MILF to have own police force; won’t lay down arms yet

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda melodramatically declared on Saturday at the signing ceremonies of the so-called “Annex on Normalization” by President Aquino’s negotiators and those of the insurgent Moro Islamic Liberation Front: “To those who ask what will define the Aquino presidency, I say, today is a defining moment.”

I couldn’t agree with Lacierda more.

Aquino’s pact—and all its annexes such as this most recent one—defines his regime, even his personality: A farce, buttressed by empty rhetoric and a timid media.

Aquino’s agreements with the MILF would be merely comedic footnotes in a future history of our country if not for the fact that these have created a time bomb, bound to explode if not during his term, then when a new administration comes in.

The big reason for this, as I have written in several columns both here and in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, is that Aquino and his negotiators promised the MILF the moon in order just to put a peacemaker feather on his cap. (Refer especially to “Aquino-MILF pact a curse on the nation,” PDI, October 25, 2012).

Aquino even thought he was on such a roll, dramatically meeting with MILF leaders in Tokyo in August 2011 and then having the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” signed in October 2012, that he would be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in time for its February 2013 nomination deadline.

Under Aquino’s pact with MILF, its mujahideen will become the Bangsamoro police.

Under Aquino’s pact with MILF, its mujahideen will become the Bangsamoro police.

Having been promised their substate—the “Bangsamoro entity”—the MILF of course agreed so swiftly to the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” and its four “annexes.” (The use of the term “Bangsamoro” is so revealing, as it means Moro Nation, with “nation” referring to a “nation-state.”)

Supreme Court approval required
However, everything Aquino promised the MILF would have first to be okayed by the Supreme Court since three suits have been filed there alleging its unconstitutionality. Given the fact that the High Tribunal in 2008 ruled as unconstitutional the Memorandum Agreement on Ancestral Domain (the MOA-AD), it is almost certain the Court will also throw out Aquino’s Bangsamoro pact.

Why? The MOA-AD, as it were, was a “lite” version of Aquino’s Bangsamoro Framework Agreement. On a scale of 1 to 10, and giving the MILF its own independent state at 10, Aquino’s Bangsamoro pact would be at 8, and the MOA-AD at 2—for it wasn’t even a pact but a proposal, a mere a memorandum for a pact

Even Aquino’s “Bangsamoro Framework Agreement” recognized the fact that it would require amending the Constitution if it is to be implemented, since among other reasons, our Constitution is silent on the creation of such a substate as the “Bangsamoro Entity.”

The agreement’s Section VII paragraph (b) requires the government “To work on proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the Constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary without derogating from any prior peace agreements.” But Aquino has already announced that he isn’t interested in changing the Charter.

Even assuming that the Court would rule Aquino’s pact constitutional, a hurdle just as big is that the agreements wouldn’t move an inch forward unless the Congress approves these by passing a “Bangsamoro Basic Law” that would contain all the provisions of the framework agreement and its annexes.

Isabela and Cotabato cities
Under Aquino’s pact, the Bangsamoro entity will be the government not only of the current Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Magundanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, but also the cities of Isabela and Cotabato which voted in 2001 to reject inclusion in the ARMM.

Congress would also have to pass a law—if that is at all possible—that would abrogate the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF which created the ARMM, since the MILF’s Bangsamoro entity would replace that entity. What makes such abrogation of that MNLF pact difficult if not impossible is that it was based on the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, which is considered an international treaty.

Aquino promised the creation of the Bangsamoro state in October 2012, when his popularity was as its height and he had Congress under his thumb because of his control of pork barrel funds. Indeed, his success in getting a landslide vote in May 2012 in the Congress—even the opposition in the Senate sided with him— to boot out Chief Justice Corona convinced him he could do whatever he wished during his term.

But now his popularity has started its decline; there are no more pork-barrel funds, and he is a lame-duck president. It is neigh impossible for him now to ask Congress to jump at his bidding, and pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The last “annex” signed, the “Annex on Normalization” confirms Aquino’s will to disregard for the Constitution. It has even made an imminent threat the worst nightmare of non-Muslims in Mindanao: the MILF’s armed forces being legalized as a police force.

Former President Fidel Ramos’ “Final Peace Agreement” in 1996 called for the gradual disbandment of the Moro National Liberation Front—from which the MILF broke away—with the MNLF fighters’ being integrated into the military or the Philippine National Police. Some 3,000 of MNLF’s officers and soldiers reportedly joined the military and the PNP, with some of them having demonstrated their loyalty by risking and even sacrificing their lives in battles with terrorists and even the MILF armies.

An MILF police
Aquino’s latest “Annex on Normalization” on the other hand would allow the MILF to organize its own police force. It even implicitly requires the government to make a “gesture of goodwill” by undertaking programs to make the MILF’s six military camps productive—instead of wiping out any trace of them. At the top of the annex list of these camps is the MILF’s former headquarters, Camp Abubakar as-Siddique, in Maguindanao, which then President Estrada’s military conquered in 2000.

The Annex’s section A (entitled “Policing”), section 1 specifies that a “police force for the Bangsamoro” (will be created) whose primary function will be “law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro.” Its section 2 provides that the “Police force for the Bangsamoro” “will be responsible both to the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government . . .”

No amount of careful word play would conceal the fact that this provision patently violates the Constitution and even the basic definition of a sovereign state, which is that it has the sole legal monopoly on the use of force.

Article XVI, Section 6 of our constitution reads:

“The State shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission.“ (Emphasis mine.).

Several laws in the 1990s implemented this provision of our constitution passed in 1987, and abolished the Philippine Constabulary and the Integrated National Police to create a single “Philippine National Police” (PNP), administered by the National Police Commission, which is chaired by the interior and local government secretary with two other members who are required to be confirmed by Congress.

Aquino’s “Annex on Normalization” creates a separate “police force for the Bangsamoro,” answerable to the “Central Government” and the “Bangsamoro Government” controlled by the MILF.

Decommissioning?
“MILF rebels ready to lay down arms,” the headline of the Philippine Star and that of the web version of ABS-CBN News read. “Body to oversee decommissioning of MILF arms,” was that of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, as if that would happen soon.

But when will “decommissioning” actually start, when will the MILF surrender its first AK-47?

Section C, paragraph 9 tells us when: “The decommissioning of MILF forces shall be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties.”

But the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement and its annexes aren’t worth the papers it is written—and aren’t real agreements—until Congress passes the Bangsamoro Basic Law which would contain its provisions. The “Framework Agreement” is a misnomer: it is a framework, but not a binding agreement until Congress adopts it by passing that “Basic Law.” And it will not be constitutional until the Charter is amended.

Therefore, the first MILF rifle will be laid down and the very first MILF fighter will return to civilian life only when Congress passes that “Bangsamoro Basic Law” which would implement the agreements. I don’t think Congress will ever pass such a law.

And when Congress shows no sign of passing that law, the MILF would then feel betrayed, and feel bitter umbrage having been used for Aquino’s image-building project. As is his wont, Aquino would then blame Congress for the ensuing bloodshed.

I strongly suggest that whoever our next President will be should now prepare a Plan B to defuse that MILF wrath.