POSTSCRIPT / June 18, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Confidence building: Yield SAF killers first

IF THE TWO parties to the Bangsamoro deal – namely Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – want confidence building, the MILF should first return the guns and personal belongings of the 44 SAF commandos massacred in Mamasapano and present for investigation its gunmen involved in that Jan. 25 carnage.

A Commander-in-Chief who truly cares for his men will make those basic requirements a minimum initial step for confidence-building.

Trust cannot be built on the brittle basis of a symbolic “decommissioning” of 75 weapons from the MILF’s arsenal of thousands and the doling out, a la CCT, of P25,000, a Philhealth card, among other benefits, to each rebel dropping his gun.

The only confidence built in that ceremony in Sultan Kudarat last Tuesday was the self-confidence of the secessionist MILF that it can lure its counterparts in Malacañang into stepping nearer the ultimate trap.

It is appalling that President Noynoy Aquino and his choir girls still have not sensed that they are being led step by step — with the whole world watching — to validate by their participation a chain of irreversible events leading to the establishment of an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

• MILF luckier than families of SAF-44?

WE HAVE to go beyond the Bollywoodish symbolism of laying aside (actually not surrendering to the government) a measly 75 weapons and the deactivating of 145 weary warriors of the 7,000-strong MILF.

Even from the stage where he sat, the President should have noted that the MILF veterans being deactivated are a far cry from the fearsome fighters regularly photographed lugging weapons rivaling those of government troops.

The MILF retirees looked tired and harmless, including one caught on camera grabbing a shut eye while the President was tele-reading his speech.

If there was a symbol projected that morning in sultry Sultan Kudarat, it is of Malacañang’s gullibility contrasted with the MILF’s adroit manipulation of events even as passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law hangs.

While the Congress is on recess, the administration can improve its trust rating on the Bangsamoro issue by showing more concern for victims of rebel depredation, including the 44 elite police officers massacred while on a mission for the Commander in Chief.

The uneven treatment is all too obvious. Money for compensation and benefits due the SAF-44 families is hardly moving in the pipeline, while payments to MILF fighters flash faster than lightning.

As part of confidence-building, President Aquino flew to Tokyo on Aug. 4, 2011, to talk with MILF chair Murad Ebrahim. Days later he ordered the release of P5 million to the rebels.

Cannot the President allot for the SAF-44 families at least five times his donation to Murad, to be taken from the billions in his intelligence, social and emergency funds?

There is also the unfulfilled promise that complaints will be filed against the MILF and other gunmen who mowed down the SAF officers in Mamasapano. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima seems to be too busy preparing to run for a Senate seat in 2016.

• We drown in alphabet soup of aliens

ANOTHER point that would be useful in building trust — not with the MILF this time but with the general public – is through a more complete, clearer and transparent reporting of what is going on.

In the decommissioning last Tuesday, for instance, we drowned in the thick alphabet soup of organizations and task forces, many of them managed by foreigners who may not even have understood the speeches in Filipino.

There is a surfeit of foreign hands in what is basically a domestic issue. Somebody has to explain to us natives the involvement of aliens, why and who authorized them, and what they have been contracted to do.

Some of the alphabet groups we have encountered in the documents and speeches are: Joint Normalization Committee (JNC), Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC), Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs), International Monitoring Team (IMT), Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCHs), Ad Hoc Joint Action Groups (AHJAGs), and Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB).

Without meaning to be disrespectful, we wonder if President Aquino himself has tried reading the above list, at the risk of developing a headache sorting out their membership and functions.

The least we can do to help is cull from the annex on normalization which is part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. (The CAB was used as basis for the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would serve as the Constitution of the new Moro nation.)

The annex says in part: “To ensure effective security collaboration, several joint mechanisms shall be established. The Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) shall coordinate the different processes in normalization. The Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) shall coordinate the security component of the normalization process. The Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs) shall be the operating units composed of the armed forces, the PNP, and the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).”

We have gotten used to being assailed by the preposterous role of a Malaysian as facilitator in the peace process. His role not having been fully explained, we see the facilitator as equivalent to a director in a movie or a chief editor in a newspaper.

But we were not prepared to see a “BIAF”, or Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. Is not the Commander-in-Chief alarmed (or amused, depending on how he takes it) that the rebels with whom his choir girls are dealing boast of their own armed forces on their way to having their own Moro nation?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 18, 2015)

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