ALTHOUGH the inevitable was clear to most everybody at least several weeks ago, the Aquino Administration finally made it official over the weekend, acknowledging that its cherished Bangsamoro Basic Law cannot possibly be passed, and that the only thing left for this government to do is to try to provide for a “smooth transition of the peace process” to the next administration.
The failure of the BBL is a well-deserved defeat for President BS Aquino 3rd, who at one time had pretensions of being worthy of a Nobel Prize for his peace efforts. This president, who has caused so much damage to the institutions and unity of this country, could have literally torn it apart for the sake of his overweening self-importance if the BBL had made it through Congress. As it is, the next administration will have to work hard to undo the harm caused by Aquino’s personal – and according to a number of legal experts, largely illegal – “peace effort.”
Acknowledging the failure and pledging to try to help pass the job in a useful fashion to the next government was, we have to admit, a great deal more mature and responsible-sounding than we have become accustomed to from the Aquino regime. Giving Aquino the credit for that much, however, should not camouflage the fact that the BBL and the treaty it was intended to operationalize were a potential disaster, and almost certainly not even permitted under Philippine law. Aquino bypassed the Constitution to initiate talks with the MILF in a secret meeting in a Japanese hotel room, then endorsed a treaty and enabling law that excluded nearly all other stakeholders in Muslim Mindanao and almost guaranteed the territory would eventually secede entirely from the Philippines.
There is a very real sense that the country “dodged a bullet” with the failure of the BBL. What we should all be vigilant against now is the imminent attempt by Aquino and the compromised government peace panel to influence the direction the unfinished peace effort should take. Aquino’s assumption, at least as it was described by his spokespeople, is that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its complementary BBL will be the basis for future discussions. That cannot be permitted. The CAB is patently unconstitutional.
In the wake of last year’s tragic Mamasapano Massacre, it became clear that the MILF is neither a trustworthy “peace partner,” nor even representative of the great majority of people who would be affected by any peace agreement in Mindanao. The MILF are legitimate stakeholders, but they are by no means the only ones, and should not be accorded an unrealistic amount of influence.
And just as bypassing other interests in Mindanao – non-Muslims, indigenous communities, and Muslim groups not affiliated with the MILF – will lead to failure, so too will following Aquino’s lead in bypassing the people of the rest of the Philippines by ignoring or skirting the law, and not engaging Congress early on in the peace process.