Against all odds, President B. S. Aquino 3rd wants to ram through the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which seeks to create an Islamic political entity for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Some lawmakers, outraged by the Jan. 25, 21015 massacre of 44 Special Action Force police commandos by the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, have vowed to block the bill’s passage in its original form. But Aquino will not hear of any opposition. These are some of the things he has done:
First, he called on some members of Cory Aquino’s 1986-87 constitutional commission, especially those related to big business, to endorse the constitutionality of the bill, which its authors prematurely want to call a law, despite its many unconstitutional features. And they were more than eager to do so. Their opinion had no binding value on anybody, but Malacañang seemed to believe that the bill’s opponents could be swayed by what the former constitutional commissioners had to say.
Second, he created a so-called national peace council composed of a few individuals, with no discernible moral or political distance from Malacañang, to perform the same function as the former constitutional commissioners. They were supposed to convene a “summit” where the Bangsamoro bill would undergo an objective and impartial examination; but we never heard of any summit taking place before the “peace councilors” unveiled their report.
The first statements coming from former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. and Cardinal Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila sounded like a blind man’s gushing description of the lusty colors of the sunken sun. Davide said the bill “complimented” the Constitution, while the good cardinal, in a statement read for him by the Jesuit president of Ateneo de Davao University Joel Tabora, said the bill was “overwhelmingly acceptable.”
In a previous piece, I had wondered how the two gentlemen could have arrived at the same conclusion about a bill that seeks to create a purely Islamic territorial entity in a secular nation-state whose Constitution mandates the inviolable separation of Church and State. This is as much a moral as well as a constitutional issue, and in both instances the former Chief Justice and the good Cardinal, I thought, were in serious error. But a friend has since raised an additional question about the good Cardinal’s role. Why did a Jesuit academic from Mindanao have to speak for him, when he could easily have designated an equally capable priest from the Archdiocese of Manila (rather than a religious) to speak for him, if he needed a spokesman to help him discharge a “personal assignment” from the President? Did this have anything to do with the fact that many other Jesuits seem to be fully supportive of the Bangsamoro bill?
This brings us to our third point. Whether or not Aquino has solicited it or is merely the lucky recipient thereof, the Bangsamoro bill seems to have received the support of Ateneo de Davao University through Fr. Tabora, Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro, which has conferred an honorary doctorate on government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and Georgetown University in New York, which has provided the venue for the so-called Hillary Rodham Clinton Award to Ferrer. Malacañang has exploited all this to show that there is some respectable academic opinion in support of the Bangsamoro bill.
Fourth, amid all the doubts that have been expressed about the trustworthiness of the MILF, following the Mamasapano massacre, we are now being told that the MILF has done the government a signal service by terminating with extreme prejudice the terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, who had earlier escaped his captors during the Mamasapano massacre. No physical evidence has been presented on his alleged death. But Malacañang is determined to convince us he is dead, and that we owe the MILF for it. If this was true, then the MILF has just eliminated the fellow who could have proved or disproved that the rebel organization had been coddling terrorists.
And we are supposed to be grateful for it?
I have tried to show you what Aquino has done and is doing to make the passage of the Bangsamoro bill still possible, and acceptable to the public. But no one can guarantee it will work. Unless the bill is drastically cleaned up to conform to the Constitution, and allay all fears that it could become the entry point of the Islamic caliphate, I don’t believe the opposition to it on the ground will change. But since he will not accept defeat, we have to think of other means by which he would want to force its passage.
At this writing, I am not prepared to listen to the stories coming out of Congress on what Malacañang will do to ensure the bill’s passage. But one story persists, and I wish I did not have to listen to it. It says Malacanang is prepared to do what it has done twice before, and that the operation has allegedly already started. Twice in the history of this country, Malacañang bribed the members of Congress to get what it wanted. First, it paid off the honorable members to pass a foreign-dictated Reproductive Health bill, and then it paid off the same honorable class to impeach and remove a sitting Chief Justice.
I am assured by my sources that it is about to happen again, and that we won’t be able to do anything about it. I have the courage to believe that if it does happen again, we will move as one people to do something about it.