POSTSCRIPT / January 28, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Noy, MILF redraw map of Mindanao

MORO STATE: Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front moved closer Saturday to carving out a Bangsamoro state in Mindanao with the signing of the last of four annexes to their 2012 framework agreement to end fighting between the government and the rebels.

Signed in Kuala Lumpur was the annex on normalization whereby the MILF will gradually turn over its weapons to a third party – not to the government — while the Bangsamoro is being established in stages. As in poker, the MILF will open one card at a time.

The next steps toward the drawing of a new map of Mindanao are the passing by the Congress of theBasic Law — the Bangsamoro Constitution — and its submission to a plebiscite in the area. (But why ask only the voters there when the entire nation is gravely affected?)

The three annexes signed earlier dwell on power-sharing, transitional arrangement and modalities, and wealth sharing.

The Bangsamoro will keep 75 percent of taxes in the region and get the lion’s share of revenues from natural resources. Earnings from fossil fuel will be shared equally with the central government. (Mindanao’s mineral wealth has been estimated at $350 billion.)

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ARMM REPLACED: The Bangsamoro, to be granted federal-type sovereign powers, will supplant the present Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and enlarge it to include several contiguous land areas and waters.

The ARMM was created by law in 1989 as ordered by the Constitution written during the watch of then President Cory Aquino. But that did not stop her son President Noynoy Aquino from rejecting the ARMM a dozen years later as a failed experiment.

During the transition to the Bangsamoro, which the President wants completed before his term ends in 2016, serious objections are expected, including a constitutionality challenge before the Supreme Court.

The new pact is substantially similar to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that a Malacañang panel under then President Gloria Arroyo also signed with the same MILF. But the Supreme Court struck down the MoA-AD in 2008 as unconstitutional.

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FULL STATE: If the Bangsamoro is finally established, the secessionists flying the flag of an Islamic Liberation Front would have gained all the elements of a state: a defined TERRITORY, a thriving POPULATION, a functioning GOVERNMENT, and international RECOGNITION.

With the help of Malacañang (ironically) and foreign operators, the 11,000-strong MILF would have succeeded in its quest for a separate state sliced out of resources-rich but impoverished Muslim Mindanao.

A free Bangsamoro could start to lean toward Kuala Lumpur with whom it has more Islamic affinity than with Christian Manila. Later, it could even take the path of self-determination to join the Malaysian federation down the road.

The redrawing of the map of Southern Philippines and the emergence of Malaysia as an influential broker in the region could mean goodbye to the Philippine claim on Sabah. The billions that Kuala Lumpur has spent on the Bangsamoro project appear to be well worth it.

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U.S. CHOSE MILF: One of several loose ends in the fabric woven in Kuala Lumpur is the question of what to do with the other Moro rebel bands hankering for their own piece of the cake being gobbled up by the MILF.

A related basic issue: Who gave the MILF the authority to stand as the sole spokesman of some five million Filipino Muslims? Was that group elected via a democratic process, or is its commanding voice merely coming from the barrel of a gun?

Still another: Why did Malacañang agree to the demand that the majority (eight including the Chairman) of the 15-member Transition Commission that is steering preparations and drafting the Basic Law be MILF nominees?

And what happens to the Tripoli agreement of 1976 and the supposedly FINAL peace pact with the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 1996? Will Malacañang simply ignore them just because the White House told it to deal only with the MILF?

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CHARTER CHANGE: President Aquino might go into contortions explaining how a Moro federal-like state with a different administrative setup can exist and function within the Philippine republic without amending the Constitution.

The MILF may have been burned by the SC’s junking of the previous MoA-AD deal. Foreseeing the political, administrative and constitutional issues, it insisted on an assurance in the agreement that the Aquino administration shall endeavor to work for charter change.

How is that? Many times elsewhere President Aquino has ruled out quite firmly the amending of the Cory Constitution.

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BY THE SCRIPT: President Aquino may reap rich political rewards with the breakthrough in Kuala Lumpur which was hailed, even before the ink on the documents was dry, by the usual neocolonial crowd eyeing strategic and economic gain.

Although delayed a bit, the drama in KL played more or less according to the script. But this time, there was no American ambassador from Manila, reminiscent of Kristie Kenny rushing to the signing ceremony ahead of the troupe as if knowing in advance what was to happen.

The internationalization of the Moro dilemma of Manila, actually an internal issue, is deplorable. Egged on by “peace” advisers and foreign meddlers, President Aquino now finds himself stuck in the Mindanao marshes with the whole world watching.

If the Supreme Court again declares this seeming “sellout” as unconstitutional and the President is unable to duck as quickly as his predecessor did when her MoA-AD was thrown out, it could mean an impeachment complaint being filed for culpable violation of the Constitution.

But if the slippery pieces fall neatly into place and this singular act of his achieves peace and progress in Mindanao, President Aquino could merit a post-2016 Nobel Prize nomination. If.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 28, 2014)

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