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Mindanao Blackmail

4 August 2008 5 CommentsEmail This Post Email This Post

Photo lifted from thepinoy.net

This article was forwarded by email just yesterday and we felt compelled to republish it because it concerns us, the Mindanaoans. We didn’t want to discuss Politics on this blog but from time to time, we see the need to and this write-up must be read by as many people as possible…

A somewhat difficult and long read, Mindano Blackmail is an eye-opener and refresher to what has been happening to Mindanao of late, specifically with the Bangsamoro (Moroland) led by the Muslim separatist rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In gist, the Philippine government just concluded the six-year old dialogue with the MILF on July 18, 2008; And again, reaching an agreement with the group by according them the power and control of an additional 712 villages in the island of Mindanao! As if their existing coverage in Mindanao isn’t big enough!! This furthers MILF’s political and economic powers even more!

How did this happen? You have to read the article…

On the other hand, is there really anything the Philippine government can do now but wait for the worst case scenario that in time (and it will most likely happen!), a Bangsamoro Federal State will be established in Mindanao? Yes a Federal State, separate from the Philipppines, having their own set of laws (don’t they have this already?!), governance, money and whatever else…

We’re publishing this with full credit to the author, Antonio C. Abaya.

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Mindanao Blackmail

By Antonio C. Abaya, founder and chairman of Transparency and Public Accountability Today and Tomorrow, Inc. (TAPATT) Foundation

O n the belief that nothing happens in the politics of this country without someone or some organization manipulating events towards a pre-determined outcome, I would like to consider the following developments in Mindanao. Sometime last April, Malaysia announced that it was withdrawing its contingent from the international team that has been monitoring the “peace” between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao.

There was no explanation given by Malaysia on why it was withdrawing from the monitoring team. Just before this, the MILF announced that it was demanding that part of Palawan Island be included in the ancestral domain that it wants to be officially recognized by the GRP. My interpretation of this turn of event is that the Malaysians knew that the MILF would make some demands on the GRP that the GRP would not be able to meet. In negotiations such as this, when one side makes demands that it knows the other party cannot meet, it is a sign that that party (the MILF) wants to break off the talks, but wants to put the blame on the other party (the GRP) for the termination of the talks.

Hence, the announced withdrawal of the Malaysians, programmed to be complete by middle or end of August. The prolonged withdrawal of such a small contingent (about 25 men) means they want to give the parties, especially the GRP, time to reconsider its inflexible position of not giving in to the territorial demands of the MILF.

The implied threat here is that if the GRP does not give in to the territorial demands of the MILF, hostilities would be resumed. It is really blackmail.

Last July 16, the Arroyo administration, in “peace talks” being held in, agreed with the MILF that the current area covered by the present Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao ARMM will be expanded to include 712 additional barangays or villages in five other provinces that are not part of the present ARMM. (July 23 update: Not surprisingly, Malaysia agreed to remain in the monitoring team for another year, after the GRP agreed to the MILF demands. (And, after an initial, pro-forma refusal, the Arroyo administration, as the negotiating party representing the GRP, has given in to this blackmail, on condition that the expansion would be subject to a plebiscite in the areas affected.)

(But shouldn’t this be the other way around? Shouldn’t the people in those areas be polled first on whether they want to be handed over to the MILF, instead of being presented with a fait accompli?)

The present ARMM is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi Tawi and Shariff Kabunsuan.

The stage is obviously being set for a Bangsamoro Federal State to be proclaimed at more or less the same time that the Philippine Republic formally shifts to a federal union, before June 2010.

The additional 712 villages that would be added to the present ARMM territory are in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga-Sibugay and Palawan. After this annexation, the resulting territory will be known as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity or BJE. The GRP also agreed with the MILF that jurisdiction and control of resources found within 15 kilometers from the shoreline would be with the BJE, and any resources found in the BJE territory – such as oil and gas – would be shared as follows: 75 percent to the BJE, 25 percent to the GRP.

The MILF is also demanding, and President Arroyo has eagerly accepted, that the elections for a new set of local officials – governors, mayors, etc – for ARMM, long set for August 11, 2008, be postponed. The Arroyo administration is talking of timing the ARMM elections simultaneously with the presidential elections in May 2010. This in spite of the protest of Comelec chair, former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, that the Comelec was ready for the August 11 elections, which would have inaugurated –finally – the long-postponed computerization of elections.

In the meantime, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, former AFP CoS Gen. Hermogenes Esperon – he of ‘Hello Garci’ tape fame – without anyone asking him for his opinion, has come out openly for a shift to the federal form of government.

By a strange coincidence, Sen. Nene Pimentel’s Senate Resolution no. 10 calls for a shift to the federal form of government, and he wants this to happen before the end of President Arroyo’s term in June 2010. And Sen. Pimentel wants this shift to be engineered by a constituent assembly (ConAss) in which the Lakas/Kampi dominated- Lower House will overwhelm the 24 Senators, even though six or seven of them are eyeing the presidency and vice-presidency in 2010.

The stage is obviously being set for a Bangsamoro Federal State to be proclaimed at more or less the same time that the Philippine Republic formally shifts to a federal union, before June 2010.

In this orchestrated scenario, there is nothing to prevent the Lakas-Kampi juggernaut from inserting the parliamentary issue into the constituent assembly and thus engineer a simultaneous shift to parliamentary, thus giving President Arroyo the constitutional right to remain in power as prime minister.

It should be kept in mind that the MILF spun off from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari in the 1990s. The MNLF was fighting for greater autonomy within the Philippine Republic and was secular in orientation. On the other hand, the MILF faction wanted separation and total independence from the Philippine Republic, and wanted/wants to establish an Islamic state under Sharia law.

(Neither side is talking about holding a plebiscite in the present ARMM to ask the Christian majorities in the ARMM cities if they want to live in an Islamic state under Sharia law. This could trigger a Christian backlash.)

When it broke away from the MNLF, the MILF had an estimated strength of about 300 armed fighters. But because of the consensual leadership style of President Fidel V. Ramos – he signed “peace agreements” with all malcontents except the Communists, who refused: military rightists, Moro autonomists and Muslim separatists – the MILF was allowed to keep its base, Camp Abubakar in Northern Cotabato.

That one base became two, three, four, etc until it became 20. Before he became Ramos’ press secretary, Rigoberto Tiglao was a correspondent for the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER).

He was allowed to visit Camp Abubakar and he wrote a series of articles for the FEER in which he reported that Camp Abubakar had become a sophisticated military base, with anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank artillery, sophisticated radio equipment, a munitions factory as well as a to train its (then), 20,000 fighters.

Tiglao reported that the MILF had set a Zero-Hour, at which time MILF fighters in all 20 camps would simultaneously rise up in revolt. Tiglao also reported that the MILF was planning to acquire jet planes from sympathetic Muslim countries.

Since the MILF was separatist right from the start of its organizational life, it is safe to assume that it remains separatist to this day. Its “peace talks” with the PG are merely to dribble the ball until it gains sufficient strength in territory, armed fighters and political status, hence the additional 712 villages, the transitory Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, the postponement of the ARMM elections, and the Bangsamoro Federal State in a Philippine federal union.

I would not be surprised if the Bangsamoro, at this point, were to declare itself an independent country and secede from the federal union – like from federal Pakistan, like Biafra from federal Nigeria- and there would be nothing that a Prime Minister or President-for-Life Gloria Arroyo or Gen. Esperon’s poorly equipped and poorly motivated Philippine military would be able to do about it.

Other article in www.tapatt.org and in acabaya.blogspot. com.

If you really are interested to learn more, we found a more recent article regarding the issue here.
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5 Comments »

  • Manuel L. Quezon III said:

    […] A hawkish response, including a reproduction of Tony Abaya’s column quoting Bobi Tiglao’s visit to the MILF’s base of operations in the 1990s, appears in Tatay Pepes Restobar in General Santos City, Philippines. […]

  • Current » Peace in our time? said:

    […] quoting Bobi Tiglao’s visit to the MILF’s base of operations in the 1990s, appears in Tatay Pepes Restobar in General Santos City, Philippines. The announcement by the MILF that the agreement will be signed on August 25, also makes for […]

  • Manuel L. Quezon III said:

    […] is the perception that Malaysia is not an honest broker (while our governments have been weak, see Tatay Pepes blogging from General Santos City) and a lingering lack of confidence in Islamic democracy : and […]

  • Current » The march of folly in Mindanao said:

    […] is the perception that Malaysia is not an honest broker (while our governments have been weak, see Tatay Pepes blogging from General Santos City) and a lingering lack of confidence in Islamic democracy : and […]

  • BrianB said:

    I think, Mr. Abaya, you underestimate the bravery and loyalty of Christian Filipinos, especially the Visayans located in that proposed secessive state of Mindanao. Jet plane from Muslim countries? You have got to be kidding. Who? Saudi Arabia? They need their Filipino workers and most of these workers are Christians.

    What’s happening here is that the current government is forcing our people to be chess pieces. Well, we are unwilling chess pieces but there will be consequences in the aftermath. If you think the MILF are a scary bunch, wait till they get the Christians in a fighting mood. We want to keep our democratic way of life, but when push comes to shove God knows we can fight… afterwhich we will turn our attention to the minds behind this mess.

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