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The BBL is not consistent with our UN obligations

12:08 AM February 24, 2015

The ongoing crisis that resulted from the Mamasapano disaster has revealed a serious flaw in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The Philippines being a member of the United Nations, it is our obligation to implement all UN resolutions. The current crisis touches one of the most sensitive issues before the UN: the war against terrorism.

The latest UN resolution on this matter is Resolution No. 1373, which was passed on Sept. 28, 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, and was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council. There are many provisions of Resolution 1373 relevant to our current crisis. We shall discuss only three of them. (The full text of the resolution is available on the UN website.)

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What allegedly gave rise to the massacre in Mamasapano was the lack of coordination by Philippine National Police-Special Action Force officials with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Coordination is one of the protocols in the proposed BBL. But this is the key provision that will make it impossible for us to comply with our UN obligations.

The testimony of PNP officials at the congressional hearings highlights the fact that if “coordination” is done with the MILF and even with the military, the special operation was doomed to fail. The US government did not inform Pakistan when its troops took down Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad. This bypassing of the local government has a long history.

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During the Vietnam War, almost all joint US-Vietnamese operations against the Vietcong were futile because the South Vietnamese government had so many Vietcong sympathizers in its ranks. Almost all such special ops were betrayed to the communists. Thus, in Afghanistan and in the Iraq War in 1992, most special ops of the United States and Nato were carried out without informing the locals.

Having said that, we must add that the two interrelated provisions in Resolution 1373 are paragraphs 2(c) (which calls on UN members to “deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens”) and paragraph 2(e) (“Ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice and ensure that, in addition to any measures against them, such terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offenses in domestic laws and regulations and that the punishment duly reflects the seriousness of such terrorist acts”).

Under Resolution 1373, it is not only the MILF combatants but also the MILF officials who ordered the massacre that must be surrendered to the government so they can be brought to justice.

We cannot take this matter lightly. Violations of UN resolutions can result in sanctions against the Philippines. This matter can be triggered if terrorist acts are committed against any neighboring country, initiated by terrorists based in our country. The country victimized by terrorism can elevate the issue to the UN. Our fragile economy cannot withstand UN sanctions. Thus, our entire country can suffer for the infractions committed in Bangsamoro territory by MILF officials.

This is the opportunity for the MILF to show good faith: by surrendering to the government all those who participated in the SAF 44 massacre. The Philippines’ international obligations also bind the MILF. If the MILF fails to comply, it will run afoul of the other provision of paragraph 2(c) of Resolution 1373, which prohibits providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Thus, the BBL and its protocols, with the provision calling for “coordination” with the MILF before our armed forces can operate in Bangsamoro territory, will be difficult to retain. It will be near-impossible for us to comply with the UN resolutions on terrorism with this provision in the BBL. Our armed forces should be able to operate freely in any part of our territory as the situation demands so we can honor our commitments to the UN.

The third provision of Resolution 1373 that has a bearing on the current crisis is the preamble stating that it is “calling on states to work together urgently to prevent and suppress terrorist acts, including through increased cooperation and full implementation of the relevant international conventions relating to terrorism.” The war on terrorism is a cooperative endeavor of all UN member-nations. So under Resolution 1373, we can seek the assistance not only of the United States but also of any other UN member in our fight against terrorism.

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The leftist members of Congress are asking for an investigation of US participation in the operation in Mamasapano. Such an inquiry will be a waste of time and resources. The most valuable commodity in the fight against terrorism is intelligence. Our intelligence service does not operate on a worldwide basis. Thus, we have to solicit the assistance of friendly governments to supply us with intelligence on terrorism. If we do not do this, we will be isolated from the international community in the global fight. In due time, the Philippines may become the safest haven for terrorists.

Hermenegildo C. Cruz was Philippine ambassador to the United Nations in 1984-1986.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, BBL, column, Hermenegildo C. Cruz, Mamasapano incident, terrorism, United Nations
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