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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Aquino-MILF pact a curse on the nation



I wrote the following piece two years and five months ago, right after the much-vaunted signing by the government of the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Malacanang in October 2012.
Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak would even be at the signing ceremony in March 2014 of the pact that detailed that “Framework,” with MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim always at his right side.
More and more Filipinos are realizing now why. Without Malaysia there wouldn’t have been an MILF, nor its predecessor, the Moro National Liberation Front, or at least with their level of strength as to endanger our national security.
After the Mamasapano massacre, after the exposés that the so-called Jabidah massacre was a hoax that alerted Malaysia to Philippine operations for our Sabah claim, after the disclosure that the Philippines was willing to give up “North Borneo” in exchange for Malaysia’s support for the country’s claims in the Spratlys, and even the unearthing of long-forgotten links of President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd’s father, Ninoy, with Malaysia—Filipinos are starting to realize this President has treasonously allowed a foreign power, Malaysia, to intervene in our affairs.
Nothing much really needs to be changed in the following column of Oct 25, 2012, except maybe to change the phrase “Framework Agreement” with the “Bangsamoro Basic Law” bill. I’m still betting, though, that the Supreme Court will make the lives of our gutless legislators easier by soon ruling the BBL bill unconstitutional.
As this column explains, Aquino’s “BBL” will unfortunately mean in the next few years as his “body-bags legacy.”
Signing away territory: MILF chieftain Murad Ibrahim,  Malaysian Prime Minister Razak’s right-hand man, at the signing ceremony in 2014 of Aquino’s pact with the insurgents.
Signing away territory: MILF chieftain Murad Ibrahim,  Malaysian Prime Minister Razak’s right-hand man, at the signing ceremony in 2014 of Aquino’s pact with the insurgents.
Because this gullible and stupid, yet arrogant President offered the MILF the moon without consulting the nation, and allowed the insurgents to grow in strength in just the span of four years, these Islamists will go to war, claiming they were betrayed.
I had never thought a president, in such a short span of time, could push a country into such deep mess, one that would cost the lives of thousands of Filipinos in the coming years.
* * *
Rather than a legacy of peace, President Aquino’s pact with the MILF contained in the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” will be his curse on the nation. The consequences of the pact—renewed violence in Mindanao and even terrorist attacks in urban centers—will outlive his term, and will be one of the biggest headaches of the next president.
We have to disabuse ourselves of the naive, sappy “give-peace-a-chance” mentality that peace accords always lead to the silencing of guns. From Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler, to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that led to the fall of Saigon, to the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian War but led to the “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo, ill-conceived peace pacts in the world’s history have often led to greater hostilities. Violence after failed peace pacts intensifies as the parties claim that they were betrayed, infuriating their fighters to fierceness.
The MILF will most definitely be claiming in a year’s time, or even just a few months, that it was betrayed and fooled by the Aquino Administration. Why would this happen?
Unless Mr. Aquino becomes a dictator, there is no way he can implement his pact with the MILF. It will be blocked or radically diluted by two institutions: the Supreme Court and Congress.
The Supreme Court will almost certainly be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the Aquino-MILF agreement, as it was with regard to the previous administration’s Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.
Either Mr. Aquino didn’t bother to read the Court’s ruling on that case, or he is confident that with his handpicked Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice, it is now under his thumb that he can just order it to rule as he pleases. But the major reasons why the Court ruled the MOA-AD unconstitutional apply to the Aquino-MILF pact, as constitutional expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas and law professor Harry Roque have explained in their opinion columns. One major reason the Court ruled the MOA-AD unconstitutional was the government’s commitment to amend the Constitution to accommodate the pact, which was beyond the executive branch’s authority to do so.
Mr. Aquino similarly promised that the Constitution will be amended “for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the Constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary.” He is deluded if he thinks that the MILF agreed to establish merely an “autonomous region” for the Bangsamoro, the only arrangement allowed under the Constitution. MILF Chair Murad Ibrahim was either so audacious or made a slip of the tongue when he said at the signing ceremony that the pact would allow the MILF “to rebuild [the Moro] homeland…end occupation and the reign of violence.”
Occupation? The republic’s Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police are occupying, foreign forces? Murad even boasted in his speech that the pact could not have been possible if they had not withstood “the all-out wars in 2000, 2003 and 2008 waged by previous Philippine regimes on the MILF.” The republic wasn’t defending its territory and just waging war?
MILF guerillas now believe that Mr. Aquino agreed to the establishment of an MILF-controlled independent nation-state, even if just a weaker one, in the agreement’s formulation, “in asymmetric relation” to the Philippines. I’ve had sources in the MILF since 1996 when I was the first journalist to visit its main headquarters and interview its chairman, Hashim Salamat. “We’ve won, there’ll be a Bangsamoro soon,” they all said.
And even if the Supreme Court rules the agreement constitutional, it will be impossible for that Congress to enact the “Bangsamoro Basic Law,” which is absolutely needed to implement the Aquino-MILF pact.
The pact’s fatal flaw, in fact, is that the entity—Congress—which has the most crucial role in implementing the agreement, had absolutely no role in negotiating it. Why would it support it? If Mr. Aquino could not pass the reproductive health bill and even the economically crucial sin tax bill despite his popularity, do you think he could pass a bill—at the closing years of his regime—to create a Bangsamoro nation-state, which would be extremely unpopular and even unacceptable to the majority of Filipinos?
If there is no way for the agreement to be implemented, why did Mr. Aquino enter into it, and made such a big hullabaloo over it? If it isn’t sheer stupidity or hubris, there is only one other reason: as a publicity stunt to prettify his Administration, which will soon be held accountable for its incompetence when the economy weakens and as his anticorruption campaign is exposed as a political witch-hunt.
It would be a tragedy, though, for the country that would outlive Mr. Aquino’s term. When the Supreme Court or Congress throws the agreement to the dustbin, the MILF will claim that it has been betrayed. It will oil its rifles that after all had not been surrendered and will not surrender to again wage war, with more ferocity this time.
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