Uniting for the national interest
On May 24, the Yes to Peace, No to BBL coalition of concerned Filipino citizens issued a manifesto at Rizal Park. The coalition represents a broad spectrum of citizens nationwide and overseas, and has made its strength known through Change.org. It called for the retention of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and strengthening regional and local autonomy for good governance, an important building block for peace.
Today, we find our nation in peril and our democratic way of life under threat, both externally and from within. All too often, the common good and national interests are sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, corruption and self-serving hidden agendas. We oppose the Bangasamoro Basic Law (BBL) for the following reasons:
- Malaysia, as third party mediator, is conflicted; opposes our Sabah claim; and has undermined our nation’s stability by aiding and comforting secessionist groups, mainly, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
- The BBL is a thinly veiled attempt at usurping the Constitution. “Basic Law” connotes a constitution of a state (BangsaMoro) to which all laws must conform.
- The MILF cannot be granted a homeland within Philippine territory. The MILF does not represent the hopes and aspirations of excluded sectors, and remains infested with Islamist radicals connected to the global jihadist movement.
- Self-governance is a living reality that renders the BBL superfluous. Muslims freely elect their candidates to office. The phrase “right to self-determination” is but a prelude to secession and a subsequent declaration of independence.
- It prescribes a parliamentary form of government that contravenes the 1987 Constitution that mandates a Republican and Presidential form of government.
- The BangsaMoro Police and a BangsaMoro Command provisions, both nominally under the PNP and AFP, are a duplication of sovereign prerogatives that violate the 1987 Constitution. The AFP-PNP are the government’s sole instruments for peace and order and law enforcement, respectively.
- The proposed Civil Service; Police Board equivalent to the NAPOLCOM; Commission on Human Rights; Public Attorney’s Office and Prosecution Service; Commission on Audit; Tax Office and a Sharia Judicial and Bar Council, usurp sovereign functions and powers of national agencies.
- It provides for the position of WALI or titular head of the BangsaMoro that mirrors and undermines the authority of the President of the Philippines.
- The provisions on “Asymmetric Relationship” and “Parity of Esteem” to govern relations gives BangsaMoro equal status and parity with the national government. The BBL will create a parallel state and can lead to no other conclusion than to an eventual bid by the MILF at independence.
- The process that led to the signing of the CAB was furtive, just like the path taken for the MOA-AD that the Supreme Court struck down precisely for that reason.
- The massacre of 44 PNP-SAF law enforcers in Mamasapano unmasked its continued connection to Al Qaeda and Jema’ah Islamiya that further threw the MILF’s sincerity and trustworthiness into question.
- Smeared as a “failed experiment,” BBL’s proponents want to replace ARMM. ARMM’s creation is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution that recognized the Tripoli Agreement. Its perceived “failure” lies not in the political system but in the culture of the people that prevent the reversal of feudalistic practices, poverty, economic backwardness, rebellion, terrorism and revenge killings.
The solution lies in cultural transformation; strengthening regional and local autonomy; and sustained investments in capacity and capability building. If a driver keeps crashing the car, the solution is to retrain (or change) the driver instead of changing the car.
Proponents say that the BBL is about social injustice. In reality, social injustice is a national problem that has bred discontent and armed rebellions nationwide. Although feudalistic practices (exclusion, entitlement and impunity), the revenge culture, and breakdown of the criminal justice system are not unique to Muslim Mindanao, those are the main causes of social injustice over there. That’s the real narrative.
Now comes the military (in support of 75 percent of the people nationwide and 62 percent of the people of Mindanao), to defend the national interest.
Last June 3, the Association of General and Flag Officers (AGFO) presented its position paper to the Senate Committee Hearing on the BBL. The paper contained the inputs of Col. Cesar Pobre Ph.D. and former DND Sec. Renato de Villa, and read by AGFO president LtGen Edilberto P Adan (Ret). Many of its members fought in Mindanao against insurgency and terrorism.
“We experienced the scourge and cruelties of war, its physical, mental and psychological demands, and the tormenting thought of leaving personal comfort and family behind. And so, when we say, “we abhor war, we long and crave for peace, lasting peace, just like anybody else,” please believe us. We recognize that the military alone cannot resolve the problem in Mindanao but the problem cannot be solved without the participation of the military.
The proposed BBL is touted to be the solution to the decades-old strife in Mindanao. But in our view, as a derivative of the Framework Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the BBL in its present form and substance contains provisions that can create more problems that it can solve, lacking in provisions that would ensure its workability and prevent the dismemberment of our country.”
The paper’s recommendations are paraphrased as follows:
- The MILF should explicitly renounce separatism and Islamic independence; and pledge allegiance to the Republic.
- Normalization should be a major provision of the BBL not be a mere Annex to the Framework Agreement.
- Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration (DDR), or Normalization, should have definite timelines for MILF’s armed components to fully disarm and turn in all their weapons.
- All provisions in the FAB and CAB on redeployment of the AFP should be deleted.
- The President of the Philippines has the sole power and authority as commander-in-chief of all uniformed and armed services. It cannot be shared with anyone.
- The Central Government alone has the authority and jurisdiction over defense and security, both internal and external.
- The proposed Bangsamoro Region Police Office must be directly under the PNP.
- The creation of the AFP Bangsamoro Command should be deleted.
- Proposed coordination protocols for the movement of AFP in the Bangsamoro area should be deleted.
- The provision that the AFP is to retain only such installations as are necessary for national defense and security should be removed.
Unfortunately, Mamasapano happened, but it also brought out the reality that the MILF cannot be trusted. Sa ngalan ng inyong nagtanggol sa bayan. Salamat po.
In summary, the BBL betrays the public trust, violates the Constitution; and places national security at grave risk. The BBL will inflict more violence and bloodshed, and usher in the country’s eventual disintegration. The FAB/CAB-BBL, as signed and originally submitted to Congress should be stoutly opposed and rejected.
While peace is everyone’s concern and responsibility, we want a government that delivers results, preserves the national interest, promotes the common good and upholds national honor. We need a government that does the right things and knows how to do things the right way.
We, the people, are watching you and pray that you think right and do right for Inang Bayan. The Philippines is not for sale. It is our home; it is sacred territory of past, present and future Filipinos. We belong to One Country, One Constitution, and One Flag under One God. Mabuhay ang Pilipino! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
(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 the Chair of the MAP National Security Committee, and an Independent Director of the Pepsi Cola Products Philippines, Inc. Feedback at <[email protected]> and <[email protected]>. For previous articles, please visit <map.org.ph>)
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