Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David called it a mere “wrinkle” in the “peace process”. “Disheartening” news that is a “cause for concern” is how she describes the massacre of 50 members of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP’s) elite Special Action Force (SAF) allegedly by elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). For his part, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas referred to it as a “misencounter”.
It is interesting how Filipinos cheer the victory of Kurdish forces against the Islamic State in Syria half a world away today but make such lightweight remarks about crimes against humanity occurring in their own backyard. It is easy to issue statements all the way from Imperial Manila that these police officers “died for their country”. If that were true then we should ask whether the way the Philippine government under its president Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III also honours the hundreds of thousands of Filipino soldiers and police officers who, over the last several decades, died fighting these Moro bandits.
The answer to that question has been known since the so-called “peace negotiations” with the MILF began. That the Philippine government, in cahoots with its Malaysian “broker”, would negotiate with a terrorist organisation is nothing short of a spit on the graves of the Filipino warriors whose blood was spilt in Mindanao fighting the Philippines’ Muslim insurgency.
Yet, the negotiations pushed along — seemingly fuelled by President BS Aquino’s vanity-inspired quest for a Nobel Peace Prize to white-mark the vast blot that is his failed presidency — despite mounting evidence that the entire framework and approach was flawed, perhaps illegal even. That no less than the Philippine president would personally meet with the leader of a terrorist group, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim back in 2011 had a fishy smell all over it…
A few years after that initial meeting, we now know that he did disregard the Constitution and entered into a contract with the MILF even without the approval of Congress and the judiciary. Here’s the part of the Bangsamoro agreement where some legal experts agree that BS Aquino may have overstepped his role when he represented the Philippine government:
Part 7, para. 4, subpara (b) provides that one of the functions of the Transition Commission is “to work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose of amending and enriching in the Constitution the agreements of the parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreement.”
The above section indicates that amendment of the Constitution is needed to make the agreement legal. Which makes some people wonder why BS Aquino and his staff were already euphoric after the ceremonial signing was held recently. They are very good at celebrating without yet seeing the results of their efforts.
As usual, actions that should have been put into effect long ago (recognising the illegality of this political stunt), before disaster struck, are only now being implemented. Lawmakers who are part of committees reviewing the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill have suspended hearings pending the results of an investigation into the incident. According to Senator Bongbong Marcos who heads these hearings, “A peace settlement cannot be legislated under the threat of such extreme violence.”
You don’t say.
It is interesting to note that this “threat of such extreme violence” would only now be recognised — now that 50 police officers are dead. When there has been no disarmament of Islamic terrorists in Mindanao, there will always be a threat of “extreme violence” there. A US State Department advisory issued in mid-November 2014 warns Americans to “exercise extreme caution if traveling to the main island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines.” Furthermore…
Separatist and terrorist groups across Mindanao continued their violent activities, conducting bombings and kidnappings, attacking civilians and political leaders, and battling Philippine security forces. In particular, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces, where the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence.
One wonders how, despite coming this far into the process of implementing a Bangsamoro Basic Law presumably hinged on the ability of MILF leaders to control its armed forces, violence originating from Islamic terrorists continues to crush spirits in Mindanao. The disturbing thing that emerges from all this is that the Philippines continues to be plagued by a deadly rogue force still running wild in Mindanao and had this police massacre not happened, the Manila government would have continued to barrel along the same path towards a law that gives legitimacy to these terrorist groups.
Why do people need to die before lessons are learnt in the Philippines? It seems that, in the Philippines, hindsight’s lessons are habitually written using the blood of people who suffered senseless deaths. And even so, none of these lessons seem to ever sink in.
[Photo courtesy XinHuaNet.com.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.