POSTSCRIPT / February 4, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Does Philippine flag fly over MILF areas?

WHICH FLAG?: Government troops hoisted the Philippine flag last Saturday at the biggest enclave of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Shariff Saidona town, Maguindanao, after they overran it in a week-long offensive against the secessionist group.

One wonders if the same Philippine flag also flies over areas in Mindanao claimed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the mother of the separatist BIFF before the latter broke away to take its own path to independence.

If it does, we suggest that pictures of the Philippine flag flying over MILF areas be published if only to show that MILF members are Filipinos entering in good faith into peace talks with Malacañang and that they intend to abide by the Philippine Constitution.

In serious negotiations that could lead eventually to the dismembering of the Republic, it is important that the credentials, if not the ulterior intentions, of the parties be opened and verified.

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ARE THEY FILIPINOS?: The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed Oct. 7, 2012, between Malacañang and the MILF does not say what that Moro group is or whom it purports to represent.

Were Malacañang negotiators too timid to ask the MILF panel across the table if they are Filipinos and if they recognize and respect the Constitution? Until this day, it seems nobody has asked and put the answer on the record.

That they commit to respect the Charter is vital since the constitutionality of the Framework Agreement and its annexes will be questioned before the Supreme Court. We have to know before hand if both parties swear to respect any SC decision on the issue.

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INDIVISIBLE NATION: We refer to the Constitution that speaks of one indivisible nation whose sovereign territory is described in its Article I:

“The national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.”

What happens when the new Bangsamoro, exercising its powers conferred by the Malacañang-MILF pact, starts to control the exploitation of natural resources in its newly acquired territory, including some Mindanao inland waters and contiguous territorial seas?

Will the MILF deal pass the constitutionality test once it is shown that it gives the nascent Bangsamoro all the elements of a state – including territory — and, therefore, the potential to spin off into a separate, independent state?

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TERRITORY: As discussed in our Postscript of Jan. 28, the Bangsamoro will have – ironically with the aid of Malacañang — a defined TERRITORY, a thriving POPULATION, a functioning GOVERNMENT, and international RECOGNITION. <>

On territory, read Article V of the Framework Agreement to see the enormity of the expanded area granted by President Noynoy Aquino, who had dismissed the original Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) created in 1989 as a “failed experiment”:

“1. The core territory of the Bangsamoro shall be composed of: (a) the present geographical area of the ARMM; (b) the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; (c) the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and (d) all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro.

“2. The Parties shall work together in order to ensure the widest acceptability of the Bangsamoro Basic Law as drafted by the Transitory Commission and the core areas xxx, through a process of popular ratification among all the Bangsamoro within the

“3. Areas which are contiguous and outside the core territory where there are substantial populations of the Bangsamoro may opt anytime to be part of the territory upon petition of at least 10 percent of the residents and approved by a majority of qualified voters in a plebiscite. xxx

“5. Territory refers to the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain and the atmospheric space above it.”

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GOVERNMENT: The new autonomous political entity shall have a “ministerial form” of government The question of how this creature will mesh into the administrative structure of the national setup will confront the Congress when it tackles the Bangsamoro Basic Act.

President Aquino has committed to certify the Basic Act measure as urgent. After he signs it into law to become the Bangsamoro Constitution, it will be submitted to a plebiscite in the MILF localities.

But why only voters in Moro-dominated areas to the exclusion of the rest of the country? This is a contentious issue. It is odd that then chair Marvic Leonen of the Palace team that negotiated the agreement said in his speech at its signing:

“The new autonomous political entity will be created through an organic act drafted by the Transition Commission, enacted by Congress, and effective upon ratification in a plebiscite of ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE AFFECTED BY IT. This is consistent with the objective to ensure a democratic and accountable structure of governance. (Emphasis mine.—fdp)

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

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