Philippine President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino would like us all to believe that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law will bring peace to Mindanao. This is probably what some people around him like Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer head of Government Peace Panel (for peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF) have advised him.
One problem with BS Aquino is, he is neither an academic nor a rational individual who could comprehend complicated issues like the conflict in Mindanao. His obsession with taking credit for the success of a project works against him too. It seems like when an idea is pitched to him as something that could earn him brownie points or, more so, the possibility of getting nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, he is quick to jump on board the idea without bothering to think about the consequences. Negotiating with a terrorist group is one of them.
It is easy enough for any rational individual to understand that since the MILF is not the only rebel group that is demanding a piece of Mindanao and seeking independence from the Philippines, the passing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will not put an end to the conflicts in Mindanao. Other rebel groups like the newly-formed group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) – the original Muslim rebel group who managed to win autonomy from the Philippine government in 1996 – all want their own version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
One doesn’t have to be a genius to realize that spending time crafting and deliberating the proposed law that caters only to one rebel group is a waste of time and resources. The MILF will even get billions of pesos from the government to assist them in creating their sub state. Aside from that, all their previous atrocities will be “pardoned” after the bill is passed. This could include the massacre of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops in Mamasapono. No wonder the number of rebel groups seems to be growing. They not only enjoy killing our troops, they also get rewarded for it.
It’s a real mystery why academic experts like Deles and Ferrer can’t even see this. They are both so determined to convince the rest of the Filipino people that it is crucial to pass the law despite the deaths of 44 SAF troopers in the hands of MILF rebel soldiers during a supposedly legitimate police operation to capture international terrorists hiding in Mamasapono. Some people can be forgiven for accusing them of being traitors and working for the MILF.
How can the MILF speak on behalf of all Muslims in Mindanao when they can’t even convince the other rebel groups to join their cause? Is the MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal even talking to any of his counterparts in the BIFF, MNLF and Abu Sayyaf? It doesn’t look like it. How will they iron out their differences if the BBL is passed? It seems whatever Iqbal said in front of the recent Senate hearing and to the media — that the MILF is for peace — is totally different from what the MILF foot soldiers do in reality. Iqbal saying that MILF didn’t want what happened is not going to convince most Filipinos that the shooting of the wounded 29 SAF troopers, execution-style was an act of self-defence especially when the act was caught on video.
In a news report, the rebel group BIFF even gave a chilling warning through the media that they are prepared for war and challenged politicians like BS Aquino and Senator Allan Cayetano to bring their guns and go to Maguidanao to fight them:
If they really want war, (President) Aquino and these politicians should bring guns and march to Maguindanao,” BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama said in a phone interview.
Mr. Aquino in his second public statement after the Mamasapano clash warned threat groups like the BIFF he would run them over and he would make them face the full force of the law.
“If they will come here, we will give them what they want. We will show them a real war that is far different from what they see in the movies,” Mama said.
The reference on the difference between an actual combat and a war movie is a shot at Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who claimed during the hearing that he knew things about war from movies that he watched.
BIFF likewise refused to hand over weapons they stole from the fallen SAF troopers, saying that they are enemy weapons and will even use them on government forces. Their statements certainly don’t help the MILF cause.
MILF must prove that they can convince other rebel groups to lay down arms. If they can’t do that, then there is no point in insisting that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will put an end to the conflict in Mindanao.
Iqbal cannot cry foul and act as if the MILF rebel group is a victim of bullying and “gutter politics” just because they are receiving backlash after the tragic event. The outrage from the Filipino public against the atrocities is justified and it is not even close to how other societies react to cruelties committed by terrorists. The MILF need to hand over the individuals who murdered the SAF troopers to Philippine authorities if they want to appease the public.
Iqbal and the supporters of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law should also stop misinterpreting the calls for its scrapping as a call for an “all out war against MILF”. Not everyone who is against it wants war. The MILF doesn’t represent the entire population of Mindanao. They cannot speak for everyone. In fact, the MILF is just one among the many groups in the entire country who has a grievance with the Philippine government. Others complain but don’t use violence. The MILF should take a number and fall in line like the rest.
It was wrong for Iqbal to say that the Philippines is treating Mindanao as a colony. Mindanao has been part of the Philippines for hundreds of years. The MILF cannot claim ownership of any parts of Mindanao. They are merely another group of people who want to secede from the Philippines.
Frankly, BS Aquino should be using this opportunity to tell the MILF that the deal is off if they do not surrender the perpetrators. Apparently, he is more concerned about pleasing the MILF than the Filipino people. This was quite evident on his first address to the nation three days after the Mamasapano clash. He looks like a desperate salesman who could not wait to sell a product even when at a funeral.
In his speeches, BS Aquino comes across as someone who already promised the MILF that the bill will be passed. If so, he made a terrible mistake since it cannot be passed without amending the Philippine Constitution. The Philippine Supreme Court would eventually junk the bill anyway even if it passes Congress because some provisions like the creation of the Bangsamoro Police are against the Constitution.
Unfortunately, BS Aquino’s arrogance got in the way of his common sense once again. He certainly has a penchant for doing things his way even when it is against the law. His Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is proof of this. The list of his violations is getting longer, indeed.
This time, BS Aquino’s actions have resulted in the deaths of 44 SAF troopers. Even when he was informed about the clash at 5 a.m. when a lot of the wounded men were still alive, he still didn’t want the Armed Forces of the Philippines to be involved in the operation. Since he was more concerned about appeasing the MILF, he was said to have told the military to “stand down” instead of giving them the go signal to help the SAF troopers who were at that time surrounded by rebel forces.
One problem with BS Aquino is, he is neither an academic expert nor a rational individual who could comprehend the situation he has himself and the country in. His obsession with taking credit for the success of a project works against him too. It seems he will do anything to maintain an image of a man who can do no wrong including lie and deceive the Filipino people. His actions have caused too much division and hate in the Philippine society. If he knew what is good for him and the country, he would tell the whole truth about his involvement in the Mamasapano clash, admit his mistake and resign from his post. This is the only way the country can start moving forward.
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