Second of Two Parts
In one of the hearings on the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos, President Aquino’s chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Teresita Deles, said that under their “peace” agreement, the Muslim insurgents will be disarmed—“decommissioned” was the term they used—by 2016.
In the first place, the Aquino government’s acceptance of the term “decommissioning” itself is a capitulation to the insurgents’ position that they have a legitimate right to arms, which they really don’t, under our laws.
Whatever term they use though, Deles was lying through her teeth when she gave a date for the MILF’s disarming.
Nowhere in the agreements signed with the MILF, including the latest one (titled “Protocol on the Implementation of the Terms of Reference of the Independent Decommissioning Body”) is there such a date specified.
To fool us, the Protocol merely describes “Four Phases” for the “decommissioning.” It says 30 percent of the arms will be decommissioned in Phase 2. And then a further 35 percent in Phase 3. The remaining 35 percent will be decommissioned in Phase 4.
The Protocol document itself doesn’t even explain what or when these phases are to take place.
One will have to do a bit of research to learn what these phases are.
And the description turns out to be in a two-paged outline in matrix form, entitled “Program for Normalization in the Bangsamoro,” which is “an attachment to the Annex on Normalization,” signed Jan 25, 2014.
Can you believe that? The most crucial part of the pact with the MILF, its disarming, is described only in an attachment to an annex?There, we find out that Phase 1 involves mainly the MILF submitting a list of its weapons, which the peace document describes as “validation of MILF forces.”
There is no provision at all in this document or in any of the “peace” documents that allows the government to question whether such lists of weapons actually represent the MILF’s total arsenal.
The insurgents can put on that list all of their grandfathers’ World War II M4 Carbine rifles and the government can’t question that.
They can claim they have only 750 arms, and the government can’t question that. In fact, a portent of what could happen is that the decommissioning program scheduled to start this month would involve the surrender of 75 firearms. Will the MILF later claim that’s 10 percent, which means the total number of its arms is 750?
Even if the MILF discloses in all honesty the number of arms it owns, the Protocol specifies that the first 30 percent of those will be “decommissioned” only in Phase 2.
And when is Phase 2? To quote verbatim its description in the “Program for Normalization:” “Completion of validation of MILF forces up to the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
As I’ve written in past columns: “Have our negotiators gone mad?
The agreement means that the initial 30 percent of the MILF’s arms will be decommissioned only after the BBL is signed and ratified!
That means disarming will start only when the establishment of their nation-state becomes fait accompli, when the BBL is not only passed by Congress, but after it is ratified by a majority vote in a plebiscite of provinces and cities that will be part of the Bangsamoro territory.
The MILF sets up its nation-state first, or makes it a nearly irreversible commitment by the government, which it practically is after the plebiscite, before the insurgents decommission 30 percent of their arms.
What kind of a peace treaty is this, in which we give the insurgents first what they want, their own state, and only after they surrender just some of their arms, and we’re not even sure how much those arms represent in proportion to their total arsenal.
A further 35 percent of the MILF’s arms purportedly will be decommissioned in Phase 3, which is the period from the ratification of the BBL up to the “establishment and operationalization of the police force for the Bangsmoro.”
The reference to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Police as a marker for Phase 3 reveals the MILF’s real hidden plan.
New, armed force
When the MILF “decommissions” 65 percent of its arms, and pretends to disarm its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, it will actually have a new, armed force under its command, called the Bangsamoro Police, this time made legitimate by an act of Congress—the BBL.
Can the MILF just turn over its arms—including its 50-calibre Barrett sniper rifles—to the Bangsamoro Police, so as to save on Bangsamoro’s budget? There is no provision in any of the pacts preventing that.
When is Phase 4 – when the remaining MILF are to be decommissioned according to the Program on Normalization – supposed to happen?
It will be two months before the signing of the “Exit Agreement,” that is, when the MILF is satisfied that all of Aquino’s promises to it, among which is the establishment of the Bangsamoro’s own nation-state, with an “asymmetrical relationship with the central government” as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro formulated it, and the organization of its own police force.
However, the MILF has managed to have an agreement with government that allows it a Plan B.
Nowhere in the agreements is there a provision that the MILF’s military arm, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, will be dissolved. Yes, its combatants are supposed to decommission their arms, but the BIAF will not be dismantled. Will it be the next name of the “Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters”?
I can’t believe how much the MILF has fooled Aquino’s negotiators. Even assuming there will be a real disarming of MILF arms, and not just its old rifles, how will this be undertaken?
Will the arms be surrendered to the government, and secured in the Republic’s military camps as is done in all peace pacts?
No. These will be stored in “Secure Arms Storage Areas”, the location of which will be determined by the International Decommissioning Body (IDB), consisting of three foreign experts nominated by Turkey, Norway and Brunei Darussalam, and four nominated by government and the MILF. There are no criteria in the Protocol where these should be located.
Is there a provision that would prohibit the location of these storage areas in an MILF camp or in an MILF-controlled territory like Mamasapano in Maguindanao, near the lair of the MILF 105th Base Command that massacred 44 SAF troopers? None.
Deles, in fact, in one of the hearings claimed she was late because they were “scouting for storage arms areas in Lanao del Sur, near (MILF) Camp Busra.”
Is there a provision designating an independent armed force like a UN military unit to secure the storage areas? None.
The IDB does not even have a military arm to secure the storage facilities.
There is no provision in the Protocol that the Republic’s armed forces will assist the so-called Joint Peace and Security Committee that will guard the arms storage facility. In fact nowhere in the Protocol is a mention of any role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police in the process of the purported disarming of MILF troops and the storage of their arms.
So how will MILF’s “decommissioned” arms be secured?
The Protocol on Commissioning explains: “The secured arms storage area will be secured … with a fence, including a gate with a lock. A single lock provided by the IDB will secure the storage… A 24-hour surveillance camera provided by the IDB will cover the storage site and will be monitored form the IDB office.”