COMMENT: ‘Bong-Bong’ Bangs Away (2)

II. What He Sees

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, June 21, 2015 –Sen. Ferdinand “Bong Bong” R. Marcos Jr. manifested in his privileged speech last June 3 this assumption: the country is threatened by the proposed establishment of Bangsamoro and its fate is in his hands. We pointed this out in Part I of this COMMENT article series published last June 9.

He rejected Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law as SB 2408 and belittled the consultations done by the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process during the negotiations with Moro Islamic Liberation Front as insignificant — lacking in inclusivity and deficient in substance. How true is his claim? We would like to explore this in our present article to see what he sees that feed his pretensions to save the country from perdition.

His Assessment

SB No. 2408 was “referred to my Committee in September last year”. With “experts” from “different sectors of society”, for eight months, “our committees (sic) have conducted fourteen (14) public hearings: nine (9) in the Senate; and five (5) in the affected areas of Cotabato City (October 8), Marawi City (October 23), Tawi-tawi (November 11), Sulu (May 13), and Zamboanga City (May 14)”. Four more hearings, the last on June 9, were conducted after May 14.

The ultimate objective of the hearings: “… for peace to be achieved, the BBL must be inclusive. All the stakeholders must be consulted; their views heard; their concerns addressed. More importantly, it [the BBL] must conform to the letters and spirit of the law of the land. No ifs, ands, or buts.”

As he sees it: “Unfortunately, the BBL in its present form and substance will not bring us any closer to peace. Instead, it will lead us to perdition. Armed conflict will ensue. Blood will be shed. And when blood is shed, it will not distinguish between right and wrong; between young and old, neither between men and women, nor soldiers or rebels, combatants and civilians, rich, poor, Muslims, Christians. Nobody wins. Everybody loses.”

The fault! “After a series of meetings with the stakeholders, it became obvious to me that no substantive consultations had been held with them prior to or during negotiations. The Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP) totally ignored the major stakeholders. The Sultanate of Sulu, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Lumads, the Indigenous people, the Christians, the Local Government Units and businesses were abandoned, removed from the negotiating process.” (bold italics ours)

To Clarify: As already stated earlier, the Philippine (GPH) peace panel submitted to the Marcos Committee on May 18 a paper expounding the panel’s position on four matters:

1st: On Public Consultations

“On the Matter of Public Consultations”, the panel stated “that, from 2010 until 17

May 2015” it had “conducted and participated in a total of five hundred fifty three (553) consultation activities” in the form of “meetings, workshops, fora, and briefings”. This, evidently, was to correct the attribution of “fault” to the OPAPP – the charge that it “totally ignored the major stakeholders”.

Summarized in tables, the consultations were with MNLF (I), Sultanates in Mindanao (II), Indigenous Peoples (III), and Local Government Unit representatives (IV). They are the major stakeholders referred to by Marcos.

As shown in these accompanying four tables, ten of the 553 consultation activities were with the MNLF representatives and supporters; six with the Sultanates in Mindanao; 32 with the IPs; and 100 with the LGUs (local government units) including the ARMM. The tables specified the purpose of the event, the organizer, the venue, the GPH/OPAPP and MILF representatives and the audience mentioning names.

The audience column of the tables supports what MILF reminded Marcos, “… virtually all those who were invited to your recent senate hearings, Mr. Senator, were reached out or consulted by the MILF and government peace panels, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) or the civil society organizations (CSOs) who push for peace in Mindanao and the BBL in Congress.”

What more do the tables show?

In “I”, the cross-sections of the MNLF were well represented. Of the ten consultations, seven were held in Metro Manila, obviously, for convenience; the three others were in Patikul, Sulu (December 2, 2012), General Santos City (February 19, 2013) and Cotabato City (June 7, 2014). In Patikul, MNLF Chair Nur Misuari participated. Only four were organized by the Government and MILF (GPNP-MILF) peace panels; the six, by concerned groups.

In “II”, four consultations were held in Metro Manila, the two others in Cotabato City and Patikul, Sulu. In four of these, representatives of the Sultanate of Sulu were present. In the June 9, 2011 consultation in Pasig City, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, Sultan Esmael Kiram, and Rajah Muda Abgimuddin Kiram participated. GPNP-MILF organized four; the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies, one; and the Maharadja Tabunaway Descendants Council of the Philippines, one.

In “III”, the 32 consultations were held in 17 sites – one in Mandawe City in Cebu, six Quezon City and at the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Peace Process, and 25 in different cities and towns in Mindanao convenient for the IPs to attend. Only three were organized by the GPNP-MILF and OPAPP; the 29 others were organized by 21 the civic society organizations, peace groups and advocates, LGUs and Archdiocese of Cotabato.

In “IV”, 100 consultations, 21 were organized by GPNP-MILF; four by OPAPP; five bythe Senate Committee on Local Government; 27 by the House of Representatives AHCBBL; and 43 by the different LGUs and other concerned groups.

What do they specifically clarify?

In Marcos’ assessment of Draft BBL — how it came to be and how it could achieve peace – he said “… the BBL must be inclusive. All the stakeholders must be consulted; their views heard; their concerns addressed.” He c orrectly re-stated the guiding principles of the Government-MILF in drafting the BBL.

The principles are a given, mutually agreed proposition. At issue is the inference that his Committee has achieved the imperatives in its eighteen public hearings while he learned from those hearings that the OPAPP – and by implication, the Government and MILF peace panels – has “totally ignored the major stakeholders”.

The tables specify in columns the “organizers”, “venues”, “audience” and the “dates” of the consultations. By this, the consultation efforts of the Government and MILF can be easily compared with those of the Marcos Committee in extent, inclusivity and relevance to meaningful Bangsamoro autonomy. Marcos had 18 since October 2014: the GPNP-MILF, 148 since 2010.

The tables show that GPNP-MILF had consultations from 2011 to 2015 – with the LGUs, from 2010. Clearly, the consultations took place before, during and after the writing of Draft BBL. And these were done in strategic venues and with participation from a wide cross-section of stakeholders. Can we believe Mr. Marcos’ Committee has consulted more stakeholders, has heard more views and can address more concerns than what the Government and MILF peace teams have done and embodied in Draft BBL?

The tables indicated that in many of the consultations the GPNP-MILLF and OPAPP were not the organizers but their representatives were resource persons – not there to ask questions but to listen, to be questioned and to clarify issues including those raised against the Government and MILF positions. They heard more views and concerns to enhance their own.

In all the Marcos Committee hearings, the Committee was the organizer. Does that make a significant difference?

Normally and usually, hostile probers ask questions to prove their adversarial positions. The same is true in public hearings or consultations – the focus or theme of the agenda are the views and concerns of the organizers.

If we recall volumes of media reports, since Day One of its submission to the Senate, the Draft BBL’s constitutionality, inclusivity and acceptability were the subject of skepticism if not outright derogation. Could we believe that the Senate Committees under Marcos, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Sen. Teofisto Guingona III held hearings on Draft BBL to dispel their skepticism and derogation?

Evidently, Mr. Marcos ignored the GPNP position paper which Chair Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer submitted for his May 18 Committee hearing.

The “public consultations”, the first matter discussed in the “Paper”, clarify the issue which Mr. Marcos raised against the OPAPP – that “no substantive consultations had been held with them prior to or during negotiations”.

The three other “matters” in the “Paper” will clarify more the truthfulness of what Mr. Marcos sees and the sanity of what he wants to do.

(To Be Continued)