GENERAL SANTOS CITY, January 27, 2016 – On the bombing of transmission towers (18 since last November mostly in Lanao del Sur area), Sen. Francis Escudero, candidate for vice president, said: “There can be no better time for the MILF to show good faith and sincerity than now when the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) is under consideration in the legislature.” (Bold text ours) (The Philippine Star, January 23, 2016: Secure power towers, Chiz asks MILF)
He may – just “may” – not be suspecting the MILF as behind the bombings. But, by hurling the challenge to MILF “to show good faith and sincerity”, he doubts; so, if MILF was in good faith and sincere in negotiating for Bangsamoro it must stop the bombing of the transmission towers in the area of the proposed Bangsamoro.
Escudero’s call is his test for MILF to prove good faith and sincerity in negotiating peace with Government. He implies without assurance, though, if MILF can stop the bombings that will convince the legislators of MILF’s good faith and sincerity and pass the BBL.
The call also amounts to an accusation. However, in crying against MILF, “Insincere!”, “Bad Faith!”, he should pause and listen to the echo, “Who is insincere?” and “Who is in bad faith?”
Point 1: The bombings are primarily a police problem. If the Philippine National Police forces in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) cannot cope with the problem, the assistance of the military should be officially asked, not of the MILF. The good senator knows. He only wants to put MILF on the spot out of anti-Moro spite. Is that good faith and sincerity in proposing how to end the bombings?
Luwaran, the official website of MILF, in its January 24-31 editorial in response to Escudero’s call, said: “What are the consequences? If the bombing stops, then some people might suspect that the MILF is behind the act, because it had stopped it; if the bombing continues, then the MILF would be pictured as inutile or has not done enough to prevent it from happening. ‘Damn if you do, damn if you don’t’ is still the rule here.”
Point 2: He knows that BBL has been substituted with BLBAR – SB 2894 in lieu of SB 2408; HB 5811 in lieu of HB 4994. Only 20 percent of SB 2408 is retained in SB 2894; about 50 percent of HB 4994 in HB 5811. What is being tackled in the Congress now is BLBAR, not BBL. Only six session days are left with the Senate far behind schedule.
Is it good faith and sincerity to dangle the most dubious passage of BLBAR – calling it BBL which is not — in return for stopping the bombings? It’s adding insult to injury.
Point 3: As provided in Draft BBL in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement of Bangsamoro, the chief minister of Bangsamoro will have administrative and operational control of the Bangsamoro Police but still subject to the full authority of the National Police Commission (Article XI. Public Order and Safety, Draft BBL). However, in the substitute bills, this power has been denied the chief minister.
The ARMM Police under the full control of Napolcom has not secured the transmission towers and stopped the bombings. Why call on the MILF that has no police power to do the job? Where is the good faith and sincerity in calling on the MILF to do the job? Without full police power, the ARMM governor cannot do it effectively? Without the same power, the chief minister, later, cannot do it either, should the Bangsamoro be established eventually.
Point 4: Escudero’s call reflects the thinking of the majority in the Congress. If they want to test the good faith and sincerity of the MILF, they must restore to its original Article XI, as well as the entire Draft BBL, enact BBL and establish Bangsamoro. If the present bombings of transmission towers continue after that, the MILF would have failed the test.
Point 5: The issue of good faith and sincerity ultimately leads to the peace negotiation. Did MILF negotiate peace in good faith and sincerity?
As testified by the military, for the last five years or more before that Mamasapano debacle on January 25, 2015, there had been no armed encounters between the military and MILF forces. That was an acknowledgment of the good faith and sincerity of MILF in signing the ceasefire agreement and following the protocols for its implementation.
The Mamasapano debacle happened because the PNP-SAF top command ignored the ceasefire agreement. The members of the Congress – in the Senate almost to a man – condemned MILF for bad faith and insincerity for negotiating peace with Government even if before that the leaders in both the Senate and the House had endorsed Draft BBL with assurance to pass it soonest within 2015. Who is in bad faith and insincere?
MILF has already proven its good faith and sincerity. That the majority in the Congress or the entire membership except the Moro legislators would not recognize it only shows the true measure of their good faith and sincerity in telling the country and the world that they are deeply concerned about how the Moros have lagged behind economically and socially and that they would enact the Bangsamoro Act to allow the Moros to catch up.
The test of the pudding is in the eating. What the Congress has done with Draft BBL is the real test of good faith and sincerity in the promise to give the Moros justice, peace and progress.
(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.)