• Let’s talk about money

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    THE Aquino Administration should explain to us why it is so eager to grant autonomy to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao—Bangsamoro, if you prefer the term—and the five provinces that compose the region. We, in Luzon and the rest of the Philippines’ non-Muslim population in the Visayas and Mindanao, are not being told why our Muslim brothers have been left out and are lagging behind economically compared with us.

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    Where and how did we fail them?

    If ARMM politicians want autonomy, by all means, they should get it. No one should stop them from leading their own provinces and their own people to prosperity. After all, they should feel obliged to liberate themselves from poverty, but not after examining where the development efforts of the national government have failed the expectations of their people.

    Have the ARMM’s provinces not been receiving enough benefits from the annual pork barrel allocations to their district representatives as their counterparts do from the rest of the country? To know the answer, try counting the money that has been poured into the region by auditing your leaders since the era of your great grandfathers. The sum could be astounding but the actual infrastructure in place could look miserably wanting.

    For a change in dealing with the ARMM, the government should initiate a drastic switch in strategy. The first step could be to ask the region’s leaders for the economic profile of each province. This way, we in Luzon, in the Visayas and non-Muslim areas of Mindanao will be informed of the reasons why we are being made to pay the price of autonomy to the tune of more than P60 billion a year, instead of the region’s politicians and their eager supporter, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquno 3rd, Malacanang’s temporary chief occupant? Second, why not ask the members of Congress—meaning the Senate and the House of Representatives—to divert their pork barrel funds to the ARMM? Third, why not ask Malacanang’s temporary chief occupant to give up his unlimited and unaudited funds in favor of our Muslim brothers. The total could run into several billions that would be more than enough to dig an oil well or even more somewhere in the region.

    To educate us on ARMM’s economic profile, certain questions should be asked. Is the population too poor to support an autonomous leadership? What have their leaders done to attract investors to put up businesses in any of the five provinces? These businesses, in turn, could generate employment and serve as the politicians’ source of revenues for the region’s coffers.

    Here is a big poser: Why, for instance, are the big family-owned-and-controlled conglomerates very cautious in investing in ARMM’s provinces? If they already have, then are they investing in Mamasapano? If they don’t have any kind of exposure there, then what’s wrong with the ARMM’s investment policies implemented by Muslim political leaders?

    The Filipinos who watched a few weeks ago the TV news coverage of the mass murder of the 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police in Mamasapano could have noticed the vast, idle piece of land that may have been the battlefield where these policemen died. Didn’t anyone wonder why there was no SM (Shoemart) Department Store around the area so that instead of war, the place would have been teeming with shoppers or other sorts of potential clients.

    Perhaps, it would also be timely to ask why none of the ARMM provinces had any beer brewery owned either by San Miguel Corp. or by Asia Brewery Inc. of the LT Group of Companies controlled by businessman Lucio Tan. Have the Zobels considered Mamasapano as site of any low-cost housing project developed by Ayala Land Inc., the property unit of their holding company, Ayala Corp.?

    It’s time the government presented to us the true economic profile, or poverty situation, of the ARMM and its people for us to be moved to share generously our taxes with our less fortunate Muslim brothers in Mamasapano and the ARMM’s other towns and villages that need immediate government attention.

    Next time the ARMM politicians talk about money, they should also be ready to tell us how they have disbursed their pork barrel funds. If other provinces in the country have partly received even a slight economic push because of the pork barrel, there is no reason why the ARMM, or Bangsamoro provinces, shouldn’t have benefited similarly from such government funds. Of course, as known to many, pork barrel had been renamed Countryside Development Fund in the post-Marcos era, before it became known as the scandal-ridden Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), though it continued to reek of the rotten, acrid smell of corruption all the same.

    esdperez@gmail.com.

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    6 Comments

    1. Hector David on

      Bonifacio ,Rizal andour other heroes are now turning in their graves … The country they fought to establish and died for is now to be cut in parts for a Nobel peace prize (which by the way is an illusion as thought up by people with delusions)……. Instead of addressing the problems of poverty , oppression, and lack of education and opportunity .. Our bright boys want to cut up the country (possibly to allow a U.S. Base in that area).

    2. People there are more interested in guns and its related businesses.Big businesses are not crazy to be in places where guns are everywhere. Those businesses who express support for peace in Mindanao must have second thought by now.

    3. The idea of scrapping the MNLF controlled ARMM and replacing it with the MILF controlled BBL is crazy. We have never even been told what is wrong with the ARMM, if anything. Let’s handle the problems as they should be handled.
      1. Peace. Disarm all armed gangs and armies. Enforce all laws on all islands.
      2. ARMM is not progressing. Have a panel of governors invetigate and report to the congress on findings.
      3. MILF and other gangs. Disband all private armies. No negotiations. These gangs represent a danger to all filipino citizens, no matter where they live.

    4. Juan Mabayan on

      If you read the BBLcarefully, you will be convinced that Ferrer, Deles, Leonen and PNoy are traitors who want to dismember the Philippines. The BBL will not lead to peace but to a greater war.
      Please read this article that shows why the BBL should be rejected:
      ARE THE FILIPINOS BEING SOLD TO MALAYSIA AND MILF?

      All I can say is that it is an act tantamount to secession.

      – The law categorically describes all inhabitants within the BBL controlled land as Bangsamoro. Not Filipino. Bangsamoro. The law also categorically depicts the Bangsamoro Political Entity as a nation-state, with the eminent right to “self-determination”, or the power to determine whether they want to remain part of the republic or not. (Art. 2 section 1 of the BBL Draft) (BBL preamble)

      – The law requires the republic to guarantee the inclusion of one Bangsamoro representative in each of the critical agencies of the government. While representation is indeed something I will root for, the ability of the Bangsamoro state to undermine the power of the government to determine via qualification the right people for the right agency and bypass that by a mere appointment to represent the Bangsamoro state is highly self-motivated.

      – Contrary to what the government peace panel has been saying, the BBL establishes the core component of a state based government, asceding only coordinating powers to the Republic. Sections 3 and 4 of Article V of the BBL delineates the powers of the Central Government (which in their term is the Republic of the Philippines) and the Bangsamoro Government. What is scary is that majority of the provisions in these sections arbitrarily surrenders control of banking, finance, land registration, police powers, and other powers reserved usually to the state (the republic of the philippines) to the Bangsamoro government. In effect, they have fully functioning mini-nation ready for secession.

      – The Bangsamoro Government gets the power to dissolve and create local government units under Article V section 4 of the BBL. Under item 57 of the said section, the Bangsamoro Parliament can abolish, create, merge, or alter bounderies of the local units under their control. Now this is reserved usually to the Congress of the republic, therefore the BBL parliament has quasi-legislative powers that are almost equivalent to Congress.

      – Article VI section 4 requires the Republic to refer to the Intergovernmental Relations Body to intervene when agencies under the republic have issues with corresponding Bangsamoro agency, or if there are differences between policy among Republic and the Bangsamoro State. This emphasizes that while (for the meantime) the Bangsamoro state is part of the country, the Republic could not act to secure national issues involving the Bangsamoro State without adjudiction of the IRB. Hence, the departments and agencies of the republic have virtually no power in BBL controlled lands. It is also questionable why it would take only the intervention of the republic, and only if acknowledged by the chief minister of the Bangsamoro State, can these agencies exercise their roles on Bangsamoro state.

      – Article VII describes the creation of the Bangsamoro Government, with full legislative and executive powers. Section 2 allows the legislative arm to enact LAWS, not ordinances, LAWS to govern the state. Section 3 establishes the powers of the cabinet within the Bangsamoro, and though there is no direct guideline as to the identity of each ministerial position in this cabinet, I would assume that this will mimic a fully functioning cabinet based on the structure of the republic therefore they will have their own minister for defense, justice, public works, local government and interior, etc.

      – Contrary to what the government peace panel is saying, none of the agencies under the Bangsamoro Government are under the Republic. The operative word used in all associations between the Bangsamoro agencies and the agencies under the republic is “in cooperation with” and not “under the”. Hence, each Bangsamoro agency can (and most probably will) determine department policy of existing government agencies as “non-conforming under the Basic Law” and not follow such order. Imagine the chief of the PNP giving a shoot-to-kill order vs a notorious terrorist hiding in Bangsamoro controlled lands, only to have that order deemed as inappropriate by the Bangsamoro Minister of Interior.

      – Article X establishes the Bangsamoro Shari’ ah courts, whose basis for dispensing justice is based on the Shari’ ah law. The wording in this article relates to the jurisdiction of the Shari’ah courts over the entire Bangsamoro state, without any reference to the Justice system of the republic. Simply put, any decision made by the Shari’ah High Court is final and executory without any deference to the Supreme Court of the Philippines. If you get sentenced there, you cannot appeal to the SC. Another item mentioned in this article is the mandatory place of at least one SC justice, and a number of Court of Appeals justices as coming from the Bangsamoro state. It obviously cuts the presidential priviledge of appointment and undermines the power of the Commision on Appointments.

      – Article XI does emphasize that the Bangsamoro Police Force is under the PNP. However, the Chief minister of the Bangsamoro has, categorically,complete control over the assignment, deployment, and operational and disciplinary control over it. So if you have any qualms over a police officer over there, don’t try and run to Camp Crame for resolution. They practically have no power to sanction police under the Bangsamoro.

      – The Bangsamoro has the power to legislate and impose taxes and fees within the Bangsamoro controlled lands, a right that is organically reserved to the republic. Enough said. Article XII sections 6 to 14 of the BBL.

      – Contrary to what the government peace panel is saying, the Bangsamoro Government has complete fiscal autonomy. Pending the creation of its own internal revenue bureau, the BIR will collect taxes in behalf of the Bangsamoro remitting 75% of the collections directly to the Bangsamoro coffers. The remaining 25% is for the republic, however the Bangsamoro is to retain the amount for 10 years. Congress has no control over the fiscal management of these funds, only those that have been appropriated through the National Budget. In short, while the national government is obligated to provide funding to projects within the Bangsamoro state, the BG is not required to remit any of the government shares in income within their areas for the next 10 years! And to top that, the Bangsamoro retains the right to extend that period beyond 10 years!

      In the 18 articles within the BBL I saw no mention of the word Filipino, the Philippines, nor any reference to the Republic. The entire text consolidates power in the south as if they are separate from the country. I could not, with clear conscience, say that this is a peace treaty, but rather an invitation to secession.

      http://www.manilalivewire.com/2015/03/up-law-expert-the-lies-of-the-bangsamoro-basic-law/

    5. To the Author,
      An interesting article indeed. Another example of Reaganism and Thacherism’s monetary miracle solution of trickle down economics. Make their rich cohorts even richer by gifting them public utilities, payed for by ordinary folks taxes, sometimes excruciatingly harsh taxes. Then expecting these greedy money moguls to somehow, happily benevolently share with those working class people the fruits of their ill-gotten riches. Look beyond the peace agreements of the BBL for corrupt deals with the warlords by the super rich families you write about. The Australian government sends over a billion dollars of untraceable aid to the Indonesian Government, how much of these funds finish in the hands of IS. We see these cartels of greed all over the world and the falling out of these thieves results in the misery of war torn localities, impoverishment of populations and displacement of families regardless of religion or beliefs.