All of the “peace pacts” signed since 2012 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, especially that requiring the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) were made solely by President Aquino and a handful of his people.
The hastiness of the pacts’ signing reflected ulterior motives. Aquino lusted for a Nobel Peace Prize. His adviser on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Teresita Deles, had made the signing of a peace pact with the Islamic insurgents, whatever it was, her career’s goal. And she, with negotiator Miriam Coronel, could have conceivably joined Aquino in getting the Nobel. Law academic Marivic Leonen made his legal imprimatur on the peace pacts his pole vault into the Supreme Court, and the quicker it was inked, the faster he could get to be the youngest justice of the High Court.
Not even Aquino’s Cabinet was consulted on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and on the BBL. Not the National Security Council, not the Liberal Party, not Congress even if — or because — it was under his thumb. Not the MNLF with which the Republic had signed an agreement binding under international law; not even the governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao and its legislative assembly, which has been the nation’s attempt at peace with Muslims in Mindanao.
These pacts were signed at the peak of Aquino’s popularity, and when he was confident that with his billions of pesos in pork barrel and disbursement-acceleration plan funds, Congress would acquiesce to it. Nations would even cheer for it – after all, what country in the world would say that it was against this “peace” deal. Our rich neighbor, Malaysia, which provided crucial financial support, refuge and military training for the MNLF and the MILF in order to counter our Sabah claim, certainly cheered him on.
The BBL bill, the entire peace pacts are Aquino’s and his small clique’s promises to the MILF, not the Filipino nation. His mandate to serve six years as head of government did not give him the right to dismember the Republic, or to push it to a path that could last forever. He gave to the MILF something –the integrity of the RepublIc–that was not his to give. When he steps out of power, and maybe even lands in history’s dustbin, he can take his BBL with him.
The gullible, the simpleton, a few dumb entertainment-world has-beens, the MILF and its sympathizers, are saying: Choose, the BBL or war. It is a false choice.
The real choice now is on the one hand, embracing Aquino’s pact with the MILF that would dismember the Republic and lead to more wars in the future, and on the other, embarking on a new road to real peace.
The path to real peace can only start with the ouster of Aquino. As long as he is in power, the MILF will claim that this President promised to give them their own nation-state, that he must keep his promises.
Only with Aquino gone can the nation claim that this arrogant President didn’t consult its representatives, whether we wanted the dismemberment of the Republic or not. We have to begin again.
How do we begin, after Aquino is gone?
First, the new President has to tell the MILF: “Sorry, Aquino rushed his peace pacts with you in his foolish fantasy of being a Nobel laureate and promised the moon and the stars to you, which we cannot give.”
“We’re truly sorry that Muslims and other national minorities were oppressed through the centuries. But we don’t have a time machine to undo that, just as the US can’t undo the injustice done to the 566 Native American tribes by setting up a 51st State of Native Americans. Australia can’t create an Aboriginal Nation-State for the aborigines the English colonizers nearly exterminated.”
The new President has to tell the MILF: “Sorry but the agreements that set up the Republic – the 1897 Biak-na-Bato Constitution, the 1899 Malolos Constitution, the 1935 Constitution, the 1973 Constitution, and the 1987 Constitution – all rejected the notions of a Moro nation, Ilokano nation, Visayas nation, even a Cordillera nation.“
These all envisioned a single Filipino nation, with one territory, one government, one armed force. The territories in Mindanao you call Bangsamoro are not yours; they belong to the Philippine Republic.
Second, a “Council of State” should be organized, representing our elders. I would suggest all past living presidents, Senate presidents, House speakers and Supreme Court justices. To recognize the role of the incumbent Congress, there could be more representatives from the two chambers to join the Council.
It is this council that would undertake an in-depth study of the Muslim problem – they might even discover that the concept of a “Bangsamoro” is a myth – and reach a consensus on how to address the Muslim problem and what kind of peace agreement to offer the MILF.
It would be the Council of State’s representatives who would negotiate a political settlement with the MILF. If such a settlement isn’t acceptable to the MILF, and we have to choose between going to war to preserve the Republic, or agree to give up a territory to the Muslims, at least we would be doing so as a result of a national consensus, not because of the ideas of a small clique.
In the meantime, a ceasefire agreement with the MILF would have to be signed, but in such a manner that it would not allow – as they have done in the past 14 years – to expand their forces and modernize their armaments.
To wait for Aquino to step down in 2016, or a year and a half before we can start this process, is a long, long time. We have to start now.
Aquino must step down now for us to make the first step toward real peace. That would give meaning to the sacrifice of the Fallen 44.