By Juan L. Mercado
PRESIDENT GLORIA Macapagal Arroyo may be what her rabid critics insist. But the lady is not dumb. She knew that the draft proposing Bangsamoro Juridical Entity to be fatally-flawed. Then, why did she shuffle this proposal to dismember Mindanao even to the brink?.
A quarter-to-midnight Supreme Court temporary restraining order derailed signing of the Memorandum of Agreement. By then, diplomats were in Kuala Lumpur to witness the ceremony. Was this what John Kenneth Gailbraith called: “the ingenuity of larceny”?
Malacanang never officially released the MOA, claiming “executive privilege.” This blindfolded citizens en masse. But what the leaked texts indicate, as ex-Senator Franklin Drilon claims, could be “impeachable ‘chop-chop’ of the country.”
Without even a by-your-leave., eight of every 10 residents in Iligan City, Ms Arroyo’s old hometown, for example, will be swept into BJE – and come under Sharia law? Some 712 barangays, from Palawan to the Zamboanga Peninsula , are in a similar fix.
The plan expands “the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to places whose inhabitants never had any inkling that they could be part of a virtually new state,” an equally-startled Inquirer noted. The backlash to this grab-one-take-one has been understandably furious.
Three scholars ( Inquirer columnists all, coincidentally ) skewer patently unconstitutional proposals to gift powers, reserved only for sovereign states, on BJE..
University of the Philippines’ Raul Pangalangan notes conduct of foreign relations, establishment of a separate financial system, even sovereign control over “territorial sea” ( the band of water, within 12 nautical miles around coastlines) would be given away
The MOA accepts “Bangsamoro as a separate state, with full and expressed preference “in their favor’ in case of conflict”, notes former Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz notes MILF is only a rebel group. Like local communists, they haven’t won recognition as a “belligerent community.”
The MOA seeks to overhaul the Organic Act which established the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Ateneo’s Joaquin Bernas notes:. “These cannot be achieved by a mere MOA. Implementation involves amending the Organic Act, even the Constitution.”But the document’s terms of reference ignore the Philippine Constitution
So what?, snaps Ghadzahi Jaafar, MILF’vice chair for political affairs.. ”We don’t recognize the Constitution.” Beyond that soundbyte, the historical fact is: 21,118,209 electors cast their ballots, in the February 2,1987 referendum on the Constitution.
The “yes” votes swamped the “no” votes three-to-one. Of this total, 17,059,495 voted “yes”.And 5,058,714 cast a “no” vote. Over 800 thousand of those votes came from Muslim provinces. Thus, the Constitution came into effect on February 11 of that year.
BJE hasn’t even bothered with a Bill of Rights, leaving women open to abuse., Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr has noted. But Filipinos take the Constitution seriously. Horacio Morales and local communists belatedly discovered that when they tried to peddle junta ( a politburo really ) rule for 1,000 days. They were snickered into silence.
“In peace, sons bury their fathers,” Croesus once warned. “But in war, fathers bury their sons.” The over 120,000 lives lost in Mindanao conflicts attest to this truth. Violence is unpredictable. Mindanao is not a war movie. Happy endings can not be scripted in. Muslims, Christian, lumads or Buddhists and atheists welcome giving the fragile peace process a chance to take root.
Thus, the late Pope John Paul II urged use of the negotiating table for the Mindano problem. This commitment to non-violence resonates in the call of Mindanao leaders like Archbishops Orlando Quevedo and Antonio Ledesma, SJ..for continued dialog, both on legitimate Muslim grievances and equally valid rights of non-Muslims.
But ignoring people’s aspirations, whether expressed in Constitutions or negotiations, and keeping stakeholders in the dark, as the Arroyo regime has done, invites the violence it claims to abhor. This will beat plowshares into swords.
“Ms. Arroyo’s support…of this ploy seeks to consolidate her own hold on power,” writes Johns Hopkins University professor Brett Decker in an Wall Street Journal analysis. Expanding Muslim autonomy requires constitutional changes. And while the MOA would flunk the exercise, it opens a door to extending presidential terms or federalism. This is a “Trojan Horse” for her drive to cling to power.
Filipinos abroad are reacting. “Ms Arroyo really has her hands tied because there are more than million Filipinos as hostages in OFW workers in Muslim countries, emails Michael Avila from Australia . “Any drastic move could threaten their vital remittances.
“ Malaysia sees her interest in Moros carving out an Islamic state in Mindanao . A strong Philippines would be a base. This makes neighbors nervous. To prevent this, they will weaken us any way they can, he adds..
The Arroyo regime led us down the garden path by fracturing of the Bill of Rights ( Section 7 ) “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized”. To prevent a repetition of this BJE fiasco, Congress should approve soonest a Freedom of Information Law.
“I’ve not become the King’s First Minister to preside over liquidation of the British Empire ”, Winston Churchill declared in 1930. And in 2008, can President Arroyo say: I’m not president to oversee dismemberment of what Rizal called nuestro perdido Eden. (email@example.com)