POSTSCRIPT / March 27, 2014 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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MILF deal won’t end Moro armed struggle

WHAT PEACE?: This observer and 74 percent of respondents in a PhilSTAR survey believe that the scheduled signing today of a supposedly final peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will not end the Moro armed struggle in Mindanao.

If the MILF leadership cannot even unite and discipline its own followers, how can it bring peace and progress to the entire Muslim Mindanao, even with the help of Malaysia and its friends in Malacañang?

The political and economic flowering of that island of promise down South is not in the hands of the MILF minority but rests on the consensus of a wider community that embraces diverse, although dominantly Muslim, stakeholders.

The basic question is still unanswered: By what democratic process was the 10,000-strong MILF chosen as the authentic voice and representative of the four million Muslim population?

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MYOPIC VIEW: The Aquino administration has allowed the internationalization of the Mindanao problem, actually a domestic issue, but has failed or refused to find solutions beyond the tight cordon of the MILF.

While the MILF is part of the solution, it is not the solution. It is myopic of Malacañang to think it is.

Having coddled the MILF, Malacañang now needs billions to buy off or mollify many of the other elements awaiting their deserved recognition and participation in hammering out what is being passed off as the Final Solution.

An indication they are not sure that enough has been spent or done to ensure peace is their placing military and police forces in Mindanao on red alert and staging today’s show in the sterilized Palace grounds instead of a supposedly pacified MILF redoubt.

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GIFT TO MILF: The Bangsamoro to be created from the carcass of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao – which President Aquino has interred in his mind as a failed experiment – is a gift to the MILF, not to the larger population.

Ignoring other sectors and rebel groups, Malacañang chose to talk only to the MILF, with Malaysia whispering behind the curtains as facilitator.

Only the MILF, and no other secessionist faction, had a ready draft of what it wanted and Malacañang negotiators chewed it as the only working copy from the other side.

In the preparatory commission created to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Act (the new state’s Constitution), of the 15 members, eight (majority) are all MILF representatives, including the chairman. With open eyes, Malacañang was outnumbered and outmaneuvered.

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LEGAL BASIS: There are no members from the Moro National Liberation Front with which the government has an agreement, none from the Sultanate of Sulu whose Sabah claim is in danger of being sold out, and none from the respected Muslim families, scholars and religious leaders.

Why only the MILF? Because the MILF’s being central to the creation of the proposed Bangsamoro was suggested by foreign governments too influential to ignore.

It seems most people have forgotten that the ARMM’s creation was mandated by the Cory Constitution of 1987 together with the Cordillera Autonomous Region which President Aquino allows to continue while dismantling the ARMM.

While the ARMM has constitutional basis, the Bangsamoro has none. Precisely, they are still drafting the basic law that will give it a semblance of legality.

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NO CONSULTATIONS: The talks have been an MILF show all throughout. And what is likely to emerge when the closed door opens is an MILF federal-type state, with other consenting elements given non-essential roles and concessions.

It is sad, as we have pointed out elsewhere, that the Palace has placed the cart before the horse. From the start, it devoted its attention to the MILF, hardly heeding what other elements, including congressional leaders, may have wanted to contribute.

It is only now that the Palace is pretending to consult them. Sensing objections, it is now trying to talk to sectors outside the MILF – only now when the Bangsamoro is almost a done deal except for the needed legislation to formalize it.

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NO GUARANTEE: Since the MILF does not represent or speak for all Muslim sectors and rebel groups, what is the guarantee that it can enforce the peace and efficiently manage the economic uplift of the region?

Assuming the MNLF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (the prickly splinter plucked from the rib of the MILF) agree not to fire a shot while the signing zarzuela in Malacañang is being staged, what guarantee is there that they will not go berserk later?

Having seen that it pays to rebel, that violence does pay, will not other armed bands not party to the MILF deal follow the same lucrative path that the MNLF and later the MILF have followed?

After laying down their arms as agreed in the annex on normalization, how can the MILF enforce discipline and keep the peace among those who refuse to yield their weapons?

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S.C. INTERVENTION: Both sides and their cheering squads keep muttering the mantra of empowerment. The truth is that among the folk to whom the message is being beamed, real empowerment is wielding a weapon and waving lots of money.

President Aquino may have bitten off more than he could chew, that he led off with the wrong foot talking only to the MILF, and stumbled on, led on by wily manipulators.

There is not much we can do now except to pray that the Supreme Court will intervene as it did when then President Gloria Arroyo was led into a similar political odyssey – until she woke up in the nick of time.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 27, 2014)

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