(First of Two Parts)
No wonder the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its people are wildly euphoric over the pact they struck with President Aquino, called the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” (CAB). News footage even showed their fully uniformed fighters raising their AK-47s and RPG launchers in the manner warriors do after a victorious battle.
Unless the Supreme Court junks the agreement, or Congress refuses to be Mr. Aquino’s stamp pad, it would lead to the creation of a Moro nation-state—precisely the translation from Malay Bahasa of “Bangsamoro”— in 27 percent of Mindanao’s land area, said to be the most resource- and fossil-fuel rich part of the island.
The Bangsamoro will be headed by its “Chief Minister”, almost certainly the MILF chairman. He answers to no one in the Philippine Republic but only to the 50-man “Bangsamoro Assembly,” which elects the Cabinet of Ministers, who in turn chooses the Chief. (See the Pact’s “Annex on Power Sharing”, Part Two, “Governance Structure”).
In the case of the two existing autonomous regions—in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras—which the Constitution authorized, its Section 16 specifies; “The President shall exercise general supervision over autonomous regions to ensure that laws are faithfully executed.”
Nowhere in the entire pact and its annexes is there such a provision.
In fact, nowhere in those documents is even a mention of the Philippine President—the symbol of the Republic, the head of state and government—except in the CAB, as being one of the four people in whose “presence” the pact was signed.
The Bangsamoro Government is clearly a parliamentary system for the Bangsamoro — which the Constitution does not provide for.
It is not even the Commission on Elections that will make sure that the voting will reflect the Moros’ genuine choice of their representatives, as the pact is completely silent on how elections for the Assembly will be undertaken.
Whoever supervises the elections, what armed force will ensure clean elections for the Bangsamoro Parliament?
The MILF, which will not lay down its arms and instead will be converted as the Bangsamoro’s police force, will be under the control of its Chief Minister.
Paragraph 6, Part VIII of the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” reads: “All law enforcement functions shall be transferred from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the police force for the Bangsamoro. Part A, paragraph one of the Annex on Normalization stipulates: “Law Enforcement . . . in the Bangsamoro shall be the primary function of the police force for the Bangsamoro.”
A “Bangsamoro Police” brazenly violates the Philippine Constitution’s Section 6, Article XVI which categorically provides that there can be only “one police force which shall be national in scope, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission.”
Aquino’s pact with the MILF is sharp contrast to government’s 1996 Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front, which specified that the insurgents would be integrated, after strict screening as to their qualifications and a rigorous training program, either into the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police. At least 3,000 MNLF fighters in fact joined the AFP and the PNP, some of whom even fought — a few killed — in firefights with Abu Sayaff terrorists.
That the MILF negotiators ran circles around Aquino’s panel is also obvious in the Normalization Annex’s Part A, Paragraph 4: “Pending the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) the Panels will create a consultative process…in the appointment, employment, and deployment of the existing police force.”
But the BTA will exist only after Congress passes the law that would implement the agreements. This means that even without that law, and even now after the CAB was signed, the MILF and government negotiators would exercise authority over the Philippine National Police operating in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.
They should have asked Aquino’s right-hand man, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, if that’s legal. Roxas would have laughed and told them that any form of authority over any unit of the PNP can be exercised only by the PNP Director General, or the Chairman of the National Police Commission (Roxas).
The creation of a Bangsamoro police is another indication that the Bangsamoro is not just an “autonomous region” but a state, which the pact even specifies has an “asymmetric” relation with the national government.
The Constitution’s requirement that there can be only one police force (and one armed forces) as students of political science will appreciate, proceeds from one necessary feature of a State, which is that it is the sole entity in a defined territory that has “the monopoly of the legitimate use of force.”
Exclude the page-long thank-you notes to those who “made” it happen (primarily and ironically the Malaysian government), the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” is a short 1,136-word document (half the length of this column). It commits government to implement the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro of 2012, together with its five “annexes”.
The document totally ignores the Constitution, as if it didn’t exist. This is even in the literal sense, as there is absolutely no mention at all of our constitution in the CAB.
It merely states how the many provisions of the agreements will be undertaken: “Working with other groups and sectors, the two parties shall ensure the establishment of a new Bangsamoro political entity.” There is even no mention of the Philippine Congress, even if it has to pass the basic Bangsamoro law to even start implementing the CAB.
Aquino’s negotiating panel committed to give the MILF its own state called Bangsamoro. This is way beyond the MILF’s wildest dreams, and even way beyond what the government agreed with the Moro National Liberation Front three decades ago. And that was at the height of the Muslim insurgency and when oil-rich Libya and other OPEC states arm-twisted the Marcos government to give in to demands of the MNLF.
And what did the government gain? Really, very little, as the MILF has not given up its arms, and won’t until the Bangsamoro actually becomes a reality on the ground.
That discussion on Wednesday, and also on why a “Bangsamoro” cannot exist in the Filipino nation-state.
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Links to the Pact’s documents :
Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/resources/comprehensive-agreement-bangsamoro
Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/resources/framework-agreement-bangsamoro
Annex on Normalization: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/resources/annex-normalization
Annex on Power Sharing: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/resources/annex-transitional-arrangements-and-modalities
Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/resources/annex-revenue-generation-and-wealth-sharing
Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/resources/annex-transitional-arrangements-and-modalities
On the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Cooperation Addendum: http://www.opapp.gov.ph/resources/addendum-bangsamoro-waters