STATEMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

On the “Plan B Proposal of the TPMT about the Bangsamoro”

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SOME members of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) were quoted in the
Philippine Star urging the Philippine government for a Plan B should Congress fail to pass the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). While the concern of some members of TPMT for peace in Mindanao is commendable – their apparent disregard for the sensibilities of the distinguished opposition to this executive initiative is condemnable.

It will be recalled that the opposition of many sectors of Philippine society to the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro and Bangsamoro Basic Law are from the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations (PCFR), the Retired Ambassadors Association, the Association of Flag Officers, the Philippine Constitutional Association, members of the media and the business sector. Their opposition was duly registered during the hearings in Congress.

We believe the reasons which prompted our legislators to take a second look at the executive initiative with its dire implications for this nation and the subsequent proposal for a substitute bill was prompted by reasons explained by an editorial in the Manila Times.  As an aside, the apparent failure on the part of the spokesperson of the TPMT to omit mentioning the massacre of SAF personnel who were only doing their lawful duties of pursuing international terrorists, smacks of callous disregard for the sanctity of human life. Coming as they do from countries that champion human rights and who consider justice delayed as justice denied – we find it difficult to understand how these spokesmen could be indifferent to loss of life. Perhaps this attitude can be traced to the cavalier dismissal of said encounter by the peace panelists as merely a “misencounter.”

The insistence of the TPMT spokesperson for the swift passage of the CAB and the BBL giving little value to compelling and well thought out amendments in the substitute bill of the Marcos Committee of the Senate, can only show a lack of confidence in the capacity of our legislators in doing the right thing for the promotion of peace in Mindanao, a concern which is not a monopoly of our peace panelists who incidentally have not been chosen or elected by the Filipino people.


Acceptable perhaps in the days of the Commonwealth, the unsolicited advice of the representatives of the TPMT is no longer welcome with Philippine independence. If they think otherwise perhaps they can find a country where they can dictate on the representatives of the people.

We assure the members of the TPMT that peace in Mindanao will be achieved sooner than later not through the divisive and exclusive paths proposed by the BBL, but the result of solidarity among the people of Mindanao – Lumads, Christians and their Muslim brothers who believe in one nation under one God.

As a joker commented, perhaps the Mamasapano encounter is a case of third party liability!

(End of PCFR statement. Below is the Manila Times Editorial of January 6, 2016.)

Government peace negotiator still lobbying for the MILF

ONE of the unamusing pieces of news New Year 2016 greeted us with was the mildly-insulting statement from “government” peace panel chief Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, exhorting Congress to pass the enabling bill for the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the few post-holiday weeks remaining in the legislative session, which will resume on January 19 and end on February 16.

Ferrer at least seems to have given up the illusion that the original version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law she, the MILF and Malaysian experts crafted, which amounted to a surrender of a large portion of Mindanao, is even being considered. But it is infuriating to see someone who is on the payroll of the Republic of the Philippines continuing to expend a great deal of effort lobbying on behalf of the MILF elite who stand to benefit the most from the unconstitutional and treasonous deal with the government. After complaining that the consideration of the bill – which, in its improved form is known as the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region – has been “prolonged and tediously delayed” in Congress, Ferrer went on to praise “the wisdom and maturity of the MILF leaders for staying on the peace track despite the disappointments and challenges,” apparently believing that the slaughter of 44 SAF troopers last January and more-or-less constant low-level violence that has displaced thousands and killed or wounded dozens of fighters on both sides since then in areas supposedly under MILF control is “the peace track.”

We think there are two key points Madam Ferrer, her MILF counterparts, and the lawmakers being pressured to pass the Bangsamoro law should consider quite carefully.

The first is a wise observation made by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. just days after the Mamasapano massacre: The law, when or if it is passed, must only be a result of peace, not a tool to create peace – if there is no peace, there cannot yet be a law. Quite obviously, peace reigns not in the areas that would be covered under the BLBAR, not the least of reasons for which are the continued avoidance of the MILF of any responsibility for the part some of its members played in the Mamasapano tragedy and the MILF’s refusal to help the government to bring any of its perpetrators to justice.

The second is the new reality of the world revealed to us over the past year with the rapid, frightening spread of jihadist violence all over the globe. One of the things we have learned is that isolation and marginalization of Muslim communities is a key cause of radicalization, and that inclusiveness and integration with the larger community helps to prevent it. With that in mind, we might well question whether creating a substate for a militant Islamic organization is actually a good idea.

We must not ignore the fact that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters–a group of Muslim jihadists who have supposedly broken away from the MILF – has pledged support for the Daesh/ISIS in Syria, which has set up the Islamic Caliphate and has been killing Christians and Muslims not belonging to their Islamic denomination and sending suicide bombers and other terrorists all over the world. Some careful observers and students of the Mindanao situation suspect that the BIFF and other jidadist and Islamic extremist groups of Moros are not quite as negatively disposed toward the MILF–and vice-versa. So giving the MILF the unswerving loyalty and admiration that Madam Coronel-Ferrer showers on the rebel organization causes concern.

Indeed, there must be fair and inclusive peace in Mindanao, but we believe that rushing the job will not help to achieve it. It is better to wait until a new Congress – one that is not distracted by looming elections, dozens of other measures that must be completed in a few short weeks, and not under the yoke of an Administration whose loyalties and motives are questionable – can take up the matter in a calm, thoughtful way.

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