Rough road ahead for Bangsamoro constitution | Inquirer Opinion
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Rough road ahead for Bangsamoro constitution

/ 02:09 AM March 26, 2014

Tomorrow the peace panels of the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will sign the basic agreement that will formally end the decades-long “war” in Mindanao. That will not be the end of it, however.

The basic law, or constitution, of the semi-autonomous Bangsamoro that will result from the agreement will have to be passed by Congress. Then that constitution will have to be submitted to the people of the affected areas for ratification. Then the officials of the new Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will have to be elected.

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Only after the elected officials assume office will the government of the new ARMM begin to function. Many questions remain unanswered. Among them: What will happen to the Tripoli Agreement involving the Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari? How will the disarming of the Moro private armies be done? What about the sharing of natural resources in the ARMM between the national government and the Bangsamoro? Remember that the seas around the region are supposed to be rich in oil and natural gas. Several international corporations have applied for the right to search for more oil and gas. The Malampaya gas field off Palawan is already producing.

These were the issues raised in the discussion at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday among ex-general, ex-senator and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon; Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz of the party-list group Abakada; the new spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Assistant Secretary Charles Jose; and the new leaders of the MNLF Central Committee led by its chair, Ambassador Datu  Abul Khayr Alonto. Seated beside him in the panel were Adziz Barri Malaguiok and Hadji Hudan Abubakar, first and second vice chairs, respectively, but it was the voluble Alonto who did the talking for them.

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Representative Biazon does not see smooth sailing for the Bangsamoro constitution in Congress. He said he expected many problems to arise and for members of Congress to question its legality. Can Congress legally enact the constitution of an autonomous region? Is it not the people of the region who should draft their own constitution? How will the people of the region—Muslims, Christians and tribals alike—be consulted?

Biazon said he would propose that representatives of all the stakeholders in the region, including Misuari and Umra Kato of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a splinter group of the MILF, be invited to the congressional hearings. He said that because there are valid warrants of arrest for Misuari and Kato, safe-conduct passes should be issued to them.

On the replacement of Misuari as chair of the MNLF Central Committee, Ambassador Alonto clarified the wrong impressions resulting from various news reports.

He said his group did not necessarily “reorganize” the MNLF as an organization, or at least not yet. “What we did was simply a well-meaning step to preserve whatever was left of the organization…” he said.

According to Alonto, the new MNLF supports the ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF, “joined in by many peace-loving sectors not only in the Philippines but also in the international community, particularly the 56 member-states of the Organization of Islamic Conference.”

On the statement of Misuari that the MNLF is not “supporting the peace process,” Alonto said many in the MNLF, especially the founding group, have been in support of the peace process and are silently praying for its success.

“What we did,” he said, “was simply to ensure the integrity of the MNLF, recognizing former Chairman Misuari, to ignore the reports about his being ‘in hiding’ or ‘in hibernation,’ but simply, we see that he has not been a visible part of the ongoing efforts to attain peace.”

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Alonto denied the impression that “the Philippine government [and] its officials were part of the process to reconstitute the MNLF top leadership.”

“The different factions of the MNLF continue to be composed of brothers in the revolution, committed to the cause of the Bangsamoro. The changing of leadership should be appreciated as part of the dynamics of a living organization,” he said.

* * *

Biazon, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, was asked about his opinion on the case of Cadet First Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia who was dismissed from the PMA after the honor committee, composed of his fellow cadets, found him guilty of violating the PMA Honor Code.

The lawmaker said he was glad President Aquino did not reverse the decision of the honor committee. “The Honor Code is strictly for the cadets,” he said.

The Honor Code prohibits cadets from stealing, cheating, lying, and tolerating others who do. Many other cadets have been dismissed in the past for violating the code, Biazon said, adding that at one time, 46 cadets were dismissed for cheating.

However, Biazon said, Cudia should be given his diploma and transcript of records so that he can pursue other careers.

As for Cudia being made to reimburse the P2 million spent by the government for his education at the PMA, Biazon said that is not called for by the circumstances. He explained that PMA cadets are required to serve in the military for at least eight years after graduation (two years for every year spent in the PMA). If he resigns from the military before the eight years are finished, he has to reimburse the expenses for his schooling.

But Cudia’s case is different. He does not want to resign. “And in the first place, coming from a poor family, where will he get the P2 million?” Biazon said.

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TAGS: Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Bangsamoro, Mindanao, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Rodolfo Biazon
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