Why MILF may turn its back on BBL


They probably mean well, but I’m not sure that those who call for “all-out peace” reflect the sentiments of the Bangsamoro or even just the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

I’ve always thought genuine peace can sprout only if rooted in the soil of justice – only with the easing of pains caused by historical injustice and ensuring that no social group slips between the cracks of any new system.

Maybe, the groups calling for “all-out peace” also feel the same way.

But they have not said as much, not in the aftermath of that ad hoc committee farce of a hearing on the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law. Some party-list representatives from the “all-out peace” bloc voted with the administration bloc to uphold the surprise working draft of the committee chairman and vice chairman.

There’s been scant criticism from this sector of the changes to the original draft, which was based on the comprehensive peace agreement between the MILF and the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

I can imagine the thought bubbles:

Mr. Aquino called congressional allies to the Palace. They came back with a new working draft, with administration bloc whip Neptali Gonzales to backstop the waffling ad hoc committee chair, Rufus Rodriguez. The marching order was to vote for the draft and defeat any opposition. Success! Now, we have to defend the bill against all critics.

I am sure members of these groups sincerely think they stand beside the MILF on the issue of self-determination. The mystery is, nobody seems to have spoken with the MILF on the matter of the last ad hoc committee draft (also taken up by two other committees).

Nobody seems to have asked the other party in the peace agreement whether the new working draft is acceptable.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal explains why the Bangsamoro need genuine self-determination.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal explains why the Bangsamoro need genuine self-determination.

The word “peace” does not exist in a vacuum. Anytime between now and the weekend, MILF peace panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal will be sending Malacanang this message: If the House of Representatives passes what the ad hoc committee spat out, the MILF will reject the BBL.

Chairman Iqbal, of course, has said the MILF will continue to push for peace even if the BBL dream crashes to the ground.

That, however, does not mean the MILF will accept – for the sake of peace – whatever scraps from the table the powers deign to throw its way.

Crushed hopes

The BBL will most likely crash. Eleven senators support Sen. Miriam Santiago’s report that clearly calls the measure unconstitutional. Any version coming out from that chamber will definitely be unacceptable to the MILF. That is, if the Senate actually passes a counterpart measure.

Can government supporters now sigh with relief because they can blame someone, something for the failure of the BBL?

Not too fast.

Outpouring of joy as the government of President Benigno Aquino III and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sign a comprehensive peace agreement. Photo from abs-cbnnews.com
Outpouring of joy as the government of President Benigno Aquino III and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sign a comprehensive peace agreement. Photo from abs-cbnnews.com

Iqbal and the MILF leadership have given up a lot for peace. I’m sure critics of the BBL will disagree with this – most critics feel the government has conceded too much to the MILF.

But try stepping into the shoes of the aging leaders of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group. The MILF broke away from the MNLF when some guerrillas felt the latter was selling out the dream of self-determination.

How can the MILF go back to the Bangsamoro people and explain acceptance of a law that, in the words of Iqbal, may have 90% of the number of provisions in the peace agreement – but only half, at most, of its most substantial provisions?

In earlier articles, I mentioned what would be deal breakers for the MILF: the provisions on security, fiscal autonomy, control of natural resources, especially the critical areas of water, including watersheds, forestry, minerals; the right to contract with foreign entities. (I missed out of the Wadi, probably because of ignorance of what that would mean to Muslims.)

Read: MILF could lose critical powers when House votes on BBL

Read: BBL shows social fault lines that fueled Mindanao conflict

Deal breakers

Most critics focus on the huge sums that will go to the Bangsamoro government should a plebiscite uphold the BBL. But most wars for self-determination – whether ethnic or otherwise — are often all about control of a territory’s natural resources. The MILF wouldn’t be worth its name if it just grovels at the altar of mammon and forgets all about its reason for being.

If you were in Iqbal’s shoes, you’d see why the ad hoc committee version is a setback. The MILF had accepted that loans needing sovereign guarantees be approved by the national government. Now, they find that even grants and donations by foreign governments need to be approved by the Philippine national government. That would mean imperial Manila dictating once more what aid it sees fit for the Bangsamoro.

That to them is not self-determination. That is being a ward of imperial Manila.

If the national government controls decisions on the exploration and utilization of the most crucial natural resources, it would make the Bangsamoro just as vulnerable to other communities in the country that thumbed down big mining concerns and other industries encroaching into indigenous lands, only to be overruled by the national government. The MILF sees that clearly.

The MILF says it does not like the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997, not because it thinks non-Moro indigenous peoples are a sub-class, but because they have seen how the law has been used to screw IP communities from Luzon to Agusan and Surigao, in Mindanao. Some people suspect Muslims may look down on IPs; that’s an issue for the second part of this series, which will tackle some miscues of the MILF.

Those guns

A dream interrupted: To the MILF, genuine peace will come only when the comprehensive peace agreement is finally implemented. Passage of a BBL is the first step. Photo by abs-cbnnews.com
A dream interrupted: To the MILF, genuine peace will come only when the comprehensive peace agreement is finally implemented. Passage of a BBL is the first step. Photo by abs-cbnnews.com

Many critics of the BBL, overjoyed by the Senate’s stand, may say this is all water under the bridge.

The MILF has said it will always hold the door open for peace. But remember, any decommissioning depends on implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement.

The guns will remain silent, hopefully, in the immediate future. But they will remain in the hands of the 20,000-strong MILF unless and until government’s promises are fulfilled.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Why MILF may turn its back on BBL

  1. if they cannot accept CONSTITUTIONAL BBL, LET IT BE.THE MILF ARE AT THE LIBERTY TO DO WHAT THEY WISH AND THE GOVERNMENT WILL DEAL WITH THEM NOT ON THE MANNER OF AQUINO’S DEALING….BUT IN THE MANNER THEY WANT , IF THEY WANT TO NEGOTIATE WITH THE BARREL OF A GUN….LET IT BE…IF PEACE THEY WANT, PEACE BE WITH THEM !

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