POSTSCRIPT / April 21, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Royal clans divided on Bangsamoro bill

DAYS after royal clans in Muslim Mindanao announced their solid support for the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law creating a nascent Moro nation, the potent Sulu sultanate said that was not true.

The Sulu sultanate emailed Postscript to deny the claimed solidarity of the royal houses.

Last April 12, leaders of various sultanates signed a declaration of support for the BBL and its proponent the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during a “solidarity” conference at a swank hotel in Lanang, Davao City.

The media bureau of the “peace” process announced that the royal families, represented by almost 500 attendees supporting the BBL, included the sultanates of Maguindanao, Rajah Buayan, Kabuntalan, Sulu and Borneo, Lanao, Kaagan (Davao) and the Iranun.

Sulu and Tawi-Tawi under the Kiram sultanate are among the provinces that the BBL seeks to include in the projected Bangsamoro.

Sulu sultan sets own peace talks

SETTING its own direction, the Sulu sultanate said it would hold its own peace summit on May 11-12 involving participants from historical stakeholders and such sectors as indigenous peoples, the academe, students, women, and the Moro National Liberation Front.

Speaking for the Sulu sultanate, Princess Jacel H. Kiram said in an email:

“The initiative of government through Robin Padilla to make it appear that the Royal House of the Sultanate of Sulu is supporting the BBL through Mariam, a former wife of Sultan Mahakuta who since then has remarried twice, is being used to peddle this claim. This is unfortunate.

“The Sultanate of Sulu vehemently denies that it is supporting the BBL.

“Sultan Esmail Kiram has categorically stated that the Sulu archipelago composing of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Southern Palawan and North Borneo has not agreed to the BBL provision to assimilate the Sulu archipelago under the MILF authority.

“The archipelago was incorporated in 1935 to be part of the Republic of the Philippines and not under any Bangsamoro juridical entity.

“The Sulu sultanate will oppose any move to dismember the Sulu Archipelago from the Republic of the Philippines.

“Mariam presenting herself as ‘Princess Mariam Kiram’ is not authorized by Sultan Esmail Kiram neither by any of the heirs to represent the Sulu Sultanate in the BBL effort.”

Late consultations can’t save BBL

HOLDING of solidarity meetings of Muslim royalty and consultations by the Sulu sultanate with diverse sectors highlights the serious error of Malacañang’s embarking on sensitive “peace” talks without prior consultations with all stakeholders.

It is only at this late hour, when the BBL is being assailed by harsh winds from different directions, that the Palace is desperately going into consultations. It may be too late to put back the horse before the cart.

It is anomalous, possibly treasonous, for the peace talks to have been conducted under the direction of a Malaysian facilitator but without prior consultations of true-blue Filipino stakeholders, including the two chambers of the Philippine Congress.

President Aquino may want to explain why he was confiding to Malaysians and not with fellow Filipinos.

PNoy’s solo flight on BBL, Exodus

WITHOUT meaning to voice opposition to the BBL, Senate President Franklin Drilon has said: “Congress is not bound by the language or the exact terms of the peace agreement.”

Drilon was just saying the obvious, that not having been consulted before the negotiations and the drafting of the BBL, the Senate (and the House) will have to revise the text to conform to the Constitution and the public, not necessarily MILF, interest.

It has been a point of curiosity what drove President Aquino to make this solo flight of a negotiation with one secessionist band to the exclusion of other rebel groups, traditional leaders, royal houses, the wide-awake youth and student groups, and non-Muslim sectors of Mindanao.

It was the same going solo mentality that appears to have driven him to pursue Oplan Exodus without the PNP Special Action Force coordinating with the military and also to the exclusion of key officers in the police hierarchy.

Right response to China bullying?

WE ASKED on Twitter yesterday what could be the maximum legal retaliation that Filipino fishermen may resort to when fired upon by the Chinese coast guard with water cannons.

We posed the question having in mind naval and diplomatic officials. One tweeter, obviously for lack of any solid retort, said “Pee near their vessel!” Another, probably in desperation, said “Ram them with a WW2-era Philippine Navy ship”.

We were seriously searching for official guidance in the face of Filipino fishermen being harassed and bullied from their traditional grounds in such places as the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off the Zambales coast.

Our spirits were a bit lifted when Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, armed forces chief staff, said government was thinking of Coast Guard ships being sent to escort Filipino fishermen.

This we have to see! Catapang said the navy’s “gray ships” may not be suitable for that assignment as such a move may be seen as a military maneuver and unduly heighten tension. We hope the coast guard will be up to the job – if ordered.

Recent satellite photographs released by the armed forces indicate China’s rapid construction of military facilities in fishing grounds within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

Filipinos have complained of having been shooed away from Panatag by bigger Chinese vessels. In one incident, a fisherman fell overboard when hit by the water cannon and was fished out with injuries.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 21, 2015)

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