POSTSCRIPT / April 12, 2015 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Senate passing BBL: Dedicated or dictated?

TYPO OF THE DAY?: “Senate still dedicated to pass BBL – Drilon”. Maybe the Senate president meant they were “dictated to pass” it?

But whether it is dedication or dictation that drives the Congress, President Noynoy Aquino – if he loves his country — better shelve the Bangsamoro Basic Law and leave it to the next administration to decide what to do with it.

The nation is bleeding. To force the approval of the organic act creating a federal Bangsamoro in Muslim Mindanao could escalate the fighting and rend the nation.

Surveys show that majority of Filipinos, having caught up in the discussion on the BBL’s content and the conduct of the negotiations, are wary of the measure and the motivations of its proponents.

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MIDNIGHT MEASURE: The presidential election campaign is already upon us and a lame duck President Aquino has only 13 months to go before he steps down on June 30, 2016.

Technically, the BBL may not be a midnight bill, but it certainly looks, smells and feels like one. Forcing it through in the last two minutes is foul.

For reasons that only he knows, Mr. Aquino rushed the so-called “peace” process between the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Executive department. We are now witness to how, as they say, haste makes waste.

Whether he was under foreign pressure, or whether he had one eye on leaving a historic legacy or angling for a Nobel Peace prize is now immaterial as it is almost certain the BBL will not pass intact as the three M’s (MILF, Malaysia, Malacañang) want.

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HUWAG NA PONG IPILIT: We have spent decades searching for harmonious coexistence with our brothers of diverse faiths. Can we not wait till a new administration with a fresh outlook and a clear rear-view mirror takes over in June next year?

The incoming administration will have the luxury of time to study more carefully the pending issues and avoid the errors of past negotiations.

Huwag na pong ipilit. Stop buying or extorting the Yes votes of congressmen and senators bothered by conscience and their constituents.

Do not inveigle prominent members of the community into lending their names to an undertaking of suspicious beginning and ending.

Proper preparation next time around will prevent such needless debates as that one over the true identity of MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. When asked straight in a House hearing his true identity, he rattled off irrelevant remarks – without answering the question.

Lawmakers and the rest of us would not have wasted time probing into anyone’s identity if only the parties to the “peace” talks followed protocol and first went through the basic agendum of checking credentials.

* * *

MISREPRESENTATION: Ever since Malacañang announced holding ”peace” talks in Kuala Lumpur in October 2012, we have been asking about credentials.

We kept repeating to the boredom of our readers the need to ascertain first if the party across the table was the sole and legitimate voice of the Muslim community – and therefore had authority to speak for and commit it.

To this day, with its splinter units still battling the military and the police, the MILF has not been able to show and validate its credentials.

It was the same thing with the “government” side. President Aquino sent his varsity team claiming to represent the Philippine government. But the ugly truth was that they only represent President Aquino, who is not the government.

It was a comic but pathetic case of two parties misrepresenting themselves to each other.

(The media are guilty of helping propagate the error. Not noticing that our government setup is not yet parliamentary, some media carelessly refer to the Aquino administration as the Aquino government – which are two different things.)

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KEEP ARMM: But if not the Bangsamoro, what? Our answer is: Keep the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. As we have said in Postscript:

“Why supplant the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao wholesale with a newfangled ‘Bangsamoro’ federal state under the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front?

“Coming out of decades of neglect and exploitation, the ARMM embracing five poor provinces in the South is not perfect, but it is functioning normally under democratically elected officials.

“The ARMM is trying to raise its 3.3 million dominantly Muslim population from the mistakes of the past and the difficulties of the present.

“It would be unfair, to say the least, if – just because President Aquino has pronounced the ARMM as a ‘failed experiment’ – the regional setup will now be replaced with an alien parliamentary system and its leaders with rebels from the MILF.”

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JUST HELP ARMM: “To catch up with more progressive regions, the ARMM needs some deep-cleansing, direction and substantial assistance from the national government and foreign sources of grants and investments.

“Why not give the ARMM the P75 billion that Malacañang has promised the Bangsamoro once it gets off the ground with the MILF at the helm? The ARMM is already there standing on firm constitutional ground unlike the legally flawed Bangsamoro.

“Why is President Aquino that generous to the MILF and niggardly to the ARMM? Has he forgotten that ARMM officials have proved themselves in free elections — unlike the MILF rebels who simply took their seats at the negotiating table?

“Assuming the ARMM administration has faults – like the Executive department has – why not sort out these problems and solve them? Why junk everything in favor of an untried Bangsamoro reeking with Malaysian musk and bugged by constitutional issues?”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 12, 2015)

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