The first part came out in this space on Saturday.
The historical context
To put these developments in their proper historical perspective, we must see that the tragic Mamasapano Massacre can be traced to the flawed assessment and lack of rectitude of intention on the part of an administration whose so-called peace initiative was dictated by Malaysia – a less than honest broker considering its vested interest in Sabah, which is Philippine property through the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo.
The question is why was Prime Minister Najib able to sweet-talk President Aquino into accepting a highly flawed agreement? We have to go back to history for this and trace it to the close personal relationship between the Aquinos and members of Malaysian royalty.
Apparently Ninoy had an almost fraternal relationship with the Sultan of Johore, which blossomed during his exile in Boston where he met the Sultan. The talk is that before his assassination he dropped by Singapore where he met with the Sultan and promised to do something about the Philippine rights to Sabah in exchange for the Sultan’s support for Aquino’s move against Marcos. This might explain Cory’s lackadaisical support for the assertion of our Sabah rights, an attitude adopted by her son and political heir.
It will be recalled that when a force of the Sulu and North Borneo Sultanate, led by the crown prince. tried to invade Sabah and were mowed down by Malaysian forces, PNoy not only turned his back on the Filipino Muslims but actually came to the aid of Malaysia. He ordered the Philippine Navy to interdict the Tausug forces that mobilized in support of their bealeaguerd brothers in Lahad Datu and Semporna in the Sulu seas.
It is against this historical backdrop that one can understand PNoy’s enthusiastic support for the Malaysian brokered Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), which mocks the Philippine Republic and contains unconstitutional provisions, whose offspring should be the Bangsamoro Basic Law that creates the Bangsamoro substate and gives it a mini-constitution. This historical background explains Aquino’s predilection for the Malaysian-sponsored and supported MILF, why his appointed peace panelists behaved the way they did and are now accused by the public as mouthpieces for the insurgent group, and why Aquino ordered the stand-down or did not order reinforcements to stop the Mamasapano Massacre in which 44 brave Filipino PNP commandos sacrificed their lives.
Scuttle the BBL
Because of the massacre and many other reasons, this nation should oppose the BBL, which is a clumsy attempt of our Asean neighbor to envelope or sandwich the Tausugs of the Sulu archipelago between Sabah and Central Mindanao. By strengthening the hand of the MILF through logistical and political support the insurgent group under the BBL could carve out a vassal state beholden to Malaysia. This is the reason why the MNLF sponsored ARMM is not acceptable to the Malaysians, who desire to eliminate Tausug influence in the regional government by replacing it with the BBL which will be controlled by their Maranao-Maguindanao protégées.
Negotiate from a position of strength
Indeed, the Malaysian agenda supported stoutly by this Administration has given the MILF the hubris and arrogance that allowed them to defy the forces of our republic before the world in Mamasapano. Its victory in Mamasapano in their thinking places them in a position of strength in these so-called peace process. They had been proven to be right because our own government’s knee-jerk reaction to the incident is to sue for peace. Under the barrel of the sophisticated armory of the MILF supplied undoubtedly by its foreign patron, this government is now negotiating from a position of fear and weakness.
If we succumb to the Najib-Aquino concordat for peace in Mindanao there will never be peace on the island. Even before the BBL is finalized, hostilities have already broken out between this government and the MNLF, which has been marginalized by the Aquino regime’s obsequiousness to the MILF and Malaysia.
What more when the BBL is enacted? Will the BIFF, MNLF, the Lumads, the Yakans, Samals and the Christians just sit around and watch their homes and lands incorporated into the Bangsamoro substate and their persons subjected to the rule of this Malaysian sponsored minority of Maguindanaons and some Maranao?
The way forward
No less than an inclusive agreement in the island of Mindanao that will consider the interest of all stakeholders — Muslims, Christians and Lumads — which will give them full and authentic autonomy will be the final solution to the pesky Mindanao question.
Yes let us go back to the drawing boards and build on the gains of the constitutionally created ARMM. In the meantime will the foreigners please exit from the scene and stop this shuttle service between Manila and Kuala Lumpur which is offensive to the sensibilities of a republic which is trying to prevent the internationalization of what is basically a domestic issue.
In the meantime let the full force of the law be applied to ensure that the perpetrators of the Mamasapano Massacre be brought before the bar of justice. Armed elements must all be disarmed now and not after the passage of the BBL as the MILF insists. The so-called decommissioning process should be preceded by a suspension of the ceasefire which has been used by the MILF and other armed elements to strengthen their forces.
Next, let us disband the peace panel whose heads appear to be showing symptoms of the Stockholm syndrome.
Thanks to the Aquino peace process the insurgents and separatists have been able to stock up on war materiel which they intend to use to negotiate with the GPH from a position of strength. Yes, indeed, we have been had so royally!
Okay then. We must not halt the peace process–but we must follow a new agenda dictated by us Filipinos–not by foreign countries.
Former Ambassador Jose Romero is a founding member of PAFI and the President of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations