GENERAL SANTOS CITY, July 1, 2014 – Last June 24, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino keynoted the sixth International Conference on the Consolidation for Peace (COP6) held in Hiroshima, Japan. COP6, exclusively for Mindanao, discussed the “obstacles and opportunities” that will determine, in the wake of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the future of the Bangsamoro.
Before he delivered his speech, he had a 15-minute one-in-one “surprise meeting” with MILF Chairman Murad Ibrahim. The meeting, unscheduled and just before keynoting an international conference, must have been important. No cabinet official was with the President; MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal was with the Chairman. That underscored the urgency of the meeting.
RTVMW, the Malacañang Radio-Television reported the President’s COP6 keynote speech on that day without mentioning his meeting with Murad. Unlike the Tokyo meeting on August 4, 2011, this meeting was not in the Manila media. However, the Davao City-based MindaNews, in its June 24 reports, had an account of the meeting as told by Murad and Iqbal to MindaNews editor-in-chief Carolyn O. Arguillas, who covered COP6.
By the MindaNews reports, the meeting was, indeed, most important. Murad raised their concerns about the Malacañang proposed revisions on the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) draft they had lately received. Reports MindaNews: “Murad declined to disclose details about their ‘concerns’ but said ‘inisa-isa ko sa kanya yung concerns (I cited the concerns one-by-one)’ [without telling] “how many ‘concerns’ they raised.”
Only last June 26, did Philippine Daily Inquirer report in two short items that presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, when asked about the meeting and whether the BBL draft was discussed, speculated: “It is safe to assume that the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law was discussed.” The suppression of the news was evident.
The President, while in Iloilo City last June 27, told the media that “his meeting with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim … was all about how they could ensure the swift passage of the Bangsamoro Law in Congress.” (The Philippine Star, June 28, 2014: Bangsamoro draft law ready before SONA).
He clarified: “We’re putting in all of the details and I asked him if it would be possible to meet sometime next week, either their panels or we in particular or our designated representatives [in order] to thresh out and come up with that proposed measure and give it to Congress even before the SONA.As the Americans say, the devil is in the details. We expect this to happen faster.”
Of his legal team reviewing the BBL draft, he explained: “I don’t think there’s a disagreement on the guiding principles; there is an agreement on how you actually work. There’s a need to further refine the language so that it really states a meeting of the minds of both parties.”
In the same Star report: Communications Secretary Hermino Coloma Jr., recalling the August 4, 2011 Aquino-Murad secret talks hosted by Japan, said this of the last June 24 meeting: “It was a one-on-one meeting with no Cabinet members present. As in their previous meetings, it is reasonable to infer that they discussed the progress of the peace process and how this may be brought to full fruition in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”
What he really said that all was well; yet, he had to justify the “comprehensive and thorough study” of the BBL draft – repeating the same old tunes and belaboring the assurance that “despite the delay in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law … the trust and confidence between Aquino and Murad remain high and unshaken”.
Let’s review what have been said and have our say.
Murad and Iqbal were saying that they had serious concerns on reading the proposed revisions of the BBL draft from the Palace. They raised these during their urgent 15-minute meeting with the President. They told MindaNews about the meeting and their concerns without disclosing the details. But these were reflected in their talks at the COP6 assembly. All is not well.
The Palace suppressed the news about the meeting. Its radio-television reported right on June 24 the President’s keynote address but not a word about the meeting. Two days after, on the 26th, the Palace would only speculate: “It is safe to assume …” That showed the sensitivity of the meeting, Evasion by “safe to assume” meant “all is not well”.
Four days after, on the 28th, the President spoke to the media about the meeting. What he said about the meeting could be summed up in “all is well”. He did not mention any concern raised by Murad or the copy of the proposed revisions on the BBL draft. He only mentioned the need of a meeting “next week” between their panels or the two of them or their representatives. If “all is well” what for is this urgent meeting?
Why does the President not acknowledge the concerns raised by Murad relating to the proposed revisions of the BBL draft? His statement to the media reported by the Star is telling the people: “Just believe me.” This speaks a lot.
But the people know it cannot be “all is well” and “all is not well” at the same time. They are bound to ascertain if Murad has really received a copy of the proposed revisions that had caused the concerns he raised. Once ascertained, they are bound to ask for the same copy to know if the revisions are really causes for concerns. In fine, the people are intelligent, not naïve. And, they appreciate respectability. Where is policy of transparency?
Respectability calls for respect of the intelligence of others. He who ignores this loses his respectability. That goes true for the “she” as well as the “he”. And so it goes for kings, presidents and all other power wielders. President Aquino and the Palace surely know this.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]