POSTSCRIPT / February 3, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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BBL not needed; MILF already has own gov’t

JUNK BBL: There is actually no need for the Bangsamoro Basic Law that has roiled this nation with its scheme to create by legislation a nascent Moro “substate” likely to secede eventually as an Islamic state.

Junk the BBL. Its prime beneficiary, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is already operating in its bailiwicks as an independent government with President Noynoy Aquino unwilling and unable to do anything about it.

By the conspiratorial act of the Congress and the Executive, the Bangsamoro charter will merely ratify the situation on the ground – which is that the MILF is already governing a mass of people in its controlled territory with the support of foreign powers.

Once covered by the BBL, the only element of a state that is missing to formalize the Bangsamoro’s sovereign standing is the recognition by the community of nations – which is a cinch considering how Malacañang has allowed the internationalization of this internal problem.

* * *

SLOW-MO PROBE: Attempting to shore up his trust rating that crashed after he sent to the slaughter a battalion of the Philippine National Police’s finest fighters, President Aquino vowed to ask the MILF to explain, surrender the killers of 44 PNP officers and return their gear.

But the rebels are not in the habit of taking Palace press releases seriously. Nor is the MILF leader, whose stature in the Muslim world must have soared, ready to weaken his position by kowtowing to his opposite number in Malacañang.

That is not a computer game being played out there in the killing fields of Maguindanao. One has to stand up there to be recognized. Bluster gets one nowhere. Bribery? They grab the money and run.

To buy time while his advisers think of something new, the President tried the old ploy of creating a board to investigate the Masamapano Massacre. By the time the slow-mo inquiry is done, the wounds may have healed and the slap on the Republic forgotten?

* * *

A WAY OUT: How should the government proceed? My suggestion, if nobody minds unsolicited advice from a non-politician non-lawyer:

1. The Congress stops the charade of holding public hearings, passes the BBL as drafted by Malacañang and its MILF partners.

2. President Aquino signs the measure into law with the pomp worthy of a major production while an international crowd applauds.

3. The legal hawks emerge, file petitions before the Supreme Court questioning the BBL’s constitutionality, hold media conferences to fire up emotions. Street marchers protest here and there, including Mendiola St. and in front of the US embassy.

4. The Supreme Court strikes down the BBL as unconstitutional. (It has already studied the issues exhaustively since the time of the aborted MoA on Ancestral Domain of the Arroyo dispensation.)

5. President Aquino, careful not to show relief, tells the MILF and the assortment of Moro rebels: Don’t look at me. I tried. It’s the Supreme Court.

It is then goodbye to the unlamented BBL – till the next attempt to dismember the Republic under a new regime.

* * *

LESSONS: When its turn comes, the incoming administration may benefit from lessons learned from procedural lapses (we are not talking yet of substantive) that marked the attempt of the present players to buy peace in Mindanao.

Whoever will be calling the shots in Malacañang must have his heart in the right place and his head functioning properly.

He must make sure that whoever comes to negotiate for Muslim Filipinos has unshakable credentials. It must ascertain that the party across the table is the sole and legitimate representative of the Muslim community.

There was no such determination in the case of the MILF. Its being the proper party was just pushed by the White House. There was no showing that the MILF was democratically selected and authorized to represent the Bangsamoro.

Being the more threatening among the rebel bands at the time, its voice and authority can be said to have burst from the barrel of the gun.

* * *

NO CONSULTATION: The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro serving as basis for the BBL is a contract between just the MILF and Malacañang – certainly not between the Muslim sector and the Philippine government as it is being made to appear.

If the credential of the MILF is not solid, that of the supposed government side is just as hazy. The Executive is just one of the three branches of the government. It is not the government.

The President simply created a panel to negotiate for him apparently in his haste to reach a “peace” breakthrough before he steps down in 2016.

The Executive did not bother to formally sit down and consult congressional leaders on a matter that could result in the dismembering of the Republic.

Having recklessly placed the cart before the horse, it is only now that the Executive – after signing the contract with the whole world watching – is frantically casting around for congressional support.

The President should not have presumed that the whole legislature is under his porky thumb.

* * *

BALKANIZATION: Under duress or not knowing any better, Malacañang has been forced to bring in other countries to kibitz, “help”, and influence the flow and outcome of its negotiations with the MILF (which is similarly under pressure from outside).

The involvement of other countries, some of them with dark agenda, has distorted the entire picture to the point that the national interest has been jeopardized.

Mindanao, with its strategic location and rich resources, has attracted an array of power players. (The countries and the organizations fronting for them have been listed in previous Postscripts.)

Mindanao has become the stomping ground of diverse foreign powers, raising the specter of its Balkanization.

We need a true leader now more than ever.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 3, 2015)

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