Last of four parts
Myth No. 4: The Philippines is a more secure place under President Aquino.
Two accords signed about a year ago are supposed to make the Philippines a more secure, peaceful place: the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) concluded last March with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States, inked during the April visit of President Barack Obama.
With the Mamasapano Massacre of 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force troopers, the nation now sees the security risks in CAB provisions, especially the enhanced self-rule for the envisioned Bangsamoro region which the MILF is expected to dominate.
Palace pressure for Congress to pass the law before July not only puts schedule over security, but also diminishes the sacrifice of the Fallen 44. Their deaths finally woke up legislators to their sworn duty of thoroughly reviewing bills before passing them. Aquino’s new deadline is insensitive, imprudent, and idiotic.
Repair the Bangsamoro pact and law
Mamasapano’s carnage shows that the MILF still harbors elements with no respect for law and law enforcers, and gives succor to extremists, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Malaysian and Filipino terrorist bombers targeted by the SAF. Moreover, as fellow columnist Rigoberto Tiglao pointed out on Monday, the Front has yet to renounce its avowed goal of secession from the Republic.
Indeed, when asked in a forum last November why the CAB had no provisions explicitly acknowledging the Constitution and Bangsamoro’s inclusion in Philippine territory, as past peace pacts did, chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the MILF was sensitive to such statements, because it considered unjust the conquest and incorporation of Muslim areas into the Philippines.
Which raises a bigger worry about the MILF Agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL): Having put soothing rebel feelings above affirming national sovereignty, did the government peace panel accept other provisions harmful to national security and interests? Such doubts grew even more with Ferrer and Deles’s staunch defense of the MILF in Senate hearings on the PNP-SAF debacle.
President Aquino’s own insistence on enacting the BBL in a few months also raises grave concern that he is compromising the Republic just to be able to trumpet a deal and, as critics have charged, get in line for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Hence, Congress and the Supreme Court must go through with a fine-toothed comb the BBL, the CAB, and the latter’s annexes, addendum and Framework Agreement. Then they must repair or void those provisions likely to erode the territorial integrity, national unity, sovereign authority, peace and security. That includes mandating the President to renegotiate portions which cannot be unilaterally changed by legislation.
Of greatest urgency for revision are provisions that may allow entities with terrorist links or separatist goals to take power in Bangsamoro. Hence, Congress should insert provisions that explicitly condemn terrorism and secession. Moreover, the BBL should ban from public office individuals and groups that harbor, support, or fail to condemn and take action against terrorists or separatists.
And as repeatedly argued in this column, most recently in the February 19 article, “Revising the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Congress or the Supreme Court should void the Framework Agreement provision which would eventually remove law enforcement functions from Philippine military forces in the Bangsamoro.
Besides being patently unconstitutional, this provision, which the Commander-in-Chief can implement even without a law, could lead to belligerency status for a breakaway Bangsamoro, which might then get recognition and aid from other countries [as a de facto independent state].
A dumb and dangerous deal
Even more problematic for national security than the Bangsamoro pact and law is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with America (see “Why EDCA is a dumb and dangerous treaty,” published December 2 and 4).
Under its Pivot To Asia, the US aims to position 60 percent of its naval assets in the region, and EDCA would enable many of those ships, subs, planes, helicopters, and other vessels and aircraft to sail or fly within Philippine territory at any time. The accord, which Malacañang insists is not a treaty requiring Senate ratification, would also grant the US access to and use of Philippine military bases.
By allowing the Seventh Fleet to deploy in the country, EDCA turns the Philippines into a strategic threat to China. US warships and bombers in the archipelago can hit with cruise missiles not just the Chinese mainland, but also vital South China Sea maritime routes, through which four-fifths of China’s oil imports pass.
To counter these threats emanating from Philippine territory, the People’s Liberation Army would not only target areas of the country where American forces may go — pretty much everywhere. The PLA is also building up military facilities near the country, including island reclamation repeatedly protested by the Aquino administration.
Thus, EDCA gives the Chinese even more reason to do the very thing the Philippines is opposing: building up PLA forces near the country.
But the Seventh Fleet will counter China’s bullying on the high seas, right?
Nope. Asked twice how the US would respond if the Sino-Philippine territorial frictions turned violent, visiting President Obama was evasive. This has always been Washington’s policy, having NEVER intervened in Philippine maritime incidents — the opposite of its unequivocal pledge and past actions to defend Tokyo’s control over the Senkaku islands also claimed by Beijing.
In sum, Aquino’s EDCA has put the entire Philippines in Chinese missile sights while providing zero assurance of US support in territorial disputes with China.
Rather than this dubious deal, the Philippines should build up its defenses, especially anti-ship missiles urged by security and naval expert Roilo Golez and which Vietnam plans to buy from India. That may not get kudos from the American government and media, but it will make our nation far more secure.
Plainly, to safeguard the Philippines, we need a leader who puts national interest above PR. That’s not Aquino.
(The previous parts were published on Feb. 24 and 26, and March 3)