Congress should not pass BBL under duress | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Congress should not pass BBL under duress

/ 02:49 AM March 06, 2015

Chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said Congress should not set conditions and should not dictate to the MILF what to do in exchange for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), yet he is the one dictating and setting conditions.

“If the BBL is watered down, you will not be solving the problem,” he said, the problem being the Moro rebellion. Earlier, he had said: “If the BBL is watered down, we will not accept it.”

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Told that some provisions of the draft BBL is unconstitutional, Iqbal retorted: “Then amend the Constitution.”

What arrogance! How disrespectful of our Constitution!

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The reason that the public has little sympathy for the BBL is the arrogance being displayed by the MILF negotiating panel. “Let’s negotiate,” said Iqbal—but he is not negotiating, he is dictating. In effect, he is threatening: Pass the BBL untouched, or else…

He keeps repeating that the MILF remains a revolutionary organization in spite of the peace agreement it has signed with the Philippine government, implying that the MILF will continue to wage war against the latter if its wishes are not met.

In any negotiation, there must be a feeling of trust by both sides. But the MILF’s arrogant attitude does not instill trust, considering the way it has cowed and browbeaten the two women negotiators of the government, such that some Filipinos now doubt which side they are representing.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano was prompted to ask the two government negotiators, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Teresita Quintos-Deles: “Which side are you representing in the peace talks?”

They replied: “We were appointed to represent the Philippine government.”

To which Cayetano said in jest: “I will sue them for perjury,” meaning they were not telling the truth.

Indeed, it seems to many Filipinos that the two negotiators are representing the MILF, not the government. Like Lola in the song, whatever the MILF wants, it gets, including the controversial BBL. The two government negotiators are not negotiating, they are surrendering. They are bending backward so far that their spines may be in danger of cracking.

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In fact, even President Benigno Aquino III is bending back too far to please the MILF, although he is supposed to represent not only the MILF but all Filipinos, including everyone living in Mindanao—and that includes the Christians, the lumad, the Badjao, the Tausug, and other tribes who are not represented in the negotiating panels.

P-Noy has called congressmen and senators to separate meetings to twist their arm into passing the BBL, even giving them a June deadline. Who is he representing anyway, the MILF or the whole Filipino nation?

But how can Congress pass a bill that is unconstitutional? Even if it is passed, somebody will surely question it at the Supreme Court, as was done to the earlier peace pact concluded under the sponsorship of Malaysia and the United States. The high court declared that pact unconstitutional.

One scary part of the BBL is that the national government will give the MILF a lump sum of P79 billion, no questions asked. The Bangsamoro will not be audited by the Commission on Audit; it will have its own auditor.

The P79 billion to be given to the Bangsamoro is bigger than the P70-billion budget of the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines. It would be like one gigantic pork barrel (already outlawed by the Supreme Court) that Bangsamoro officials can spend any which way they want. They can build mansions with it or buy arms for its own army (yes, the Bangsamoro will have its own army or police force), with the national government helpless to do anything. With a budget bigger than the AFP, the Bangsamoro will have the advantage and all the scary things that that implies.

The Constitution says that the nation can have only one police force, but under the BBL, the Bangsamoro will have its own police force independent of the Philippine National Police. International terrorists like Marwan can therefore hide in the Bangsamoro and teach its people how to make bombs, and the PNP cannot go after them and will just have to wait for the bombs to explode in Christian communities.

Congress should not pass a BBL under duress. It should not approve an unconstitutional BBL because of blackmail or arm-twisting. The President should not force Congress to approve an unconstitutional BBL to please the MILF. He and Congress represent the whole Filipino nation, not only the MILF. Congress should not pass a BBL because it is afraid of what the MILF threatens to do.

READ: The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

Who does not want peace? Everybody wants peace. But it should not be like the peace that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain concluded with Hitler’s Germany just so he could go home with the slogan “Peace in our time.” Look what Hitler did after that.

P-Noy should learn the lessons of history. He should not let what Hitler did to the world to happen to us just so he could tell the nation: “Peace in our time.”

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Bangsamoro Basic Law, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Teresita Quintos Deles
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