POSTSCRIPT / September 14, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Why Bangsamoro bill should not pass

BBL DEBATE: I am taking the liberty of quoting excerpts from an article of colleague Bobi Tiglao of The Manila Times titled “Bangsamoro Law: Have they lost their minds?” to help fuel the debate that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) bill filed in the Congress deserves.

I happen to agree with what Bobi says in his piece, excerpted below and slightly edited to fit space:

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BANGSAMORO: The proposed law will dismember the Republic. It seeks to create a “political entity” called “Bangsamoro,” which is not under the Philippine Republic, but which merely has – as the bill itself puts it – an “asymmetric relationship” with it.

“Bangsa” is Malay for a nation-state. The Spanish word “Moro” was the pejorative term Spaniards, and even non-Muslim Filipinos, probably up to the 1980s, called people of the many ethnic groups in Mindanao under the Muslim faith. The term originated from the word Christians used for the Muslims who conquered their Iberian homelands in the 8th century.

The notion of a “Bangsamoro” was invented by Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari in 1969 when he founded the insurgent group and when Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces were still with him. It was his way of defying that Spanish label in his attempt to invent a common identity for the ethnic groups of Mindanao under Islam.

Yet the bill implies that a “Bangsamoro people” had existed since pre-Spanish times, that it is only fair to accede to their demand for an “ancestral homeland and their right to self-determination.”

It is the stupidity of President Aquino and his negotiators, bordering on treason, to agree with the creation of an artificial nation for the “Moors” in Mindanao.

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BASIC LAW: The BBL is their Constitution – a synonym for “Basic Law” – that creates a self-governing nation-state under the MILF.

The bill even has the solemnity of a Constitution. Our Constitution’s Preamble: “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government….”

The Bangsamoro bill’s Preamble: “We, the Bangsamoro people and other inhabitants of the Bangsamoro, imploring the aid of the Almighty.…”

Mimicking our Constitution, it goes on to define the Bangsamoro territory (even its waters, which stand “12 nautical miles from the low-water mark of the coasts,” the international prescription), the nation-state’s General Principles and Policies, and its form of government.

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SECESSION: The Bangsamoro is an entirely different creature from the “autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras” which the Constitution allows as forms of local government.

Instead, the BBL will set up practically an independent state with “exclusive powers over a long list of “matters” which a sovereign nation normally exercises over, except for a short list of matters over which “the Central government has reserved powers,” mainly defense and external security, foreign policy, coinage and monetary policy, and postal service.

This is also emphasized in the bill’s Article IV, Section 1, a de facto declaration of independence: “In the exercise of its right to self-governance and self-determination, the Bangsamoro is free to pursue its economic, social and cultural development.”

What if the Bangsamoro decides to invoke the section and secedes from the Republic, or to ask Malaysia to incorporate it in its federation?

Is there a provision in the BBL to prevent this? None at all. In fact, there isn’t even a sentence that Bangsamoro government officials consider themselves Filipinos and swear loyalty to our Constitution and Republic.

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MILF GOV’T: The Bangsamoro government would be run by the 60-member Bangsamoro Parliament, purportedly to be elected by “the free choice of the people” through political parties.

One would be extremely naïve not to believe that it would be simply the MILF, by far the most organized and biggest force in Muslim Mindanao that would staff it. The MILF’s existing “Jihad Central Committee,” which roughly has the same number of members, could simply overlap with the Bangsamoro Parliament.

The Parliament would elect the Bangsamoro Cabinet, which would, in turn, choose the government’s chief executive called Chief Minister—who would, I’d bet, be either the current MILF chairman or vice chairman.

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MILF ARMY: The BBL provides that the Bangsamoro government shall have primary responsibility over public order and safety within the “Bangsamoro” and that a “Bangsamoro Police” would be created for this purpose.

This violates the Constitution’s provision that “the State shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission.”

The BBL clumsily tries to go around this by stipulating that a “Bangsamoro Police Board” shall perform the functions of the National Police Commission, and that “the board will be part of the National Police Commission.” Another provision empowers the Chief Minister to have operational control over the Bangsamoro Police.

The MILF army, in effect, will simply be renamed the Bangsamoro Police, and the MILF chairman who had commanded the army will simply wear the robes of the “Bangsamoro Chief Minister.”

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SHARI’AH LAW: The draft BBL has new provisions favorable to the MILF that were not even in the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” or the peace pact that the bill was supposed to merely implement. Among these:

• “Article X, Section 1. The justice system in the Bangsamoro shall consist of Shari’ah [Islamic] law, which shall have supremacy and application over Muslims only….” Contrast that to Article IX, Section 1 of the ARMM law on the justice system in that region: “The Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and other courts established by law shall continue to exercise their judicial powers.”

In violation of the Constitution’s principle of separation of Church and State, the BBL specifies as sources of Shari’ah law, Al-Quran and other Islamic religious texts Al-Sunnha, Al-Qiyas, and Al-Jima.

• In capitulation to the MILF, the BBL requires the national (central) government to appoint Bangsamoro members to certain offices: “At least one Cabinet secretary, at least one in each department, offices and bureaus, holding executive, primarily confidential positions; and one commissioner in each of the constitutional bodies.”

The MILF wants its cadres planted in practically the entire bureaucracy. The Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Audit have only three members each, including the chairmen. Under the BBL, one of the three posts would be reserved to a Bangsamoro member.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 14, 2014)

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