OR, as some prefer, it was a “a moro-moro.”
The nation should not be fooled. What happened in Sultan Kudarat last Tuesday was not a big leap forward for the peace process in Mindanao. It was rather a spectacle where the President of the Philippines, in full view of the world, waded blindly into a trap set by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Malaysia that leads straight to the establishment of a Bangsamoro substate in Mindanao.
The celebrated historian Daniel Boorstin coined the term “pseudo-event” in his book, The Image, to denote manufactured events that are mainly the work of publicists, public relations specialists and propagandists, and should not be confused with real events that shape the course of history.
With a pseudo-event, Boorstin noted, “The celebration is held, photographs are taken, the occasion is widely reported.” Some defining characteristics of a pseudo-event are: immediacy (i.e., it is broadcast live), organized by a non-media entity, containing ceremonial and dramatic value, pre-planning, and centering on a personality or a group.
These characteristics are consistent with the features of what Filipinos call a “moro-moro,” which some broadcast commentators unhesitatingly used to describe the decommissioning ritual.
According to the authoritative Tagalog-English dictionary of Fr. Leo James English, a moro-moro is a common Philippine stage play depicting the struggles between the Moors and the Christians. In Filipino popular culture, it has come to mean a mock event or activity, something staged to divert or sway public opinion.
Based on these characteristics, the decommissioning ceremony in Sultan Kudarat fits snugly into the cubbyhole of pseudo-events and moro-moros.
A largely symbolic turnover
The organizers and drumbeaters let the cat out of the bag when they disclosed that what was going to take place was a largely symbolic handover of 75 weapons and the registration of 145 members of the MILF. The arms and troops slated for decommissioning were just a fraction of the MILF’s reported 10,000 fighters and extensive arsenal of heavy weaponry.
This decommissioning was nothing comparable to the decommissioning of arms and troops of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland, starting in October 2001.
The decommissioning show in Sultan Kudarat brought together President B.S. Aquino, government peace negotiators, MILF leaders and members of an international monitoring panel.
It generated media interest enough to gather stringers and correspondents from international media organizations, and of course, Filipino media organizations.
It was soon made plain that the main objective of the pseudo-event was to put pressure on the Philippine Congress to approve post-haste the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which has missed artificial deadlines because of constitutional infirmities and the objections of legislators.
Cause for more legislative resistance
We think there is cause for even more legislative resistance once Congress sees close up what’s really involved in the decommissioning process. Complete disarmament will not take place until Congress passes the BBL and the Bangsamoro authority is established.
Following Tuesday’s ceremony, the decommissioning will continue in three more stages, each one involving a condition, with 30 percent more of the MILF’s weapons handed in when the BBL is enacted, another 35 percent when the BBL is ratified in a plebiscite and the Bangsamoro police force is formed, and the balance when the government and the MILF sign the exit memorandum to signal the fulfillment of the CAB.
Every detail of the decommissioning process shows how shabbily Philippine negotiators have served the nation, and how much they have compromised the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic.
President Aquino brushed aside these glaring flaws by harping sentimentally: “Our brothers are voluntarily laying down their arms.” He declared that it should now be a matter of conscience for legislators to approve the BBL.
Statements from MILF leaders did nothing to raise the prospects of passage. Murad Ibrahim, chairman of the MILF, stressed that the decommissioning of weapons and fighters should not be seen as “surrender.”
Chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal warned that the BBL should not be postponed until the next presidential administration. “Opportunity knocks only once,” he said.
Support fund and trust fund
The final straw that made the pseudo-event so difficult to behold was the announcement by presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles that the Aquino government would spend P2.4 billion of taxpayers’ money to support the 145 ex-rebels and repay them for the weapons they turned over.
Deles even went further to say that the peace panels would explore the possibility of forming a normalization trust fund to assist the former fighters further.
A trust fund? This shows that the nation has not yet seen the full extent of the disservice and betrayal by Deles of our people and our country.
We must brace for more abominations down the road, until she leaves office with her boss next year.