The high price of ignorance

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Forty-four of some of our best soldiers were killed. Twelve PNP SAF wounded. And a peace process is in disarray ensuring more violence and more deaths in the coming days.  That is a high price to pay for Filipinos because of bad judgment based on ignorance by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III.

It will be easy to point at the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the tragedy, but like previous mishaps (the Luneta killing of Chinese tourists is another) it was about the highest elected official incapable of judgment and authority. He must take the blame.

There can be no worse time for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to call for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying any hesitation could create “complications.” This is futile blackmail.

“Proceeding and passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the only option open to all of us now. Any hesitancy breeds more complications,” MILF said in an editorial posted on its website luwaran.com. It did not elaborate on what the “complications” might be, but if the killing of 44 policemen is an indication, we can expect more violence.

Clearly the MILF is holding a gun against President Aquino’s head. By pressing for the passage of the BBL, the president has bowed to the threat.

* * *

President Aquino did not assuage public anger either with his speech aired on national TV cautioning the public against revenge. Once again he got it wrong. What the public wants is not revenge but justice, a word the president seems unable to understand.

Meanwhile Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF, blamed the PNP for the killing. It wouldn’t have happened, he said, if the PNP had “coordinated” with the MILF before entering its territory. “Coordination” is a euphemism for asking permission from the MILF, whatever Iqbal means when he says, it merely acted in “self-defense”? Self-defense against whom? Wasn’t the Aquino government supposed to be a partner in the peace process? By claiming to act in self-defense, the MILF was treating the PNP as an enemy. To put it another way, it views its territory as an independent entity where the AFP and PNP cannot tread without its permission.

* * *

This is a glimpse of what to expect. As Bayanko adviser Jose Alejandrino told this column we must prepare for the worst. The tragedy in Mamasapano could be the first step towards the creation of an independent Islamic State that would eventually include the whole of Mindanao and Sulu.

Among the documents in the Osama Bin Ladin raid were maps showing Muslim Caliphates from Andalucia in Spain to Mindanao in the Philippines.

What is disturbing is President Aquino has not assumed command responsibility for the PNP massacre. It makes one wonder what kind of commander-in-chief he is or does he even realize what the job of being president entails. News reports indicate the top police generals were neither consulted nor informed of the operation. Or DILG Sec. Mar Roxas.

Who authorized it? All indications… President Aquino did. Suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima ran the operation with Executive Sec. Paquito Ochoa Jr. A 3-man operation run by a bunch of amateurs. It was a recipe for disaster, one PNP general noted.

* * *

There are other disturbing questions. Former DILG Sec. Rafael Alunan confirmed when he was sent to Pakistan by President Fidel V Ramos that Pakistani intelligence warned him of MILF’s links to Al-Qaeda. The PNP SAF unit hit by the MILF was after Basit Usman and a Malaysian bombmaker Zulfiki bin Hir, also known as Marwan, with a $5-million FBI bounty on his head. Both have links to Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah in Zamboanga. Several hundred Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have pledged allegiance to ISIS. Did the MILF hit the PNP SAF to prevent the arrest of Usman and Marwan?

The goal of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates is to break up existing states (Boko Haram in Nigeria, ISIS in Syria and Iraq) in order to create new Islamic states or caliphates. Among those presently training in Syria with ISIS are 300 Filipino militants, according to foreign intelligence sources. They are expected to return to sow havoc in southern Philippines. Will the Bangsamoro then become a safe haven for terrorists whose aim is to create eventually a separate Islamic state that will include the whole of Mindanao and Sulu?

Can the MILF be trusted after committing the massacre? Former President Fidel V. Ramos doubts its sincerity. Former DILG Sec. Rafael Alunan said the way the MILF massacred the police showed it was not a misencounter as claimed by DILG Sec. Mar Roxas. It was a deliberate act of killing with desecration of the dead bodies only ISIS is capable of.

As protector of the Republic, will the AFP accept an eventual dismemberment of the Philippines? The answer probably lies in the position of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) of the armed forces where it expressed its misgivings over the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), too, rejected this law.

* * *

Bayanko believes the Aquino government is putting the cart before the horse. It hasn’t thought out the peace process. It has failed to undertake proper consultations with wide sectors of Philippine society. It is pushing for a BBL which is deeply flawed.

Peace can be attained in Maguindanao but autonomy must be considered within the framework of a parliamentary federal system of government where all regions and provinces are treated equally. This means shifting to another form of government before passing the BBL.

By all means, make Bangsamoro a federal state within the Philippine Republic under a different Constitution with clear parameters, but apply the same formula to all and not just a part of it. Otherwise BBL is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Two former Supreme Court justices, Vicente Mendoza and Florentino Feliciano, and former Senator Aquilino Pimentel said the proposed BBL would give Bangsamoro more powers than needed to undermine Philippine sovereignty. It would have a parliamentary system of government under an existing presidential system and this would require changes to the Constitution. As Justice Mendoza rightly pointed out, “A parliamentary form of government in an otherwise presidential system is an oddity, an anomaly.”

However, peace can be forged and an agreement for relations within the federal structure can be attained.











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