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Analysis

Agent of dismemberment

President Aquino’s satisfaction rating in the first quarter of this year fell to its lowest level since he took office in 2010 as a result of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano massacre, according to Social Weather Stations. The SWS survey, conducted on March 20-23, showed that 47 percent of respondents nationwide were satisfied with the President’s performance, while 36 percent were dissatisfied, resulting in a “moderate” net satisfaction rating of 11, down 28 points from last December’s “good” 39 (63 percent satisfied minus 24 percent dissatisfied).

The President’s previous record low was a “moderate” 25 in June last year, and his highest rating was “a very good” 67 posted in August 2012. Since June 2014 the net rating had been plunging; it took a sharp decline after the Mamasapano encounter, in which 44 commandos of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force perished at the hands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and their cohorts who were given sanctuary in MILF-controlled areas in Maguindanao.

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Since the massacre, which has become the nemesis of the administration-initiated peace process in collaboration with the MILF, the President’s satisfaction rating has taken what appears to be an irreversible slide. It has raised questions over whether the plunge has reached a point of no return—an erosion that has cast doubts on the capacity of the President to save the peace process from collapse.

In the immediate aftermath of the Mamasapano debacle and the erosion of Mr. Aquino’s satisfaction rating, questions have been raised as to whether he has lost too much political capital to be able to muster enough votes among administration allies in Congress for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The BBL will govern the proposed autonomous Bangsamoro region in Mindanao within the framework of the comprehensive peace agreement signed between the government and the MILF last year.

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The question of whether the Aquino administration has been reduced to a lame duck incapable of influencing the fate of the BBL, whose passage in Congress appears increasingly uncertain, has been overshadowed by another question: whether the BBL that emerges from the legislative process would reflect the MILF’s version of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region as a rump substate beyond the control of the central government and the constitutional system.

The peace process has come under attack as a conspiracy with the MILF to set up a system that not only leads to the dismemberment of the republic but, more so, the diminution of size of the national territory. It is seen to result in the ceding to the MILF huge portions of productive resources in Mindanao, and the awarding to the proposed Bangsamoro entity entitlements and key functions exercised by the national government, such as control over police force, huge revenues and financial allocations, and economically productive local resources.

President Aquino is determined to push the BBL as his legacy before he steps down in 2016 by ceding concessions to the MILF at the expense of dismantling national resources in a policy of appeasement to the MILF. In the effort to ram the peace process through, the government’s chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, warned in a press conference that the failure of the peace process would lead to a “very, very bloody war.” She echoed a warning by the President, that the failure of the peace process could mean “more body bags,” which he issued during a speech on the first anniversary of the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the MILF and after the police mission to capture three terrorists ended in a bloodbath blamed on the failure by the SAF to coordinate the law enforcement operation with the MILF.

Ferrer said that although the MILF had promised to “stay the course of peace,” there would be a “problem” if the MILF leadership would not have a hold on all its members. This issue was in reference to earlier statements of MILF leaders that it had problems with breakaway groups who joined the attack on the SAF commandos who entered Mamasapano on Jan. 25 to arrest the wanted terrorists.

A Senate report on the Mamasapano massacre was less sanguine about the peace panels’ cooperation in the peace process. It said that while MILF representatives were present at the hearings, “they have been less than forthright” and that almost two months after Mamasapano, the Senate committees had yet to be furnished copies of the results of the MILF investigation of the massacre. In fact, the Senate report said, the MILF had categorically refused to furnish the government a copy of its report. “They refused to cooperate when they denied the request of the Department of Justice for an interview to present its findings on the incident,” the Senate report said.

The MILF, which has warned it would not accept a watered-down version of the BBL, furnished Malaysia, a facilitator of the peace process, a copy of its report, before doing the same to the Philippine government.

In their report, the Senate committees said the government peace panel “should stand for the government and not for the MILF.” In the determination of the Aquino administration to leave the peace process as its legacy, it is turning itself into an agent of dismemberment of the territorial integrity of the republic.

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TAGS: BBL, Mamasapano, MILF, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, President Aquino, SWS survey
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