Yes to peace, No to BBL | Inquirer Business
MAPping the Future

Yes to peace, No to BBL

Peace is a condition sine qua non to development. In a world battered by animosity and war, the desire for a just and lasting peace lies deep in our hearts and minds. Without enduring peace, achieving the parallel goals of equitable growth and sustainable development will not be possible.

That’s what we said in the Ramos era when I was the DILG-Napolcom chief and served concurrently as cabinet officer-in-charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CORD-ARMM); chair of the National Peace and Order Council (NPOC) and chair of the National Action Committee on Anti-Hijacking and Terrorism (NACAHT)—positions that were interrelated to our peace and development mission.


As we went through the paces of peace-building, I reached out on behalf of FVR to rightist, leftist and secessionist leaders like Nur Misuari, Gringo Honasan, Conrado Balweg, Satur Ocampo, Romy Kintanar and Rick Reyes; and former rebels like Bernabe Buscayno and Victor Corpuz.

I also met with MILF leaders who assured me that, in the event the MNLF signed a peace deal, it would sign it as well. Agreements were struck with the RAM-SKP-YOU and MNLF, while Ocampo and Kintanar joined the political mainstream. Balweg was killed by the NPA.


In the process, I came to appreciate that peace flows from a common and sincere desire of the contending parties to work for it through continuous confidence-building measures, supported by broad buy-in from diverse stakeholders. Our experience taught us that peace is obtained through patient negotiation, prudence, circumspection, inclusion and transparency.

Despite our overtures, the MILF did not sign the comprehensive peace deal in 1996. During the cessation of hostilities, the MILF kept building its armed strength, didn’t let up its armed attacks in Central Mindanao and continued to send recruits from the Philippines and the Middle East, from among OFWs and religious scholars in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to train in Pakistan and fight in Afghanistan.

Our knowledge of Al Qaeda’s operations in the Philippines and its direct link to the MILF was confirmed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her key security officials when FVR tasked me to cultivate closer intelligence and security relations.

In that regard, a number of issues have arisen in the aftermath of the MILF-BIFF’s massacre of 44 PNP Special Action Force (SAF) law enforcers in Mamasapano, specifically:

The mishandling of the peace process;

The amorphous nature of the MILF and its trustworthiness;

The conflicted nature of Malaysia as peace broker;


The efficacy of the BangsaMoro Basic Law (BBL) as the means to bring peace and social justice in Mindanao.

Various aspects of national security are at stake here—internal security, public safety and human security. Further mishandling will surely affect present and future generations.

Protests from Mindanao and elsewhere are notably rising in social and mass media about the lack of inclusivity and transparency in the conduct of the peace process, contrary to the claims of the government panel. Allegations of mishandling have given rise to fears of more armed conflict ahead, a sellout to Malaysia and the loss of Sabah, instead of a peaceful outcome.

The MILF has had long-standing links with Al Qaeda (AQ), which aims to establish a totalitarian global caliphate through jihadism. In Southeast Asia, AQ’s extension is the Jemaah Islamiya (JI) that operates in Mindanao under the protection of, and in partnership with, the MILF. Marwan, a JI member, was known as the Bali bomber.

The BIFF, supposedly an MILF breakaway group, harbored Marwan in Mamasapano, co-located with the MILF. It has pledged allegiance to a more virulent jihadist group, ISIS, that also aims to establish a global caliphate. Elements of the MILF’s 105th, 106th and 118th Base Commands, and the BIFF, jointly murdered the 44 SAF troopers in a bloodlust that took more than half a day.

The MILF’s negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, has admitted that its political junta has little or no control of its military units that have actually grown in number and size by taking advantage of a ceasefire that took effect three years ago. If that’s the case, what’s the point of talking peace with a Jekyll and Hyde? Are we ready to take on added risks to national security?

A leopard, it is said, does not change its spots. Yet, government seems insistent in rushing into a settlement with the MILF despite unchanging signs of insincerity, duplicity and treachery. And the public is perplexed why the government has overtly displayed a bias toward the MILF and contempt for the SAF and its mission.

Malaysia is a conflicted third party. It has aided and abetted the secessionist movements in Mindanao since the Marcos era after the infamous “Jabidah massacre.” It serves as safe haven for various Philippine rebel groups and Jemaah Islamiya, which operates within MILF-controlled areas in Mindanao.

Notable jurists and legal exemplars have cited the BBL’s constitutional and legal flaws. National security practitioners cite the dangers that lie ahead in the context of jihadism worldwide pursuant to the establishment of a global caliphate.

If the BBL is approved as the alternative to ARMM, the MILF will initially govern the “autonomous State of BangsaMoro (ASBM),” funded by the national government to the tune of over P80 billion plus, at a time when funds for national defense and credible deterrence are falling far short of approvals that impedes the protection of our EEZ from China’s unrestrained incursions and reclamation of our reefs in the Spratlys.

Moreover, local and regional autonomy are in place whereby Muslims freely elect their fellow Muslims to regional and local government posts. They have the same democratic rights and responsibilities as everyone else in the country. Shifting to another entity is unnecessary and costly, and will not produce desired results due to continuing human resource capacity and capability shortfalls, as well as cultural weaknesses and sharp divisions that need to be addressed first.

BBL proponents say a peace settlement in Mindanao is all about social justice. True, but I contend that the need for social justice applies to the entire country as well. And that peace at all costs being pushed by the government with the MILF given the obvious internal security risks, is not sensible. They say that ARMM has been corrupted and has failed to generate a better life for Muslims. But will BBL result in social justice once it is signed? The answer is no because, in order for that to happen, the people there will have to work for it.

In that case, why not keep the present system and reform it to make it work? That’s all the people want—a government that delivers, instead of one that keeps tinkering with itself. Shifting from ARMM to BM won’t guarantee overnight success given their feudal culture characterized by political dynasties, warlordism, “rido,” the absence of law and order, and the lack of trained and educated public servants. I think that’s a stretch that has no basis. It’s costly and not sensible at all.

The late Chairman Hashim Salamat once said to someone I know that the MILF do not consider themselves Filipinos because they are Moros, and that its goal was independence. When they were asked during a forum in AIM if they consider themselves Filipinos and respect the Constitution, they never answered the question. That explains the term BangsaMoro. Once granted, they will for all intents and purposes gradually function like an independent state since they are already behaving that way today.

Legalizing an area for the MILF, despite its direct links to the global jihadist movement since the 1990s, which is totalitarian in nature and notorious for heinous crimes against humanity, presents a clear and present danger to national security. It is not the solution. It is fraught with grave risk that raises the risks of war and political discontent, and “Balkanization” at a time when the country’s territorial integrity is under siege in the West Philippine Sea. Those who say otherwise either lack the experience and exposure, or have somehow been captured.

I support peace initiatives that have broad buy-in and would likely result in success. However, at a time of grave peril from within, when the government’s wherewithal to manage risk, emergencies and crises is in doubt based on its track record, it must humbly stop, look and listen, and proceed with extreme caution.

Yes to a well-managed peace process with broad stakeholder representation that will join the journey. No to BBL for all the reasons stated above.

(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is chair of the MAP national security committee, and an independent director of Pepsi Cola Products Philippines Inc. Feedback at <map> and <rmalunan>.  For previous articles, visit <>.)

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, Bangsamoro Basic Law, BBL, MILF, peace process
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