POSTSCRIPT / March 3, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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ARMM bloodless alternative to BBL

ALTERNATIVE: The peaceful, democratic and constitutional alternative to the controversial Bangsamoro federal state being created for the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been there all along — the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

President Noynoy Aquino does not have to insist on reinventing the ARMM wheel and imposing on its 3.3 million population a disruptive alien structure riddled with many constitutional flaws.

The ARMM is already there functioning in the dominantly Muslim provinces of Basilan (minus Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Why supplant it with something radically different at the risk of triggering another bloody cycle and dismembering the Republic?

Just to be able to claim a novel “peace” legacy? Or to spite uncle Peping and TingTing Cojuangco who has been ahead of her nephew in Muslim lore and expertise? Or is there a deal with a foreign entity?

* * *

AMEND THE LAW: If the object is to improve the quality of life in the ARMM, which is among the country’s poorest regions, it should not be difficult for a caring president, with the cooperation of the Congress and other stakeholders, to focus on solving its socio-economic problems.

With billions tucked away in the thick folds of the national budget and the President’s social, emergency and intelligence funds, it should be easy to fund the integrated rehabilitation of the ARMM without tearing it apart.

The ARMM did not blast out from the barrel of a terrorist gun. It was created by an act of the Congress as mandated by the Constitution for the establishment of two autonomous regions, the other one in the Cordilleras.

In contrast, the Bangsamoro for the MILF is to be delivered by an ill-conceived legislated caesarian section. By what nebulous authority nobody knows.

We submit that if the ARMM setup has been wanting, the correct step is to revise or refine the law creating it – not to burn down the ARMM as a “failed experiment” and build from its ashes a totally new Bangsamoro.

* * *

USURPATION: The original ARMM officials were democratically elected, followed later by those appointed after the succeeding elections were suspended. Incumbent Regional Gov. Mujiv Sabbihi Hataman (LP) was appointed by President Aquino in 2011.

The electoral process gave the ARMM a veneer of representative democracy. It was so different from the usurpation by the MILF of the majority of executive and legislative posts in the Bangsamoro with the consent of Malacañang.

Since two years ago we have been asking in Postscript who chose the 7,000-strong MILF as the legitimate party to negotiate for the wider Muslim community. Nobody has bothered to offer an answer.

* * *

MUTUAL MISREPRESENTATION: The bloody events on the ground have shown the relevance, if not the wisdom, of placing things in their proper order, such as checking first the credentials of the other party claiming to talk peace for its principal.

One reason why the armed forces are now battling an assortment of Islamic rebels and rogue commandos is that the MILF has failed to hammer out a solid front before it faced the “GRP” panel fielded by Malacañang.

Kung sa bagay, to borrow the unfeeling words of one top commander, tabla-tabla lang (we’re even).

That means that if the MILF misrepresented itself in the negotiations, so did the varsity team sent by President Aquino misrepresent itself as the “GRP” (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) without prior consultation with the other branches of government.

* * *

BILIBID ISSUES: More than two-and-a-half months after 19 inmates of the National Bilibid Prison were transferred to the NBI Detention Center on orders of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, many questions remain about the transfer.

The official explanation is that the 19 inmates were transferred after the raid conducted last Dec. 15 yielded contraband and other prohibited items in the inmates’ possession.

That was a lame excuse since the existence of kubols or private quarters in the Bilibid compound, with some inmates using electric fans, aircons and other gadgets, has been an open secret for decades.

* * *

POWER PLAY: Lawyers of the 19 inmates had to raise a ruckus in media and file cases before the courts against De Lima and Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Bucayu before they were allowed to see their clients, and this only after the Commission on Human Rights and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines intervened.

The reasons given by De Lima – that the inmates were being disciplined for violating prison rules – ring hollow in the face of the fact that many inmates who were also found to have violated the rules on contraband, prohibited items and electronic gadgets, have remained at the NBP.

A certain Sibastian, according to Bilibid insiders, who has the most opulent kubol in the compound, continues to enjoy the perks of a privileged prisoner, allegedly continuing to run the “micro-economy” in the compound involving contraband, liquor, women, gambling and drugs.

Insiders tell us that the transfer was actually part of a “power play” inside NBP where the stakes, they said, are high and wherein some officials are beneficiaries.

The reason why the 19 inmates were kept incommunicado was allegedly to prevent them from complaining about the power play, corruption and the favoritism of DoJ and BuCor officials.

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

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