President Aquino’s Citizens’ Peace Council representatives who attended the Senate hearing the other day lived up to this Administration’s reputation as a student council government.
I was flabbergasted listening to their extremely naïve and sophomoric defense of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
One reason why the BBL should be passed, according to Cayetano Paderanga, former socioeconomic planning secretary who now represents Jaime Zobel de Ayala in the council, is that it would be a model for solving Islamic insurgencies elsewhere in the region. Is this guy on drugs?
From the views expounded by Bishop Quevedo and Jesuit priest Joel Tabora, that the datu system is superior to democratic elections, I’m convinced more than ever that this world would be better off if clerics – of whatever religion – are totally banned from political discourse.
These people of Aquino’s council are not just too naïve and gullible. They are afflicted with a serious case of the messianic complex – mouthing nonsense such as that the BBL would end years of prejudice and oppression against the Moros and they who work for the proposed bill’s ratification would be instruments of peace for their liberation.
Where have all these people been all these years? Since the mid-1970s when the MNLF started waging its separatist war, and even if it was defeated, Philippine society and its body politic look at Moros not just as equals, but people who are to be respected because they’ll always fight for their rights.
This respect, or even fear, has also been to some extent due to the worldwide resurgence of the Islamic faith in the 1970s, what with Muslim countries suddenly becoming fabulously rich with petrodollars, and Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain taking in millions of our workers as OFWs.
Ironically, the struggle led by the Tausug-dominated MNLF and the Maguindanaon MILF have been a boon to the Maranao tribe, the traders you would find now in nearly every urban center of the country, many selling the same pirated DVDs and cheap cellphones that you’d think the merchandise comes just from a single source, or gang.
And also ironically, as a result of the MNLF struggles, Muslim politicians have been fabulously rich, beyond the reach of government anti-graft crusaders and investigative journalists since these have become, really, the remaining warlords of the country.
These Muslim politicians, in fact, are a huge source of MILF funds, and there has been for decades a collaborative modus vivendi among the MILF, the MNLF and Muslim politicians. Have you heard MILF spokesman Mohagher Iqbal or chairman Murad Ibrahim ever condemn the Ampatuans for the Mindanao massacre, or even point out that corruption among Muslim politicians is a huge problem?
It is, in fact, only as a consequence of public furor over that massacre that we have been given a glimpse of the wealth of the leaders of these “oppressed Moros.” “Datu Andal” Ampatuan Sr. was reported to have assets worth P500 million, which include more than 24 mansions in Maguindanao, Davao City and even Quezon City, and over 24 cars, including a Hummer.
His rival, now Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangudadatu – whose wife was among those massacred in that incident – is not to be outdone. According to his 2011 SALN, his net worth totaled nearly P400 million that year, nearly double the P200 million he reported in 2010, or just before he became governor.
The call for more government resources to uplift the lives of “oppressed Moros” is not new. Given the threats from Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and the huge costs to put down the MNLF rebellion, Marcos actually ordered massive financial resources deployed to Mindanao.
So much so that a statement attributed to his Finance Secretary Cesar Virata during a Cabinet meeting became a well-known quote: “Mr. President, if we account for all the public works funds we have deployed to Muslim Mindanao, that entire area would be a cemented parking lot right now.”
The level of poverty in Mindanao is not because of prejudice against the Muslims. It is the same poverty we see in such areas as Samar, Surigao and Ifugao: our agricultural sector has been dying and farmers have been getting poorer by the year. Political leaders and the ruling class of whatever religion are using public funds to enrich themselves.
What’s making things worse in Muslim Mindanao is the feudal concept of its leaders that public posts become their private asset, because they fought for it. It is not an urban legend that when a Muslim mayor is defeated, he brings home every single furniture and typewriter in his office, even the toilet seats, and his successor doesn’t even find that shocking.
Parliament for the MILF
That Senate hearing on the BBL wasn’t entirely a waste, given the lucid explanation by Senator Francis Escudero on why he believes that the BBL’s provisions on the adoption of a parliamentary system will practically deliver on a silver plate what is now the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The clearest indication why this is so is the BBL’s provision that 50 percent of the BM parliament will be what are dubbed party-list representatives, or those claiming to speak for sectors. In contrast, only 20 percent of the seats in Congress are allocated to such representatives. Senator Escudero pointed out it is already clear that the party-list system for Congress is not working, yet the BBL wants to make such a system its main feature.
It is so obvious why the MILF wants such a party-list system: It has had, like any revolutionary movement, an organization geared for the various sectors. For decades, it has had organizers who could easily have small farmers, fishermen, or whatever sector organized quickly into sectoral parties. The MILF could also more easily intimidate – they have the arms after all – other groups vying to be sectoral parties to back off from competing for representation in the BM parliament.
Other than these sectoral representatives, the BBL bill stipulates that a further 10 percent will be “reserved” seats, which are likely to – as is the practice in full-blown parliamentary systems – be filled at the whim of the Chief Executive, the Chief Minister in the case of the BM.
The MILF is the single biggest organized group in what would be the BM. And the BBL even specifies that only “regional political parties” will be allowed to compete for seats in the BM parliament. Are we too naïve to believe that the MILF won’t dominate as well the election of district representatives?
What’s the deal between Aquino’s political adviser and Erap?
Remember Akbayan, purportedly a socialist organization that had become the equivalent of President Aquino’s Nazi brown-shirts early in his Administration? They had pretended to be the idealist “activists” who supported Aquino and joined the demonstrations held for nearly every political campaign he ordered, especially when he needed to portray his campaigns as initiated by citizens.
For instance, it was former Akbayan partylist member Walden Bello and ex-would-be senator Riza Hontiveros who first filed impeachment charges against former Chief Justice Renato Corona. They even picketed the subdivision where former President Arroyo resided to demand her detention in the city’s prison. They pushed for the filing of charges against those involved in the PDAF scam then stopped after three opposition senators were put in jail.
They’ve given up on Aquino, and they’re debating only whether to do a new version of the Hyatt 10 or just fade in the shadows, and maybe count their blessings, or money, after their five-year stint with this Administration. Bello, two months ago, resigned from Congress. A courageous move certainly, but then there was a press report that the 69-year old Akbayan ideologue got married in the US to a Thai, whose age wasn’t mentioned. Will he be staying there where his wife lives?
The Akbayan activists have since gone their separate ways. Akbayan stalwart and Aquino’s presidential adviser for political affairs, Ronald Llamas, rudely interrupted my interview with former President and Manila mayor Joseph Estrada recently.
Erap immediately stood up from his seat when he saw Llamas, flashed an ear-to-ear smile, turned to the table behind him, manipulated the combination lock of his briefcase and opened it, took out an envelope and asked Llamas to join him in another room.
It didn’t take a minute for them to talk, with Llamas exchanging a few words with me for another few seconds before leaving hurriedly.
He’s been coming here very regularly the past months, an old friend of Erap’s staff said.
Of course, the envelope given to Llamas could have been just Erap’s regular confidential report to President Aquino.