‘Peace Council’ Report: MILF couldn’t have written it better

Remember their names: Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee, Cardinal Tagle, Bai Sumndad-Usman and especially former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide.

While I don’t think they authored a single sentence of it, and had really very little to do with its contents, they affixed their signatures to the report of President Aquino’s totally mislabeled Citizens’ Peace Council.

MILF fighters: If they’re given their Bangsamoro (Moro Nation State) as Aquino wants, would they grow in strength that they’d, instead, want to be a member of the Muslim-dominated Federation of Malaysia?
MILF fighters: If they’re given their Bangsamoro (Moro Nation State) as Aquino wants, would they grow in strength that they’d, instead, want to be a member of the Muslim-dominated Federation of Malaysia?

They have shamelessly allowed their names to be used in a propaganda offensive to praise the BBL to high heavens in order to portray that its enactment is the road to peace.

The report is intended to bamboozle Congress to pass it and fool the nation that distinguished citizens support it, which actually would only create conditions for the strengthening of an armed Islamic group that would dismember the Republic. “We agreed that the BBL is overwhelmingly acceptable and deserves the support of all Filipinos,” was the report’s conclusion.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) couldn’t have written such a report better.

I’ve read several times their report (and I suggest you do, too), and I am shocked at how ignorant, dishonest and deceptive it is.

For starters, the proposed bill was entitled Bangsamoro (BM) Basic Law, and its entire aim is to establish a new political entity called BM. The report, in fact, uses the term BM over 567 times in the 200-page report.

Did they even discuss what this “BM”­– which translates to “Moro Nation-state” – really means in the first place? No.

There is not even a single sentence in the entire report that explains what it is and justifies the use of that term. Weren’t they even curious why the MILF is using the term “Moro,” which is as pejorative for Muslims now as it was first used by the Spanish colonizers? Didn’t they wonder why the Malaysian term, bangsa, is being used rather than the Pilipino words for nation, bansa or bayan?

As I have explained in several columns, BM is an invented term: A BM does not exist, it is an invented term first used in 1935 and then adopted by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its breakaway group, the MILF, to falsely portray that their struggle is to recover a “homeland” taken away from them by Christians from Luzon.

But there was no such nation-state in our history. The only states Muslims in Mindanao were members of were the Sultanate of Sulu and Borneo over the Tausug tribe and the Sultanate of Maguindanao over the Maguindanaons.

One could argue that it was unfair for the US colonizers not to recognize those feudal states and for their subjects to be integrated by force into a new nation state called the Republic of the Philippines. However, in the Constitutional Convention of 1935, the proposal of one delegate to allow the Muslims to create their own nation state was shot down by everyone.

And we cannot turn back the hands of time, as Native Americans, as well as the aborigines of Australia, or of Canada who unsuccessfully tried to popularize the term “First Nation,” have realized.

In a presentation before corporate executives recently, political scientist Dr. Allan Ortiz raised the point that the BBL is merely a “peace agreement” with just one tribe of Filipino Muslims, the Maguindanaons, who make up the MILF.

In sarcasm, Ortiz says: “We may have to conclude a separate peace with the Tausugs of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi sometime in the future; meantime 18 lumad groups have to be persuaded to call themselves ‘Moros’ and part of the ‘Moro Nation’ or Bangsamoro.”

This points to the BBL’s most basic violation of the constitution. Other than the national government, local governments, and autonomous regions, the Constitution does not allow any other form of government, no other nation-state within the Republic.

It is so disappointing that one of the “council’s” members, Davide, is a former Chief Justice. He appears to have totally ignored the fact that the Supreme Court nearly reached a unanimous decision to strike down the previous administration’s agreement with the MILF called the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. Much of the Court’s analysis applies to the BBL.

For instance, the BBL’s definition of “BM” is as follows: “Those who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands, including Palawan, and their descendants, whether of mixed or full blood, shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro.”

But a similar provision in the MOA-AD was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, since that definition would include 18 lumad tribes who aren’t Muslims, and therefore violate their constitutional rights.
It is shocking how the “council’s” report could be so dishonest. One example involves the BBL’s provision that the justice system in the BM shall consist of Shari-ah law “which shall have supremacy” over the Muslims. This is blatantly against the constitution, which is supposed to have only one set of laws, a secular one that applies to all citizens, and the final arbiter of what a law calls for is the Supreme Court.

But the “council’s” report claims: “The Constitution itself permits and implicitly contemplates what the draft Law would establish – a legal system in the Bangsamoro that is plural and particular in content, informed by universal norms of justice and human rights and all these are subject to the supremacy of the Constitution.”

And what is its source for such a claim? Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. And it’s not even de Lima’s written opinion, just her verbal remarks as reported in a news article.

But you’d fall off your seat if you realized the “council’s” framework for evaluating whether the BBL is constitutional or not. The report says:
“Much of the confusion and concern about the constitutionality of the BBL can be resolved by applying one of the most basic rules of interpretation in Constitutional Law: that as the fundamental, paramount, and supreme law of the nation, the Constitution is deemed written in every statute and contract. As a rule of statutory construction, if there are provisions of a statute irreconcilable with the Constitution, the Constitution prevails. When reading the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, it is therefore presumed that all constitutional powers of government and the Constitutional Commissions and bodies remain intact, regardless of whether the law explicitly provides for it or not.” (Emphasis mine.)

This is a gargantuan misinterpretation that is the height of stupidity. What the report is claiming is this: We must assume that the BBL’s provisions conform to the Constitution, since the Constitution is the “supreme law of the nation.” It is really a tautological, circular argument. “The BBL conforms to the Constitution. Therefore, interpret everything in it as conforming to the Constitution.”

Thus, among many provisions of the BBL, it says that the “Bangsamoro” or Moro Nation-State, is merely a form of autonomy even required by the Constitution, never mind if it gives the BM powers beyond autonomy such as having its own police force under the command of its “Chief Minister,” having nearly total control over the territories’ national resources, and requiring that our Armed Forces coordinate first with the BM authorities before they undertake operations in those areas.

I hope the Supreme Court would issue a ruling soon on the constitutionality of the BBL and knock some sense into the heads of these “citizens.” We have spent so much time and money in what is so patently an unconstitutional, even stupid bill.

Why on earth would our Republic want to create a “Bangsamoro,” a Moro Nation-State, which isn’t even a form of government allowed in the Constitution?

Under the BBL it would be given huge resources and ruled by the Islamist insurgent group, the MILF. It would be left on its own by our legal system and our armed forces that five years later – as the MILF”s strategic plan calls for – it could simply declare that it has had enough of this Christian-dominated Philippine Republic and would prefer to be a member of the Federation of Malaysia, ruled by people who believe in the Koran