Thursday, February 5, 2015


ARE we on the right track for attaining peace in Mindana0? Is the Bangsamro Basic Law (BBL) now being considered as the solution by both houses of Congress the right solution? Or should we pause and seriously reconsider after what happened recently in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province where close to 50 government men (including 44 Special Action Force (SAF) police were killed by our partners in creating the BBL in what has been called erroneously as a “misencounter” by both the Muslims and our government. Our Muslim partners are pushing for the BBL because they will be in a stronger position after this law is passed.

One should also wonder, if our partners in creating the BBL can be trusted when the man that the SAF was looking for was a Malaysian known as a world-class terrorist who has been training his fellow Muslims in bomb-making?

What are we in for with the passage of the BBL? Has our government accepted an olive branch attached to a bomb that will explode in our faces later in the year?

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., one of three senators who have stopped supporting the BBL, makes sense when he says: “A peace agreement cannot be legislated under the threat of such extreme violence.

Violence has no room in a civilized society.

“I condemn the use of violence by the MILF. They signed a peace agreement with the government, and therefore, the MILF is already a partner of government. Hence, even without coordination, they should have exercised great patience and caution.” Those police officers were there to arrest a terrorist. They were just doing their jobs. The fact that they were not carrying loads of ammunition show that they are not there for a fight. It was not an attack on the MILF. Lethal force was clearly not necessary.” Or so, the policemen thought.

Certainly, for our Cabinet officials to agree that this was merely a “misencounter” shows that they are forgiving the slaughter of our policemen fearing that the negotiations for the BBL will suffer if they did not agree to forgive this slaughter of our SAF police as an accident. (If this was truly a “misencounter” shouldn’t the slaughter have ended when the MILF forces saw that the police had stopped firing since they had run out of ammunition? 


When the two sides met in Malaysia a few days ago, they discussed the decommissioning of the firearms of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), which counts Brunei Darussalam as a member, recently started ground works in Mindanao for the symbolic turnover of firearms by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Turkish Ambassador to the Philippines Hydra Bark, IDB chair, and the IDB members visited Central Mindanao, specifically North Cohabite province, in line with their mandate. The IDB team paid a courtesy call to the Philippine National Police headquarters in Metro Manila.

Brunei’s representative to the IDB is Major Muhammad Airman Swazi Hajji Abdul Rohm. Brunei has also been a member of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team since 2004.Norway composes the other foreign member of the IDB, as well as two representatives each from the government and the MILF.

This actually does not solve the problems of the proliferation of firearms among the Muslim population. Part of the force that did in the police forces were elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that has a camp near the MILF camp. As far as we know, the BIFF is not included in the decommissioning of firearms of the MILF, Neither does this include the firearms in the hands of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which is headed by the former Chairman of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the forerunner of the Bangsamoro Entity that will be created by the BBL.

The firearms of the other groups will also not be decommissioned -- at least, not right away. Only those of the MILF will be put in storage. Thus, the possibility of continuous fighting between the various Muslim armed groups and the central government will continue and we cannot really expect our partners in the peace agreement (the MILF) to be very helpful. They have not been so far and the probability of more fighting that will be dismissed by our government and its peace partners as “misencounters” will continue.

So, is the creation of the Bangsamoro entity something that our nation should continue to support? Are there more hidden dangers lurking around the next corner that our negotiators have not foreseen?

It seems clear to me that the negotiators on both sides are not really in touch with the reality of the situation. Former President Fidel Ramos says that the battle-tested veterans of the military who have been dealing with the secessionists all their lives should have been consulted and brought in as peace negotiators. One also notes that the Muslim negotiators seem to have no power or influence over those who control the various Muslim rebel forces who seem to do as they please, not caring what is going on between the two negotiating parties.

We may be going into a situation that can only become worse with the passage of time. Yet, the government side seems willing to accept whatever the rebels dish out, hoping for the peace that they think will eventually come from the creation of the Bangsamoro entity, as if this idea will wipe away all of the resentments of our Muslim brothers overnight. This will not happen whether overnight or even in the next few years even with the establishment of the Bangsamoro entity. In fact, as happened during the Marcos presidency, the creation of the ARMM went the rough several awful phases peppered with graft and corruption and Muslim leaders who took for themselves whatever they could just like other politicians in other areas of the country,

That idea did not work then. What makes us think that the same idea, now being called the Bangsamoro Entity will be any different from what transpired in the beginning with the soon to be discarded ARMM? 


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