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The next firestorm to hit Aquino

The most recent blow to the Aquino presidency is the Supreme Court’s declaration that his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional.

The next big firestorm that will hit him, and even engulf this administration in political flames, will be the Supreme Court’s decision that his pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is patently unconstitutional. That would incite the Islamic group into a paroxysm of violent anger against him.

Even the most cursory reading of Aquino’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) very clearly shows 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-rich part of the island.

Any third-grader can tell you that creating another state under the Philippine Republic is against the basic tenets of our Constitution.

When Aquino hurried that pact with the MILF he was gunning for a shot at the Nobel Peace Prize and just wanted by hook or by crook any pact with them so he can boast of “ending one of Asia’s longest and deadliest insurgencies,” as the foreign press referred to it.

At that time he still had most of the country’s intelligentsia under his spell that he thought he could bully the Supreme Court into approving his patently unconstitutional agreement, especially as he had decapitated it by impeaching out of office its Chief Justice.

However, the High Court—even with the incumbent Chief Justice, Lourdes Sereno, as his appointee, plucked from a mediocre academic legal career—proved itself to be the hero of Philippine democracy, its last bastion after Congress and Senate sold their souls for pork barrel money.

Despite the President’s bullying, the Court declared as unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF, source of congressional pork); key provisions of the Reproductive Health Law; and most recently, the DAP (source of his bribe money to impeach Corona).

Compared with these issues, Aquino’s agreement with the MILF is a no-brainer as
grossly unconstitutional, and there is little doubt that the Supreme Court will also throw it into the dustbin. If the DAP was a rape of the Congress, as former senator Joker Arroyo put it, Aquino’s agreement with the MILF will be a gang-rape of our Republic.

Even Malacañang is now frightened by the likely decision of the Court, so that it has rejected the draft bill to implement the pact made by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, an agency created by Aquino himself. This has shocked the commission and even the government’s chief negotiator, Miriam Ferrer-Coronel, who thought they were merely translating into a bill the agreement Aquino approved early this year.

Under the CAB, the Bangsamoro will be headed by its “Chief Minister,” who almost certainly, will be the MILF chairman. He answers to no one in the Philippine Republic, only to the 50-man “Bangsamoro Assembly” that elects the Cabinet of Ministers, who in turn, chooses the Chief Minister.

This is in contrast to the arrangement in the two existing autonomous regions—in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras—which the Constitution authorized, and its Section 16 specifies: “The President shall exercise general supervision over autonomous regions to ensure that laws are faithfully executed.”

Nowhere in the entirety of this new pact and its annexes is there such a provision.

In fact, nowhere in those documents is there even a mention of the Philippine President—the symbol of the Republic, the head of state and of government. The only instance the President is mentioned was when he is named as one of the four people in “whose presence” the CAB was signed.

The Bangsamoro Government is 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 the elections for the Assembly will be undertaken.

Whoever supervises their elections, what armed force will ensure clean elections for the Bangsamoro Parliament? It is the “Bangsamoro Police” to be created under the CAB.

MILF fighters will not lay down their arms and, instead, will be converted as the Bangsamoro police force, which 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 that shall be national in scope, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission.” Also under existing laws, the national police is supervised by the National Police Commission chaired by the interior and local government secretary.

Aquino’s pact with the MILF is in 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.

The creation of a Bangsamoro police is another indication that the Bangsamoro is not just an “autonomous region,” but it is 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 a single armed forces entity) 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.”

The CAB with its five “annexes” ignores the Constitution, as if it didn’t exist at all. 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 this institution has to pass the basic Bangsamoro law before the CAB can be implemented.

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 the demands of the MNLF.

The agreement, contrary to what even foreign media had portrayed, does not mean that the MILF will soon lay down their arms, or be “decommissioned.”

The Annex to this topic says: “The decommissioning of MILF forces shall be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties (emphasis added).

With no criteria agreed upon on what “commensurate” entails, the MILF could insist that its fighters would turn over its arms, or whatever would be left after being renamed as “Bangsamoro police’” arsenal, only when the Bangsamoro State has been established—which is after Congress passes the “Basic Law” to implement all the agreements, and a referendum undertaken on the establishment of the new Muslim state-within-a state.

How then can a President claim any mandate to rule if the Supreme Court rejects five of his crucial programs as unconstitutional: the PDAF, RH, DAP, the Bangsamoro pact, and the defense agreement with the US?

Such rejections by the Court could mean either he doesn’t understand the Philippine Constitution, or that he thinks, as his fan Gina Lopez has articulated, that it is just “a piece of paper.”

Very likely, that “piece of paper” will bring Aquino down.