Outlook

Aquino-MILF pact a curse on the nation

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Rather than a legacy of peace, President Aquino’s pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front contained in the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” will be his curse on the nation. The consequences of the pact, renewed violence in Mindanao and even terrorist attacks in urban centers, will outlive his term, and will be one of the biggest headaches of the next president.

We have to disabuse ourselves of the naive, sappy “give-peace-a-chance” mentality that peace accords always lead to the silencing of guns. From Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler, to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that led to the fall of Saigon, to the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian War but led to the “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo, ill-conceived peace pacts in the world’s history have often led to greater hostilities. Violence after failed peace pacts intensifies as the parties claim that they were betrayed, infuriating their fighters to fierceness.

The MILF will most definitely be claiming in a year’s time, or even just a few months, that it was betrayed and fooled by the Aquino administration. Why would this happen?

Unless Mr. Aquino becomes a dictator, there is no way he can implement his pact with the MILF. It will be blocked or radically diluted by two institutions: the Supreme Court and Congress.

The Supreme Court will almost certainly be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the Aquino-MILF agreement, as it was with regard to the previous administration’s Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

Either Mr. Aquino didn’t bother to read the Court’s ruling on that case, or he is confident that with his handpicked Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice, it is now under his thumb that he can just order it to rule as he pleases. But the major reasons why the Court ruled the MOA-AD unconstitutional applies to the Aquino-MILF pact, as constitutional expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas and law professor Harry Roque have explained in their opinion columns. One major reason the Court ruled the MOA-AD unconstitutional is the government’s commitment to amend the Constitution to accommodate the pact, which is beyond the executive branch’s authority to do so.

Mr. Aquino similarly promised that the Constitution will be amended “for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching in the Constitution the agreements of the Parties whenever necessary.” He is deluded if he thinks that the MILF agreed to establish merely an “autonomous region” for the Bangsamoro, the only arrangement allowed under the Constitution. MILF Chair Murad Ebrahim was either so audacious or made a slip of the tongue when he said at the signing ceremony that the pact will allow the MILF  “to rebuild [the Moro] homeland…end occupation and the reign of violence.”

Occupation? The republic’s Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police are occupying, foreign forces? Murad even boasted in his speech that the pact could not have been possible if they had not withstood “the all-out wars in 2000, 2003 and 2008 waged by previous Philippine regimes on the MILF.” The republic wasn’t defending its territory and just waging war?

MILF guerillas now believe that Mr. Aquino agreed to the establishment of an MILF-controlled independent nation-state, even if just a weaker one, in the agreement’s formulation, “in asymmetric relation” to the Philippines. I’ve had sources in the MILF since 1996 when I was the first journalist to visit its main headquarters and interview their chair, Hashim Salamat. “We’ve won, there’ll be a Bangsamoro soon,” they all said.

And even if the Supreme Court rules the agreement constitutional, it will be impossible for that Congress to enact the “Bangsamoro Basic Law” that is absolutely needed to implement the Aquino-MILF pact.

The pact’s fatal flaw in fact is that the entity—Congress—that has the most crucial role in implementing the agreement had absolutely no role in negotiating it. Why would it support it? If Mr. Aquino could not pass the reproductive health bill and even the economically crucial sin tax bill despite his popularity, do you think he could pass a bill—at the closing years of his regime—to create a Bangsamoro nation-state, which will be extremely unpopular and even unacceptable to the majority of Filipinos?

If there is no way for the agreement to be implemented, why did Mr. Aquino enter into it, and made such a big hullabaloo over it? If it isn’t sheer stupidity or hubris, there is only one other reason: as a publicity stunt to prettify his administration, which will soon be held accountable for its incompetence when the economy weakens and as his anticorruption campaign is exposed as a political witch-hunt.

It would be a tragedy, though, for the country that would outlive Mr. Aquino’s term. When the Supreme Court or Congress throws the agreement to the dustbin, the MILF will claim that it was betrayed. It will oil its rifles that after all had not been surrendered to again wage war, with more ferocity this time.

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At the signing of the MILF pact, Mr. Aquino thanked everybody from the Malaysian prime minister to the MILF chair to the Mindanao governors “for making the agreement possible.”  What he did not thank, though, was the AFP, whose soldiers fought and died defending the republic’s integrity against the Islamic insurgents.

The military brass weren’t even invited to the ceremony attended by over 100 MILF commanders. An Army general in the field lamented: “That omission struck deep in the heart of our soldiers. No credit was given for the AFP’s vital role in creating the conditions for peace talks to proceed. Mr. Aquino praised the efforts of the MILF but not the AFP, as if our soldiers were the aggressors, not the noble defenders of our land. ”

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