The game changer as revealed above [in Part 2 of this series of columns about the Bangsamoro that had Part 1 on Oct. 18 and Part 2 on Oct. 25]was the turnaround of Misuari and his MNLF and their turning their back on their erstwhile benefactor. This occurred when Marcos by dangling a lucrative oil deal was able to persuade Gaddafi to cut off his supply of arms to the secessionists through Malaysia. Forced to be good Misuari then cut a deal with the Philippine government in 1976 under what is known as the Tripoli Agreement. Foiled, Malaysia then co-opted, conscripted, the MILF (a breakaway group from Misuari’s MNLF) by supplying it with arms and logistics to continue the secessionist campaign in MIndanao.
The Tripoli Agreement, however, which was brokered by the Organization of the Islamic Conference made up of some 70 Muslim states, gained traction and under the Ramos administration, which signed the 1996 Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the MNLF and led to the constitutionally sanctioned creation of the ARMM and laws of the Republic governing the nature, functions, powers etc. of this autonomous region for the Filipino Muslims. The ARMM despite the excesses of its original head Nur Misuari continued to thrive and even went through a few democratic electoral exercises. The question now is: Why suddenly did President Aquino describe this viable, legal and constitutional creation as a failed experiment? The answer lies in two factors – the restiveness of the Sabah state which felt shortchanged by the federal government of Malaysia and the clumsy attempts of the Sultanate of Sulu to reclaim lost territories by conducting guerrilla raids on the porous Sabah border, a stone’s throw away from the Sulu archipelago. Given the strong Filipino Tausug population in Sabah with divided loyalties, Malaysia needed to undermine the status quo in ARMM and substitute pro-Malaysian governance in Central Mindanao.
The result was the current Bangsamoro proposal sponsored jointly by the MILF and its principal benefactor Malaysia. This explains why the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the MILF and the Philippine government was mostly forged in Kuala Lumpur under the very eyes of Najib’s government whose chief of state made it a point to insure the signing of the agreement by his towering presence in the Malacañang grounds during the signing ceremonies.
The signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, conceived in Kuala Lumpur and hatched in Manila, is a signal victory for the MILF and its Malaysian patron.
What is in it for the MILF? A gift from the Philippine government of a vast expanse of fertile land sprawled over Central Mindanao including its airspace and territorial waters plus some 58 exclusive powers granted by the central government, the exercise of which is beyond the review of Congress. Bangsamoro (read MILF) will also have almost absolute executive power of general supervision over its territory, even over constitutional agencies.
More importantly, Bangsamoro will have its own security force which will be beyond the ambit of the National Police Commission and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
This is truly a dream come true for the MILF which began as a band of guerrilla fighters to become potentially the most powerful political player —bigger and stronger than any of our political parties, which historically has never absolutely controlled such a vast constituency.
Indeed, those of us who have fought so hard and for so long for the implementation of the principle of subsidiarity, decentralization, devolution of power and authentic regional autonomy, promised by the Constitution, can only salivate at the sidelines as we witness the gains of the MILF in such a short time.
A PHL sub-state or a Malaysian vassal state?
The next question is: What is in it for Malaysia? The answer is the realization of its enlightened self-interest. It is obvious that the concern of Malaysia over of its porous territory bordering the Sulu archipelago will be better secured by its godchild the Bangsamoro which will control the land sea and air in the region. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for Malaysia, the annexation of the Sulu archipelago where the claimants to Sabah reside, will place in the backburner the Sabah issue.
To be continued