POSTSCRIPT / December 4, 2014 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Submit Bangsamoro law to nat’l plebiscite

PLEBISCITE ISSUE: As the Filipino saying goes, the pain of the little finger is felt by the entire body.

Should the required plebiscite on an autonomous Bangsamoro sub-state being carved out in Mindanao be held only in its area? Or should the entire body politic, the whole nation, be asked?

You do not ask only the operators and the customers of a karaoke joint in a mixed residential area if they should be left alone. You also ask the neighbors what they want done.

Under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between Malacañang and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front, even residents of contiguous areas would not be asked in the plebiscite, much less those in the rest of the country.

It is a serious concern of all Filipinos everywhere that a federal-type Bangsamoro clothed with what look like extra-constitutional powers could spin off in time as a new state separate from the Philippine republic.

* * *

CONSULTATIONS: The issue is being raised again, because House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II has reported that the House was still awaiting the results of the public consultation being conducted by a special committee with affected sectors throughout the country.

As a result, he added, the House may not be able to meet its self-imposed deadline to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the organic act of the federal region, by yearend.

The special committee chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has conducted at least 19 hearings in Mindanao and other places and will continue consultations through the third week of December when the Congress goes on its Christmas break.

“They want to hear the views of all concerned groups, all stakeholders,” Gonzales said, adding that the committee report may be delayed till January or February. Public hearings have been scheduled this month in Cebu City, Iloilo City, Baguio City and Laoag City.

* * *

ADMISSION: Holding nationwide consultations outside the Bangsamoro area is an admission by the Congress that the creation of a federal region is not just a local affair but a matter of grave national concern.

This early, Palawan Rep. Frederick Abueg says his province and its capital city of Puerto Princesa object to their inclusion in the Bangsamoro. Their resistance was already manifested in the last plebiscite, yet the MILF still eyes Palawan.

Abueg said: “The people of Palawan consistently resist the inclusion of the province to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in four successive plebiscites where the negative votes cast were more than 85 percent of the total votes.”

Similar objections to their inclusion in the Bangsamoro have been aired by officials and residents of the Zamboanga peninsula.

For his part, Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, a member of the BBL special committee, reports that the residents of Lanao del Norte and Pagadian City want at least half of the controversial BBL provisions amended.

* * *

FOREIGN MEDDLING: Why do Malacañang and the MILF – the parties that negotiated, drafted and signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro – want the anxious population in the rest of the country excluded from the plebiscite?

This is preposterous. While closing its ears to Filipinos outside the Bangsamoro area, Malacañang has been internationalizing this domestic issue to the point that foreign governments have been influencing the direction and substance of the debate.

The brazen dictation by alien influence peddlers suggests that they see a clueless weakling, surrounded by amateurs, presiding over the government.

The nation’s drift to a stormy sea of protest as a result of the possible balkanization of Mindanao can be mitigated by consulting with open mind Filipino sectors outside the Bangsamoro – and by holding a nationwide plebiscite in case the BBL is enacted.

But it seems that Malacañang, the operator of the controversial karaoke by the Pasig, is afraid to ask the neighborhood.

* * *

E.U. FOR BBL: It is amazing that foreigners are allowed to openly meddle and campaign to convince Filipinos to vote for the creation of the Bangsamoro. How come the authorities are not enforcing the laws on electioneering by foreigners?

The European Union, for instance, is boasting of its having financed the printing of a primer in English and six local languages to convince people that the Bangsamoro is a good idea that deserves their vote in the plebiscite.

EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux said the primer is “an excellent tool” that helps “describe, explain and clarify the various aspects of the (BBL) and how this will affect the everyday life of the Bangsamoro people.” In other words, it will help clinch a “Yes” vote.

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CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE: The BBL expands the present area of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao covering the five dominantly Muslim provinces of Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Sought to be included are the towns of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte, and all other barangays in the towns of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela that are within the ARMM area but not under its jurisdiction now.

A plebiscite was also held in the ARMM before it was launched in 1990 but this was in obedience to the 1987 Constitution that mandated the creation of the ARMM (and the Cordillera Autonomous Region in Luzon).

This time around, however, there is no constitutional directive to create the Bangsamoro. On the contrary, the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro’s creation is likely to be challenged before the Supreme Court.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 4, 2014)

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