POSTSCRIPT / March 5, 2015 / Thursday
We’ve ARMM already. Why insist on BBL?
By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.
WHY REPLACE IT?: As they say, if it ain’t broke why fix it? Why supplant the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao wholesale with a newfangled “Bangsamoro” federal state under the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front?
Coming out of decades of neglect and exploitation, the ARMM embracing five poor provinces in the South is not perfect, but it is functioning normally under democratically elected officials.
The ARMM is still trying to raise its 3.3 million dominantly Muslim population from the mistakes of the past and the difficulties of the present. Its elective officials and the bureaucracy led by Regional Gov. Mujiv S. Hataman are doing their best.
It would be unfair, to say the least, if – just because President Noynoy Aquino has pronounced the ARMM as a “failed experiment” – the regional setup will now be replaced with an alien parliamentary system and its leaders with rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
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GIVE P75B TO ARMM: To catch up with more progressive regions, the ARMM needs some deep-cleansing, reorientation and substantial assistance from the national government and foreign sources of grants and investments.
For instance, why not give the ARMM the P75-billion that Malacañang has promised the Bangsamoro once it gets off the ground with the MILF at the helm? The ARMM is already there standing on firm constitutional ground unlike the legally flawed Bangsamoro.
Why is President Aquino that generous to the MILF and niggardly to the ARMM? Has he forgotten that ARMM officials have proved themselves in free elections — unlike the MILF rebels who simply took their seats at the negotiating table claiming to speak for the Muslim community?
Assuming the ARMM administration has faults – like the Executive department has – why not sort out these problems and solve them? Why junk everything in favor of an untried Bangsamoro reeking of Malaysian influence and bugged by constitutional issues?
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LOOKING FOR LEGACY?: Let not Muslim Mindanao be another victim of the propensity of many politicians to neglect and then scuttle the big projects of their predecessors so they could build in their stead their own “legacy” achievements.
Section 4 of Article X says that the President “shall exercise general supervision over local governments”.
In 2010, President Noynoy Aquino came upon a functioning ARMM created two decades earlier by mandate of the Constitution. Instead of consigning it to the bin of discarded projects, he should have looked after and upgraded it.
He may not think highly of the performance of ARMM officials, but he should recognize that they were elected to office and have a mandate like the President has.
In the first ARMM election in February 1990, the regional governor elected was Zacaria Candao, followed by Lininding P. Pangandaman in April 1993.
On Sept. 2, 1996, the Moro National Liberation Front and the government, under then President Fidel V. Ramos, signed the final Peace Agreement which led to the election of MNLF chair Nur Misuari as ARMM governor.
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CURATIVE CARE: Some quarters were not happy with the administration of Misuari – from whose MNLF the MILF then broke away – who was accused of corruption, among other things. Critics were asking where the billions allocated for the ARMM have gone.
If the accusations had basis, the logical thing to do is to audit and file the proper charges, then ferret out the system defects and repair them by remedial legislation and administrative control.
The President need not be reminded that the ARMM is not an experiment. It is a living, an organic, creation under the Constitution.
Whatever is wrong with it, the solution is not mercy killing but curative care. The President must keep the ARMM alive and nurse it to health.
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UNITED FRONT: The President’s showing partiality to the MILF that has broken away from the MNLF, and to the exclusion of other Muslim rebel and armed groups, is dangerous.
As we can see, the MILF itself is now going through the same fragmentation with at least its Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters faction going its own violent way. It is premature at this point to say if the 7,000-strong MILF can hold the rebels together.
In the same way that Malacañang should have made sure first that it had consulted and gained the prior commitment of congressional leaders and other stakeholders, the MILF should have proved first that it could speak for all the disparate armed groups.
A united Muslim front is crucial to ensuring that any peace settlement with it will stick. In the Bangsamoro case, however, mukhang malabo. So why insist on it?
The Bangsamoro Basic Law creating the new entity has not even hurdled the consultation stage preparatory to enactment, when the BIFF and other alphabet soup rogue commands are already making their violent presence felt.
The endless fighting, resulting in loss of lives and property, is a bloody reminder to President Aquino that the MILF is not the democratically selected and unifying voice of Muslim Mindanao.
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WHAT’S THE DEAL?: As in the Mamasapano massacre of Jan. 25, President Aquino should face the people and tell the truth. The question is: What is the deal at the center of his obsessive insistence that the MILF be granted its demand for its own Bangsamoro?
It is intriguing that after the MILF told President Aquino “Give us the BBL intact, or else!” he turned to the Congress and ordered “Quick! Pass the BBL as is!”
What pressure have the MILF and its Malaysian handlers brought to bear on our tired President that he has to stick his neck out for something that is unnecessary, divisive and unconstitutional? What is President Aquino keeping from us?
It is time the President leveled with the people on the Bangsamoro deal. If he is scared to tell all, only God can help us!
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