POSTSCRIPT / July 16, 2013 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Wealth-sharing deal a rush job for SONA?

WHAT PEACE?: One is aghast seeing parties representing conflicting self-interests signing documents in what has been misrepresented as “peace talks” but which is actually haggling over how to divide Mindanao and its wealth.

Peace? Where does that come in? Surrender is, well, temporary peace in a sense. But a wimp surrenders his wallet to a robber, only to see him or his cohorts come back for more some other day.

What happened in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday was more of “appeasement” — not a “peace” deal. It was in effect the “piecemeal” giving away of sovereign territory and its riches by a weak national leadership.

Malacañang agreed to give the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a whopping 75 percent of tax collections, 75 percent of earnings from metallic minerals, and 50 percent of revenue from energy and mineral resources in the proposed MILF sub-state.

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NOY VERSION: Wala nang katapusang “peace talks” yan! Way back in 1975, we signed a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), gave them the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and poured billions into it.

Then, as in an amoeba’s asexual reproduction, the MILF emerged and broke away from the parent MNLF to seek its own “peace” deal for an expanded territory and more inducements from the Manila government.

Come now President Noynoy Aquino dumping the ARMM as a failed experiment of his predecessors (as usual) and putting up another Muslim region to be identified with him this time – an enlarged Bangsamoro sub-state under the MILF.

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ALPHABET BANDS: The talks with the MILF have not been concluded, but already waiting in the wings is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a violent splinter of the MILF salivating to hammer out its own “peace” deal with pushover officials from Manila.

Also awaiting its return on stage is the older MNLF of Nur Misuari. It is the only Philippine Muslim rebel band recognized and given observer status by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Secessionists down South will never run out of alphabets to name future breakaway groups that sprout on cue to pursue their ultimate vision of a separate Muslim state.

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MOST FAVORED: It was unfortunate that Malacañang was in a hurry to initial a wealth-sharing deal with the MILF so it could be included in the State of the Nation Address of President Aquino on July 22.

The MILF took advantage of this deadline pressure on the President to report a “peace” breakthrough. Threatening a walkout, the MILF succeeded in extracting a 75-25 deal that is now being denounced as a SELLOUT in many non-Muslim parts of the country.

One big question is why the MILF — whose status as the sole authentic voice of the Muslim minority has not been established — is being given most favored treatment. Because it is armed and menacing, and has foreign patrons?

Do other minorities have to take up arms against the government, like the MNLF and the MILF did, to extract similar generous shares of earnings from taxes and natural resources?

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PRESSURE: So now President Aquino is under pressure to also grant other ethnic minorities or socio-economic regions the same lion’s share of tax collections and revenues from natural resources in their areas. IT IS ONLY FAIR!

Talking of pressure, was President Aquino, like previous presidents, under political duress from the United States to talk specifically to the MILF instead of other Muslim factions?

I pose the question, because I have seen a White House letter hand-carried by then Defense Secretary William Cohen to then President Erap Estrada favoring the MILF.

One theory in local political circles is that the US wants to sponsor an MILF-led Bangsamoro, which will eventually spin out of Mindanao as a Balkanized client-state of the US. The MILF is seen as more susceptible to US manipulation than Left-leaning power brokers in Manila.

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SABAH CLAIM: How does the Philippine claim to Sabah figure in the talks? There is fear in Manila that part of a secret MILF deal is the gradual dropping of the claim identified more with the Tausugs of the MNLF.

The emergence of a Bangsamoro sub-state under MILF control could see the claim receding in the background and Malaysia taking a more prominent role in Mindanao affairs.

If President Aquino talks about the wealth-sharing in his SONA, he owes it to the people to also make a clear report on the status of Sabah.

He might also want to comment on reports that a slush fund has been set aside by Malaysia from the billions earned from Sabah’s mineral and timber resources to be used exclusively for quashing the Philippine claim.

Has the negotiating panel of Malacañang, or any high official, benefited even indirectly from the slush fund?

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MONEY TALK: More questions lurk in the minds of Filipinos bothered by the Palace’s handling of the talks under the watchful eyes of a Malaysia pretending to act as a third party facilitator and secretariat.

Did Malacañang ever believe in Malaysia’s neutrality and good faith considering the fact that, some years ago, this neighbor worked to undermine the Philippines to the extent of financing, arming and training Muslim guerrillas to fight the armed forces?

President Aquino has admitted giving millions to a top MILF leader in a secret meeting in Tokyo last year. This time, how much did Malacañang spend to convince the MILF panel throwing a tantrum in Kuala Lumpur to hurriedly sign the wealth-sharing annex in time for the SONA?

The MILF said it was still not happy with the sharing already lopsided in its favor. We got the impression that since the deal was just for SONA show, the ratio will be reopened after July 22.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 16, 2013)

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