They say the best way to understand something complicated is to approach it the way a child would: ask simple questions. To understand the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, Filipinos should do the same – ask simple questions. Once people finally get down to the basics, they will soon realize how unrealistic, unnecessary and wasteful the bill is.
Let us cut to the chase and see what the fuss is about:
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1. Why did the Philippine government enter into a deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and not with the other rebel groups?
It’s simple, really. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has a better lobbyist or team of public relations personnel. They also have friends in high places. Not only does the rebel group have the backing of Malaysia, they also have the backing of people in Philippine government. Teresita Quintos-Deles, the presidential peace adviser managed to convince President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino to entertain the idea of coming up with a deal with the rebel group to fix the conflict in Mindanao. The fact that BS Aquino is desperate for something that would define his administration – a legacy – probably helped push the rebel group’s agenda. So in 2011, BS Aquino met Murad Ibrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Japan for the first time to initiate the deal. I guess that was when BS Aquino first agreed to give away parts of Mindanao to a rebel group.
2. Why do the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and their supporters think they are entitled to parts of Mindanao?
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is just one among many Muslim rebel groups who want to secede from the Philippines. Some Muslim extremists cannot and refuse to assimilate with the rest of the Philippine population. While some moderate Muslims can get along fine with Filipinos of different faiths or religion, there are Muslims who cannot move on from the past and declared themselves victims – first, of the Western colonizers and now of “Imperial Manila”.
Some Muslims or Moros as they prefer to be called nowadays, insist that their homeland was taken away from them and they just want to get it back. Now that’s just silly, indeed. They are talking about something that happened more than 300 years ago. There is no way to prove the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front used to own parts of Mindanao. As Rigoberto Tiglao mentioned, back then, the only Muslims in Mindanao were members of the Sultanate of Sulu and Borneo over the Tausug tribe and the Sultanate of Maguindanao over the Maguindanaons.
In fact, the founders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front used to be members of the original rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who had a deal with the past Philippine administrators. Since they could not agree with the terms of the peace deal with the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front broke away from the MNLF. Suffice to say, the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front do not have a legitimate claim on any part of Mindanao.
Some of their supporters keep invoking their “history” of being oppressed. But that is nonsense. If they are talking about how Western colonizers took their “homeland” away, the inhabitants of the entire archipelago now called the Philippines were also victims of the same atrocities but most tribes in other parts of the country have moved on. Now we can all say that Filipinos, including people from Mindanao are simply victims of first, the tyranny of the gullible voters, and then their public servants’ incompetence and abuse of power.
3. Why do Filipino taxpayers have to give the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front 27 billion pesos annually under the proposed law?
It seems the BS Aquino government thinks that giving money is the easiest way to solve any problem including the conflict in Mindanao. Think about it. It’s not his money he is giving away in the first place so it is easy for him to be generous. The taxpayers should have their say in determining the fate of this bill. Like I said in my previous article, the current Philippine government’s policy to uplift the status of the poor could be a scam for government officials to pocket public funds. Now the budget for the BBL doesn’t even have any mechanism to govern how the beneficiaries should spend it. The billions of pesos could end up in the hands of the warlords.
One just has to give a quick look at current government policies to uplift the status of the poor and one will realize that giving massive public funds to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will not work to uplift the status of the poor in that region. Much of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) ended up in the pockets of scammers running fake NGOs like Janet Lim-Napoles. The Conditional Cash Transfer program of the DSWD does not work to alleviate poverty in the country. Some even say that it promotes mendicancy. Even the Reproductive Health Law has not reduced the population so far. It could take time but we shouldn’t hold our breath.
In short, there really is no reason for Filipino taxpayers to give billions of pesos to a rebel group whose real identities are still unknown and especially a group who doesn’t even want to be called Filipinos.
4. Will the BBL really bring peace to Mindanao?
BS Aquino keeps saying that the BBL will bring peace to Mindanao but the reality is, it will not. Not only does it favor only one Muslim rebel group, it also favors one religious group over others. The Philippines is supposed to be a secular country. Using religion to appeal for a group’s agenda should not have been entertained from the very start. It was wrong of BS Aquino to give in to the demands of a rebel group who want to impose their religion on others.
The likely scenario that will happen is, even if Congress managed to pass the bill, the Supreme Court will just declare it unconstitutional the same way they did with former President Gloria Arroyo’s proposed memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) because it violated the constitutional rights of the non-Muslims in Mindanao. And when that happens, the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will throw a tantrum and proceed to wreak havoc in the region.
Likewise, even if the BBL is passed into law, there are still other rebel groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, MNLF and Abu Sayyaf who are still in good fighting spirit. Their exclusion from the negotiating table is enough to make them reject the BBL.
Those are some of the questions that should help ordinary citizens understand the BBL. Another question they need to ask is why BS Aquino is pressuring Congressmen to pass the bill by June. Well, it is obvious that he just wants to include it as his “achievement” in his final State of the Nation Address. Never mind if the actual “peace” doesn’t take place anyway.
In life, things are not always what they seem.