Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bangsamoro Basic Law looks ‘dead in the water’


ONE, a nation outraged by the massacre of 44 police commandos on a mission to capture or neutralize an international terrorist whose bombs have killed and maimed hundreds of innocent civilians.
Two, a president who bungles a very critical police operation, fumbles when sought for answers and turns from hero to heel in just five short days following the massacre, leaving him a virtual political lame duck with 17 months before the end of his term.
Three, a national election which will elect a new president, vice president, senators, congressmen and local officials through popular mandate in a country of 101 million people.
Four, a bunch of politicians who virtually dance to the music, who yield to the cries of the mob, lack the vision and just ride on popular and sentimental issues to bolster their chances of winning the votes.
These four factors will contribute to the death of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is being pushed in both the Lower House and the Senate of the Philippine Congress to create a controversial Bangsamoro homeland with immense powers that could later on be used as a jumping board for secession and independence.
President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd virtually squandered all of his political stock with the bungling of the operation by the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, resulting in the massacre of 44 commandos by a joint group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Jan 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The tragic event where the country’s security forces suffered the most number of fatalities in a single day was like a Manny Pacquiao right hook, which left President Aquino dazed.
Still reeling from the Mamasapano debacle, President Aquino committed another blunder that further angered majority of Filipinos: he skipped the arrival honors of the fallen policemen at Villamor Airbase to attend the ribbon-cutting of a car manufacturing plant in Laguna.
It was perceived as an act of insensitivity by a president who was believed to have ordered the policemen to get into harm’s way to capture a terrorist who carried a $6-M bounty offered by the US government.
It was the president’s support which the peace negotiators relied on in getting the controversial BBL passed in Congress and pave the way for another political experiment aimed at bringing an end to the conflict in the south, which has caused the death of thousands over the last four decades.
With the president now considered unpopular, his power to convince even his party mates in Congress to support the BBL has surely been diminished, if not totally gone.
Most of the congressmen and senators, who act or react depending on what the public likes or dislikes, will certainly consider the national outrage over the massacre before making a decision.
Given this situation, the BBL is dead in the water and those who are involved in the peace negotiations are left with very few options.
The Philippine peace negotiators could hang on to whatever hope there is left and work to maintain the communication line with the MILF over the next 15 months before the elections and pray that the next president would have a deeper appreciation of the Mindanao issue.
The MILF could go back to the battlefield but this will surely be an option which they have to really ponder on, knowing fully well that they could not win a wide-scale war against the Philippine government.
The MILF leadership knows that their own people are tired of the fighting and only the Islamic radicals and extremists will benefit from the war option.
There is, however, a beacon of hope for the peacemakers in the country, the Bangsamoro and the people of Mindanao, who have grown weary of the war — a president in 2016 who understands the Mindanao conflict and offers a viable and acceptable solution.
Call this providential but the unwilling presidential prospect, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who earlier said that he would wait for a divine signal before he makes a decision on whether to run for president or not, is the only political leader now who offers an option — federalism.
The Bangsamoro State, through the passage of the BBL, may not come to fruition given the confluence of unfortunate events over recent days, but could yet become the Bangsamoro Federal State, one of about 14 Federal States being foisted by an advocacy group, which Duterte has been leading.
This could be the last hope for peace in the Southern Philippines and this could yet be the sign from God that Duterte has been searching for.
Indeed, when God closes doors, he opens windows.

No comments: