POSTSCRIPT / May 12, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Insist on national plebiscite on BBL

SO MUCH time has been spent debating the constitutionality of some sections of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law creating the Bangsamoro (a Moro nation) in Muslim Mindanao and contiguous areas.

Pardon this non-lawyer now asking: But isn’t it possible that while an act may be deemed constitutional, it could still be wrong?

To be specific, congressional committees refining the BBL draft are careful to steer its contentious provisions from colliding with Section 18 of Article X (Local Government) of the Constitution which says among other things:

“The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region.”

This means that only voters in the Bangsamoro localities will be asked if they want to join the new political entity, an enlarged and vastly empowered replacement of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

This is as crazy as asking only the operators, customers and personnel of a casino newly located beside an old church if they want their gambling house to stay — without asking the rest of the neighborhood.

In like manner, Filipinos residing outside the proposed Bangsamoro area will have no say in the plebiscite. This may be constitutional under Section 18, but is it right?

There is this native aphorism: Ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay randam ng buong katawan. The pain of the small finger is felt by the entire body.

The setting apart of a Moro nation in the heart of Mindanao — with its own defined territory, a unique parliamentary government, a captive population and prospective recognition as a sovereign state — is not a mere pain of the small Muslim finger but a major concern of the rest of the national body politic.

Why are we afraid, for instance, to ask taxpayers nationwide what they think about establishing a Moro nation that will get a disproportionately large slice of the national budget and internal revenue allotment?

We plead with the legal geniuses in the Congress – we appeal to their patriotism and sense of fairness — to insert a provision (so deftly worded that it does not run counter to Section 18) requiring a national plebiscite on the Bangsamoro.

But since there is no certainty that the final organic law will widen the plebiscite area, all Filipinos residing outside the Bangsamoro area are urged to speak out now that the bill is still being discussed in the Congress.

• Will a stormy Mindanao be Noy’s legacy?

THE PROBLEM with the BBL is not just about its unconstitutionality. That is actually a domestic issue that we Filipinos and our Supreme Court can easily resolve among ourselves.

What is more scary is that the President may have been distracted and not adequately advised on related foreign affairs issues such as those involving geopolitical trends, territorial disputes, the self-determination rights of peoples, and big power play.

Assuming Malacañang succeeds in delivering the Bangsamoro to its friends in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Malaysia, that is not the end of the quest for peace in Southern Philippines.

On the contrary, it could just be the beginning of more serious conflicts on a wider scale, even undermining regional instability as national boundaries are disturbed.

As originally drafted, the basic documents used terminology slyly drawing world approval for a separate Bangsamoro entity spinning out after being given by the Philippine government all the elements needed by a new emerging state.

Is President Aquino unaware of this potential sequence of events leading to a separate Islamic state? It is hard to believe that it is his intention to leave this as his legacy to the next administration and future generations of innocent Filipinos.

• And now comes the Bangsamoro Republik!

A HINT of bigger trouble ahead is the reported invitation by the Malaysian government to the Moro National Liberation Front for exploratory talks on the inclusion of the disputed territories of Sabah and Sarawak into the “Bangsamoro Republik” espoused by the MNLF.

MNLF spokesperson Absalom Cerveza told STAR writer Perseus Echeminada that an emissary has invited their chairman Nur Misuari for possible talks in Malaysia.

The MNLF is the only Philippine Muslim group given observer status by the powerful Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The MILF, a splinter of the MNLF, has tried but failed to get similar OIC recognition.

The talks proposed by Malaysia touch on the proposed inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo island into the MNLF-claimed territories of the Bangsamoro Republik, comprised of Basilan, Mindanao, Sulu, Tawi Tawi and Palawan.

A Malaysian emissary reportedly met with Datu Abraham Idjirani, the secretary-general and spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu that has proprietary rights over the disputed Bornean territories.

Before the creation in 1963 of the Malaysian federation with the arbitrary inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak, the two states were owned by the Sultanate of Sulu. The proprietary rights of the Sultanate are the basis for their inclusion in the Bangsamoro Republik.

The proposed Malaysian talks with the MNLF, now a minor entity in the “peace” process between Malacañang and Muslim insurgents, bear watching.

To get back at the Malacañang and possibly gain territory, the MNLF could play along with Malaysia whose plots against the Philippine government are of public record.

In the early 1970s, Malaysia was openly abetting, financing, arming and training Muslim insurgents. Intelligence reports had it that Kuala Lumpur was strengthening its hand in case its dispute with Manila over Sabah would escalate.

Afraid to lose his relevance in the MinSuPala area which he calls home, Misuari attempted in July 2013 to raise its Bangsamoro Republik flag in Zamboanga City. Hundreds of people were killed in the ensuing three-week battle.

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

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