Bangsamoro deal: Were Filipino Muslims in Mindanao screwed by the Philippine and Malaysian governments?

With the Bangsamoro “framework agreement” set to be “signed” this month, the Philippines is supposedly on its way towards achieving a future of peace and harmony with and amongst its Muslim minority peoples. It is, supposedly, a political win for Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, both of whom are starved for some positive spin to prop up flagging public perceptions on their respective domestic fronts.

Kuala Lumpur and Manila have a lot of political and diplomatic capital invested in this project which is being bandied around as a significant milestone in the road to “peace” and economic prosperity in the Philippine Muslim south…

Helped by Bangsamoro’s main international backer, Muslim-majority Malaysia, the head of the MILF, Al Haj Murad, has been on a roadshow drumming up support and investment for the new, non-sovereign entity. The week before last he was an honoured guest at the eighth World Islamic Economic Forum in Johor Bahru, where his hosts, led by Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, treated him on a par with heads of state and national representatives. Very nice for the MILF, but also good politics for Malaysia. With a general election coming up, the Malaysian government wants to claim as much credit as it can for the peace agreement, which it helped to broker.

bangsamoroIt was all smiles and peachy words during a meeting between the two leaders in Putrajaya this week. “We will offer capacity building for the Bangsamoro people since they will require new skills when they form the future government of southern Philippines,” announced Najib. President BS Aquino for his part highlighted the importance of “boosting security” between Malaysia and the Philippines and the exchange of intelligence to ensure “a high degree of deterrent measures” are in place. “We believe that adherence to the rule of law, positive engagement and sincere dialogue are fundamental if we are to build a truly prosperous and peaceful Southeast Asia — a Southeast Asia where no one is left behind,” Aquino added.

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But underneath all this congeniality is a dark world of persistent unresolved issues. We need to look no further back than last year’s international crisis that erupted after forces loyal to Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III initiated action to highlight a long-festering territorial dispute over the state of Sabah between the Philippine and Malaysian governements. Everyone was caught flat-footed by the unexpected incursion of Kiram’s fighters into the territory of Malaysian-governed state of Sabah while Kuala Lumpur and Manila were in the middle of setting into motion the execution of the “framework agreement” with Al Haj Murad, head of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Both the Malaysian and Philippine governments’ use of their respective militaries in the handling of the Sabah crisis were severely criticised by the international community. At the height of their military operations in Sabah to flush out Kiram’s forces, Malaysia had exhibited a palpable unwillingness to compromise when it came to the use of deadly force. A report at the time stated that “[Malaysian] fighter jets dropped at least 10 bombs” within a 20-kilometre radius encompassing the Sabah villages of Kampung Tanduo, Tanjung Labian and Kampung Tanjung Batu where many of Kiram’s forces were holed up. All this happened despite pleas from the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario to Malaysia to exercise “maximum tolerance” in the handling of the crisis on the ground. These pleas reportedly failed to move the Malaysian government.

The Malaysian government for its part insisted that the assault was a police operation and not one under military command. “We are harnessing technical aspects of the military but the operations remain under the police,” Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib reportedly said. Malaysia’s use of fighter planes in the assault, however, has brought to question the nature of what is now seen to be excessive force for what is considered to be a “police operation”.

Media outlets all over the world were virtually unanimous in being critical of the way Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III had handled the crisis. A TIME Magazine article reported

The President’s uncompromising stance may have far-reaching consequences. Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal with Manila in October after four decades of armed struggle, has already admitted that their own peace talks have been affected. The Philippine media has also been critical of Aquino’s stance. “President Aquino and his officials were throwing to the Malaysian wolves Filipino Muslims digging in what they claimed was their legitimate homeland in Sabah,” says Rigoberto Tiglao in the Manila Times. “With that the president has driven the last nail on the coffin of the Philippine claim to Sabah,” read an editorial on Monday in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “What he didn’t say to the sultan’s men was: If you get slaughtered by the Malaysians, that’s your fault. Condolences.

The two governments also remain silent on how this teetering “framework agreement” will be pitched to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The Philippines’ Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) through its leader, Nur Misuari, has been sitting in the OIC under an “observer status” since 1977. However, this membership is under the premise that the MNLF is a “non-state actor”, which opens the door for the Philippines’ “national government” in Manila to apply as a member state. What complicates this, however, is that the OIC, in principle, continues to recognise the MNLF as the official representative of the Bangsamoro people, a tenet that is evidently not consistent with the Philippines’ internal politics. While the OIC had “promised” to admit the Philippine government once its Framwork Agreement has been implemented, the question of who really represents Filipino Muslims remains hopelessly open to debate. Unlike other non-muslim countries that have been admitted as permanent observers in the OIC, the Philippine government has yet to demonstrate an ability to competently handle Muslim affairs within its jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, left out of the loop in this most recent “peace” achievement between Manila and Kuala Lumpur were “smaller Islamic militant groups in Mindanao” which, as is now clearly evident, includes people and groups still loyal to the Sultan of Sulu as well as the MILF’s “main rival” the MNLF. Interestingly, the origins of the MILF as a militant breakaway group from the more moderate MNLF was over disagreements with the direction being taken by the MNLF leadership back in 1977 towards renouncing its own separatist agenda in favour of a more “conciliatory” deal with Manila then, a direction which bore fruit ten years later for the MNLF…

In January 1987, the MNLF signed an agreement relinquishing its goal of independence for Muslim regions and accepting the government’s offer of autonomy. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the next largest faction, refused to accept the accord and initiated a brief offensive that ended in a truce later that month. By one estimate the Mindanao-based Moro Islamic Liberation Front fielded around 3,000 troops.

With the MILF now as gentrified as the MNLF and in bed with the creations of former colonial masters — the Kuala Lumpur and Manila governments of Malaysia and the Philippines respectively — it’s déjà vu all over again for the Philippine south’s Moro militants. Clearly, no one political entity in the Philippines is on top of the Muslim situation there, and the MNLF and its leader, Nur Misuari, continues to enjoy first dibs as the “representative” of Filipino Muslims on international record.

Filipino observers see this recent “framework agreement” as yet another example of the Philippines’ consistently flaccid performance in the game of big-time international negotiation. In his column on the Manila Standard Today Francisco ‘Kit’ Tatad described the whole exercise as a possible sell-out to Malaysia resulting in “shattered hopes” for many Filipinos…

Many were hoping Aquino would at least try to secure an official statement from Razak expressing hope that a settlement may eventually be reached on Sabah, even though no immediate solution seemed to be on sight right now. They also expected Aquino to ask for clemency, possibly an amnesty, for the 27 Sulu fighters in Malaysian jails. Even Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, in his capacity as presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ Concerns, travels to foreign countries to plead for clemency on behalf of convicted OFWs. Yet Aquino said nothing on behalf of the 27, even though have not even been convicted yet.

Indeed, as Tatad observes, this “achievement” may turn out to be a sad definition of the Second Aquino Administration, one characterised by President BS Aquino’s “total surrender of the Sabah claim” all in exchange for nothing more than a need to look good and fulfull his family’s feudal agenda.

16 Replies to “Bangsamoro deal: Were Filipino Muslims in Mindanao screwed by the Philippine and Malaysian governments?”

  1. Never send a boy to do a man’s job. How could we let this idiot possess such power to contribute to this nation’s ruination? How many more stupid moves does he have to make for the whole Philippines to wake up?

    At an end your rule is, and not short enough it was!”
    – Yoda

    1. Just give up. This country is doomed. You, and the entire GRP gang, is fighting a lost cause.

      It’s been what, over a decade since you guys started this. Did anything change? Did the Filipinos got real? The answer is a big, fat, NO.

      If we go to Sun Tzu’s lessons, GRP made 2 mistakes: first, you overestimated the power of their words, or how they can affect readers (“know thy self”). Second, you underestimated the level of idiocy and arrogance of many Filipinos (“know thy enemies”). How many of them actually understood your articles? Probably just a handful. What’s worse, a bunch of butthurt Pinoys attacked this site on a daily basis.

      So how can one win a battle if he doesn’t know neither himself nor the enemy?

      My humble two cents.

  2. It smacks of hypocricy, duplicity, and treachery. Par for the course.

    When it comes to international relations/negotiations pnoy aquino is like a child playing chess who doesn’t know how ‘ the horsey thing’ moves.

    “The Malaysian government wants the Philippines to set up a consulate in Kota Kinabalu – the capital of Sabah”


  3. Some Filipinos are into believing that this Agreement will end the conflict. Just wait till its done.

    This is all about publicity and popularity.
    Both Heads of State are dummies.

  4. What makes it more suspicious snd despicable is that pnoy aquino said repeatedly before the trip that he would not discuss sabah, and on his return said it was not discussed, until a jubilant malaysia exposed those lies.

  5. Filipinos are very ignorant when it comes to this agreement. All they believe are sugar coated lies that the government tells them. This agreement is a ticking time-bomb, a disaster waiting to happen. Expect more arms conflicts which will result to civilians treated as collateral damage. The MNLF is silent, more likely they are reinforcing their forces and just waits for the opportunity. This will not achieve peace in Mindanao, this will achieve only chaos and deaths.

  6. And the nerve of this guy who even uses the handle “ofw”. I wonder if he is really overseas? Maybe just over there by the river side, Pasig river, that is.

    1. Someone like that wouldn’t pass as a real ofw since:
      1. He’s stupid
      2. He’s a waste of space
      3. He’s clearly an uneducated wuss who can’t even come up with a rebuttal against our facts without resorting to his severely weak yellow propaganda.

  7. All the portions of the MILF bangsamoro agreement are patently unconstitutional. To wit:

    1. The sub-state violates the constitutional integrity of our national territories in Mindanao. It is the same MOA-AD which was already declared as unconstitutional. This sub-state contains all the elements of a state including recognition. Which means that the MILF criminal, bandit, terrorist group can and will secede from the Republic of the Philippines. Our maritime territories are being violated as the sub-state even claims parts of the Sulu Sea, Moro Gulf and Yllana Bay which also violates the UNCLOS. They also claim parts of our airspace, freshwater resources and underground resources.

    2. The MILF is still an outlaw criminal, bandit, terrorist group operating outside of the law. They are allied with the NPA, Jemaah Islamiya, Abu Sayaff Group and the Al Quaeda in Asia. The BIFF and the MILF have bonds of blood relations and friendships. Jihadist Muslims aid each other in Jihad war. War is deceit! Lies are acceptable to fool, deceive, confound and confuse the enemy. We are their enemies.

    3. Since the start of the peace negotiations the Philippine government has given all the advantages and benefits to the MILF. IED bombs were being detonated and projectile weapons attacks initiated in Mindanao while the peace negotiations were ongoing. The government never protested these attacks. We were always dealing from a position of weakness.

    4. The Constitution is silent on a state within a state, a government(MILF parliament) within the national government(presidential)and a the existence of two constitutions. The basic law is the bangsamoro constitution.

    5. The IMT of Malaysians and other foreigners are continuously violating our sovereignty in Mindanao? Why did the national government allow them to operate there?

    6. Why then is BS Aquino risking multiple treason and still giving all the advantages and benefits to the MILF? Is he after the Nobel peace price?

    7. I am urging all of our lawyers who defend and uphold the constitution to file the necessary special civil action cases including TRO to stop this madness! Mindanao is being Balkanized without consultations from the Sovereign Filipino People. We must wake up and act against this betrayal of our Constitution!

    1. Taqiyya is the way of the Bangsamoro MILF criminal, bandit, terrorist group! From day one they were lying to everyone as lies are acceptable as an Islamic strategy of war to confound, confuse and deceive us. BS Aquino has adopted the same squid tactics. He is for giving all the advantages and benefits to the MILF and he does not care if we will lose our territories in Mindanao!

  8. Let us all hope and pray that the Bangsamoro MILF criminal, bandit, terrorist group does not transform into a Pan Islamic Super State! Should this become reality we will lose our territories and democracy in Mindanao as the Islamic Jihad slowly reconquers our archipelago.

  9. It’s appeasement to Malysia and the Muslim rebels on the part of Aquino. If you you look at the Palestinian-Israeli peace agreements. You know that agrrements last only for a while. If some radical Muslim groups; begin shooting again…insurgency will be reignited.
    The Aquino government is ignorant of the Muslim religion and culture…they don’t even know about the Islamic Koran. Aquino sold out a part of the Philippines. It will be a State/Republic within a State/Republic. Like the fractured country Lebanon…Sabah is already sold out by Aquino…to buy a non-existent peace accord…

  10. Of course someone is going to be screwed on this deal. AND that entity or persons will be very mad and start doing the exact same things that happened at the end of 2012 in CDO. it is a virtual certainty.You could take bets on it!

    EX-PATS should stay out of Mindanao till this blows over in a few years!

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