed that part of the revenues of mineral-rich Sabah are kept in a slush fund dedicated to financing the Malaysian campaign to thwart the Philippine claim. Somebody should find out if any Filipino official benefits from this war chest.

Another curious point is the unusual American interest in the creation of a Bangsamoro, aside from the well-known fact that the US supported British moves to have Sabah annexed to Malaysia despite the Philippine claim.

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BALKANIZATION: Some analysts talk of Balkanization-like designs in Mindanao, pointing out that the US probably believes it may be easier to deal with a new client-state in Southern Philippines than with the central government in Manila influenced by the Left.

In our Postscript of June 19, 2012 ( we said in part:

“Aside from losing (to China) bit by painful bit some of our islets and reefs, we may also lose soon a big chunk of Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan to the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“xxx The irony is that the United States, which claims to be on our side as a mutual defense partner, has been facilitating what appears to be the coming Balkanization of strategic areas in Southern Philippines.

“Has the President noticed also that while the US invokes international law in pressing Manila to resolve territorial disputes peacefully, it has not bothered to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea?

“It is the President’s patriotic duty to level with the people and discuss the demands being made on him in exchange for whatever.”

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S.C. ON TRIAL: On the hot issue of presidential pork, the Supreme Court itself is on public trial.

The question of whether the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund being used by President Aquino for porky off-budget expenses is constitutional or not can be argued either way. The justices can vote either Yes or No and be able to justify their stands.

There is nothing that the parties and the public can do if the court of last resort upholds the constitutionality of DAP, after it rejected legislative pork (Priority Development Assistance Fund) by a 14-0 vote with one spineless abstention.

But how would the public take such tolerant attitude toward pork barrel patronage, be it through the hands of lawmakers or the president? To us laymen, an act may be legal (per SC ruling), but it is not necessarily right.

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GIVE AND TAKE: Insiders say the SC vote could go either way, especially if the court thinks it has gained PR plus points when it gave the public what it wanted – declaring as unconstitutional the congressional pork hidden in the national budget.

Having ruled against PDAF, some yellowish justices might now feel free conceding the constitutionality of presidential pork (DAP) despite its having been abused and its not even been provided in the budget.

It could also happen that such magnanimity on their part might motivate President Aquino in the spirit of Christmas to grant the Supreme Court’s request for the millions needed to build its own edifice.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 10, 2013)

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