February 24, 2014

FQS: The uprising that created and nurtured people power

This time of the year since 1987, the Philippine mass media invariably lends an inordinate amount of print space and air time to political personalities, pundits and chroniclers of modern history, even ordinary eyewitnesses, who wax nostalgic about the events surrounding the “people power” or unarmed uprising in Metro Manila that toppled the fascist dictator Marcos. 

Unfortunately, the narrative about EDSA I as a political phenomenon is dominated by the notion that it was simply a fortuitous happenstance if not a miracle that millions of people poured out into the streets in response to Cardinal Sin's call to stop Marcos loyalist tanks and troops from attacking the coup plotters holed up in Camp Aguinaldo.

Credit for igniting the chain of events is given to then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and erstwhile Marcos co-conspirator and martial law enforcer, PC Chief and AFP Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos and Enrile’s aide-de-camp Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan for plotting the military coup against Marcos.  Although they were discovered and ordered arrested before they could make their move, they eventually drew more of the military and police top brass to defect to the rebels’ side as the mass of people swelled to hundreds of thousands to more than a million in front of the two military camps Aguinaldo and Crame.

Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the widow of the assassinated Opposition leader Ninoy Aquino, is credited for rallying the people against the dictator Marcos after her husband was assassinated, of utilizing the snap presidential elections to offer herself as an alternative to Marcos, and of galvanizing massive protests leading up to acts of civil disobedience to reject Marcos’ claim of having won the elections.

So it seems, with such a cast of characters complete – Cardinal Sin, Enrile, Ramos and Cory – we have all that it takes to bring down a dictator.  And oh yes, the people demonstrating in the streets, we mustn’t forget them, they constituted “people power”.

Buried under the tons of materials describing EDSA 1 as nothing short of a miracle is the significance of another momentous "uprising" against the oppressive Marcos regime and the exploitative ruling system that created and nurtured “people power” -- the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970. 

The FQS was the series of protest mass actions, which began on January 25, 1970 and continued up to March of 1970. It has been vividly recorded in veteran journalist Pete Lacaba’s account “Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage”, a must-read book for those who would relive those turbulent, invigorating days as well as a series of articles in Ang Bayan, the official organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines, that diligently chronicled each event and described its historical significance in real time.

While the FQS is generally believed to be an upsurge in in the youth and student movement and was in fact participated in by a broad array of youth and student organizations, its impact derives from its breaking out of the narrow confines of school issues and concerns, linking these to the issues and demands of the broader majority of Filipinos, especially the toiling peasants and workers and spearheading a series of massive and militant protest actions against the three pillars of the ruling system: imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

The FQS witnessed the rise of the militant youth and students in the urban center of Manila and outlying cities and towns, all the way to Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon, against the Marcos regime, as the concentrated expression, or shall we say, incarnation, of these three basic problems or “isms” of Philippine society.  The first two-term president was denounced as “Marcos, Hitler, Diktador, Tuta!” in countless mass actions that were replicated in provincial capitols and cities nationwide.

The armies of the youth were comprised primarily of students and out-of-school youth but there were also workers, peasants and even professionals.  Their numbers grew in leaps and bounds from tens of thousands to more than a hundred thousand as week after week, the violent and often brutal response of the state to their protest actions only further fueled unrest and fired up resistance.

Thus the defiant slogans, “Makibaka, huwag matakot! Digmang bayan, sagot sa martial law”, reverberated in the streets, schools, workplaces and communities as the youth conducted their “DGs” or discussion groups, “pulong bayan” or community mass meetings and capped these with rallies and demonstrations all over the city with favored converging points  – Malacanang, the US embassy, Congress and Plaza Miranda.

But it was not all marching in the streets and battling it out with baton-wielding and trigger-happy anti-riot police augmented by the equally fascist AFP. Both during the FQS and in the succeeding two and a half years before Marcos declared martial law, the activists of the national democratic or “ND” movement who were the most organized of the FQS militants went to the basic masses of workers and peasants in factories, urban poor communities and barrios to “integrate with the people”.  This meant they would live among the “poor, deprive and oppressed” (as progressive church people phrased it); to learn from and be one with them in their struggles for decent wages, against trade union repression, demolitions of their shanty towns, for their right to own the lands they tilled and to defend themselves against harassments, displacement through land grabbing, and outright killings of their leaders and members. 

The FQS was the harbinger of the rapid radicalization of the youth and students of that generation even those from among the more conservative private sectarian schools.  The label “radical” was carried with pride by the “ND” activists as they explained that in contrast to the "moderates" who advocated mere cosmetic or superficial reforms in the social and political system, they were working for fundamental, far-reaching and thoroughgoing changes.  The reactionaries for their part tried to parry this claim with their vulgarized and denigrated meaning: “radical” meant “extremist” and “unreasonable”.  In the same breath the reactionaries praised the “moderates” who also railed against the endemic poverty, the social inequity and injustice, and the monopoly by a few of the resources, wealth and power of the country but placed their hopes in a “constitutional convention” that would reform society and had blinders as to the interference of Western big powers and conjoint economic interests in the economic, political and cultural affairs of the nation.

Many in that generation went on to embrace revolutionary philosophies, committed themselves to revolutionary aspirations and political programs and even joined revolutionary organizations such as the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), the Malayang Kilusang ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka) and the Katipunan ng mga Gurong Makabayan (Kaguma) that were then still legal and aboveground. 

The imposition of martial law sent the activists born of the FQS whirlwind into the urban underground or else to the countryside to arouse, organize and mobilize the people to fight the US-backed Marcos fascist dictatorship.  The option to join the people’s war -- to fight counterrevolutionary violence of the ruling elite with the revolutionary violence of the people -- became a pressing reality for many.  Thus a close look at the names of the martial law martyrs engraved in the Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani will reveal that many if not most were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the scores of “NGUGMOs” or national democratic underground mass organizations that grew like wild flowers under the searing heat of the martial law repressive years.

The First Quarter Storm of 1970 was the key to the accelerated growth of legal mass organizations and such revolutionary forces as the CPP, NPA and the main components of what would become the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).   And these revolutionary organizations carried the torch of armed and unarmed resistance against the US-Marcos dictatorship from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986. 

It was their persistence, courage and heavy sacrifices that sapped the strength of the US-trained and equipped AFP which then included the notorious Philippine Constabulary (PC) in the dictatorship’s counterinsurgency campaigns nationwide.  Their cadres and activists undertook painstaking and relentless organizing among the middle forces of church people, professionals, artists, businessmen, media practitioners and the like.  They broke new ground by organizing the many indigenous people’s groups including the Igorot (Cordillera people) through the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) and the Moro Revolutionary Organization  (Moro). They founded a strong and militant human rights movement of victims and advocates. And they also reached out to the anti-Marcos opposition, from the nationalists like Lorenzo M. Tanada and Jose W. Diokno, the liberals like Joker Arroyo, Rene Saguisag and Jovito Salonga and the conservative politicians like Soc Rodrigo, Eva Estrada Kalaw, Gerry Roxas and Salvador “Doy” Laurel not to mention the “non-politician” Cory Aquino.  They were even able to penetrate the AFP to draw into their fold such patriotic officers as Lieutenants Crispin Tagamolia, Victor Corpuz and many others.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the seeds of the national democratic revolution were thus cast and sown throughout the islands when thousands of FQS activists fanned out to fearlessly confront the fascist dictatorship through various forms of resistance and struggle including a protracted people's war.

The correctness of the national democratic analysis and program was proven over the next two decades. Despite all the might and resources thrown against it by the US-Marcos dictatorship, the revolutionary movement not only survived but grew deep roots among the people and increased in number, scope and strength.

Thus any narrative of the famed 1986 People Power Revolution -- EDSA 1 – could only be accurate and complete by taking into proper account the arduous years of resistance and revolutionary struggle that followed the First Quarter Storm of 1970.  #

Published in Rappler
25 February 2014

February 20, 2014

Victims twice over

Human rights victims of the US-backed Marcos dictatorship, have every reason to feel aggrieved and insulted by President Benigno S. Aquino’s appointment of a police general to head the martial law Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB).  Mr. BS Aquino’s choice of someone in the top leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP), a vital part of the state security apparatus that to this day retains the notoriety of being the number one human rights violator in the country alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), is a travesty of the purest sacrifices of that generation of Filipinos who resisted mailed-fist repression, puppetry and kleptocracy.

President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos instituted a palace coup d’état and imposed a martial law regime that served to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials, the ruling elite and foreign multinational corporations at the expense of the people.  He did so under the pretext of “saving the Republic” and “building a New Society”. 

The precursor of the PNP was the dreaded Philippine Constabulary that saw action in cracking the skulls and snuffing the life out of demonstrators during the massive anti-government demonstrations sparked by the 70s’ First Quarter Storm even as Marcos was already plotting to declare martial law and decimate all forms of democratic opposition to his rule.

It was through the PC and AFP plus paramilitary cum vigilante groups armed by the state that the fascist dictatorship perpetrated gross human rights violations (HRVs) against the people and even war crimes in the course of its “total war” against the communist-led armed struggle in the countryside and the Moro struggle for independence and self-determination in Muslim Mindanao.

Twenty seven years after the fall of the hated dictator, due primarily to the untiring efforts of the martial law victims themselves, the landmark Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Act of 2013 or RA 10368 was finally passed into law.  But to their utter disappointment and outrage, not only did Mr. BS Aquino take an agonizingly long full year to constitute the Claims Board that would evaluate and process the claims of human rights victims, he placed at its helm Gen. Lina Castillo-Sarmiento, the former head of the PNP Directorate for Community Relations that also oversees the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO).

Gen. Sarmiento as head of PNP HRAO and as a member of President Gloria Arroyo’s Task Force Usig has a dismal record not only of inaction on human rights violations committed by PNP elements under the Arroyo regime but of collaborating in the systematic whitewash and cover-up of these violations and those committed by other state security forces.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, in a privilege speech last 17 February accused Gen. Sarmiento of being part of the “denial machine” that “attempted to deodorize the stench of the internationally condemned cases of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances under the Arroyo administration”.

He brought up the case of 32-year-old farmer, Renante Romagus, from Compostela Valley Province in Mindanao, who survived forcible abduction, torture while held in captivity, and being repeatedly stabbed and left for dead by suspected members of the AFP last December 12, 2007.  Citing the finding of the Hong Kong-based  Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC),  he said Director Sarmiento dismissed calls for investigations of the Romagus case “as she lamely but callously blamed instead the victim’s inability to identify the perpetrators”. 

Rather than seriously investigate the HRV complaints and atrocities pointing to military, police and paramilitary as perpetrators, Task Force Usig came out with the ridiculous conclusion, contrary to all evidence on hand, that all the victims, mostly unarmed leaders and activists of progressive organizations critical of the government and seeking fundamental socio-economic and political reforms, were killed, abducted or tortured by their fellow activists or the New People’s Army. 

Determining the real culprits and holding them accountable was the last thing Task Force Usig wanted to do and Gen Lina Sarmiento willfully played her role in the macabre and farcical zarzuela.  

How, under these circumstances, can the martial law human rights victims, or any sane person for that matter, expect Gen. Sarmiento to lead the Claims Board tasked with determining who the victims are and what injustice has been committed against them?  Absence of partiality towards the perpetrators and bias against the victims is the minimum requirement for such a task.  One need not even raise the issues of integrity and sense of justice to see that Gen Sarmiento could not possibly qualify.

Clearly, the main function and mission of the PNP HRAO which Sarmiento strove to accomplish was to deodorize the PNP of its odious record as the country’s number one human rights violator and conjure the illusion of a reformed PNP.

Moreover, former Presidential Spokesperson during the Corazon Aquino administration and prominent human rights lawyer Atty. Rene Saguisag went so far as to call BS Aquino’s appointment of Gen. Sarmiento as “illegal” based on Sec. 8 (b) of RA 10368; that is, to qualify to be named to the Claims Board, one "[m]ust have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge and INVOLVEMENT IN EFFORTS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS COMMITTED DURING THE REGIME OF FORMER PRESIDENT FERDINAND E. MARCOS." (Underscoring provided.)  Atty. Saguisag demanded that Malacanang disclose the new Chair's such “involvement”. 

But all that Presidential Spokesperson Lacierda could say was to initially deny that Gen. Sarmiento was part of the "dreaded" Philippine Constabulary during martial law.  When it was pointed out that she had been working in the PC crime lab since 1980, Mr. Lacierda modified his statement by saying the general was not yet in the leadership of the PC at the time.  Rather lamely, he tried to assure the public thus, “Lina Sarmiento is viewed as a security sector reformist. Let’s give her a chance."

Human Rights Commission Etta Rosales for her part was reported to have described Sarmiento as "action-oriented" as if the job of the Claims Board is akin to that of a complaints desk in a police precinct!

Then there are the pseudo-feminists who attempt to use the “gender card” by extolling Gen. Sarmiento’s feat of becoming the only two-star female PNP general and thereby being more than qualified to the Claims Board post (sic). 

Aside from being non-sequitur, this same non-argument was clearly proven false with the first woman Philippine president, Corazon Aquino, who not only failed to prosecute HRVs but rather perpetuated these especially in the countryside. Furthermore, she even retained a number of Marcos-era repressive decrees that bedevil us to this day.

And what about Ms. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the second woman president, who has one of bloodiest human rights records since Marcos. She carried out a policy of escalating the commission by the military and police of gross HRVs – extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, etc. -- in the cities and with complete impunity.

Thus the Marcos human rights victims are being victimized once again, ironically with the pretense  that their rights are being upheld and that their role in deposing the dictatorship is being acknowledged and vindicated.  While this is quite deplorable and unconscionable, it is also not so surprising, even if at the hands of the son and namesake of the most famous Marcos human rights victim himself, Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino. #

Published in Business World
21-22 February 2014

February 13, 2014

Killer drones

If United States (US) President Obama and his Wall Street patrons would have their way, US troops, warships and aircraft will soon be pre-stationed (read: permanently based) in Philippine territory from where they will be routinely launched, as in the Cold War era, on missions of death and destruction to anywhere in the Asia Pacific region and even beyond. 

Despite the fact that US military bases were kicked out of the country barely 23 years ago, the US will likely succeed in reestablishing its presence in the Philippines under the continued pretext of defending democracy and preserving global peace and security, this time acting as global policeman in light of heightened territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China, the Philippines and other claimants.

The US and Philippine governments are currently “negotiating” an agreement for increased US presence on Philippine territory and access to Philippine facilities to augment the earlier Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement (MLSA).  This agreement will clearly facilitate the US “pivot” of more than half of its military, especially naval, forces to the Asia Pacific region. 

Significantly, part of the pivot plan is the Philippine basing of US drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including those loaded with lethal weapons, for use in drone warfare.

Most Filipinos, even the well-informed, know little about this relatively new kind of warfare involving high tech weaponry utilized by the US (and to a lesser degree, by the United Kingdom and Israel)  for combat and non-combat intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and, increasingly, for assassination missions.  The latter are euphemistically termed “targeted killings”; individual personalities may be in the drone’s crosshairs but there is the more shotgun type called “signature killings” wherein groups of people are fired upon in the expectation that the targeted “enemy” will be one of those eliminated.

Western corporate media, in tune with the official line of the governments that are conducting drone warfare, has glamourized drones as the epitome of high technology as applied to warfare -- highly effective, highly precise, and considerably risk-free for military personnel using them.

But with every “successful” strike that downs a supposed high-value quarry, usually someone described as a “militant” or “terrorist” linked with the deadly Al Qaeda, there is often the bothersome report, never officially confirmed, of civilian casualties including women and children.  (Note that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as “militants” unless proven otherwise.)

Drones or UAVs are aircraft without any pilots on board.  They are “piloted” from the ground or may follow pre-programmed instructions for specific missions.  Drones may be armed or unarmed. They were used extensively by the US in the Vietnam War and Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War; after the September 11 Twin Towers attack and with advances in miniaturization and computer software, drone warfare has been growing at unprecedented and alarming rates.

The US has two UAV programs: that of the military and that of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The former is publicly acknowledged and operates where US troops are stationed, e.g. Afghanistan and Iraq. On the other hand, the CIA’s program is covert and missions under it often occur where there are officially no US troops such as in Pakistan and Somalia.

The US defends the use of drone strikes as “necessary, legal and just” in the so-called war against terrorism.

But for the first time in October last year the UN General Assembly debated precisely the legality, under international human rights and humanitarian law norms, of the use of the lethal UAV system.  Pakistan called for an end to the strikes inside its territory as a blatant violation of its sovereignty and as constituting signal fire for terrorist counter-attacks.  Venezuela called drones "flagrantly illegal" and by its reckoning, had claimed 1,800 casualties with only about 10% of whom were "targeted individuals".  Venezuela's representative condemned these strikes as “collective punishment".  China for its part called for “respect for the principles of UN charters, the sovereignty of states and the legitimate rights of the citizens of all countries” in the face of “abuse” of a grey area in international law.

According to David Swanson in “A new kind of war is being legalized”, the UN reports by Christof Heyns, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Ben Emmerson, the special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, established important points.  These are: “U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians; drones make war the norm rather than an exception; signature strikes are illegal; double-tap strikes (targeting rescuers of a first strike’s victims) are illegal; killing rather than capturing is illegal; imminence (as a term to define a supposed threat) can’t legally be redefined to mean eventual or just barely imaginable; and — most powerfully — threatened by drones is the fundamental right to life.”

Both UN reports underscored that the official policy of secrecy that has characterized drone warfare has led to the lack of accountability for the rising number of civilian deaths, injuries and substantial damage to property as well as the cloud of insecurity and fear in many areas in Pakistan that are continuously subjected to such attacks. With a lack of accountability, there arises a climate of impunity that makes drone warfare insulated from checks by civilian institutions and the public at large.

Families of victims of weaponized UAVs in Pakistan and Afghanistan have banded together and have sought the help of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to bring the US to account for what they describe as "war crimes".  Thus the veil of official silence over the “collateral damage” caused by these lethal UAV strikes is slowly being torn down.

A movement to Ban Weaponized Drones from the World has been started last year with a growing number of organizations signing on to an international petition amid calls for protest actions to bring the issue to the attention of activists and ordinary people worldwide.  The petition rejects attempts to distinguish and justify certain kinds of drone attacks as legitimate especially when justified in the context of a US-concocted “war on terror”. 

Amnesty International points to the US government’s flawed “global war" legal theory that “treats the entire world as a battlefield between the USA and armed groups, on which lethal force may apparently be used without regard to human rights standards” and its “invocation of the right to use force in self-defense to justify the deliberate killing of virtually anyone suspected of involvement of any kind in relation to a range of armed groups and/or terrorism against the USA”.   

The peoples of the world -- including the Filipino people -- who simply abhor state terrorism and systematic murder on a mass scale must take up the specific fight against drone warfare in line with the cause of eliminating all weapons of mass destruction and bringing about a safer, saner and more just world for future generations. #

Published in Business World
14-15 February 2014

February 06, 2014

Déjà vu?

The announced completion of the negotiations for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the signing by the Government  of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the following – the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro  or FAB (October 2012), Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities (February 2013), Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing (July 2013), Annex on Power Sharing (December 2013), Annex on Normalization (January 2014) and side agreements on Bangsamoro waters and the Terms of Reference for the Independent Commission on Policing -- is a remarkable achievement  considering the on-and-off peace negotiations that have been dragging on for the past 16 years.

It is even more noteworthy considering that the armed struggle for self-determination led by revolutionary organizations of the Bangsamoro -- first the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) established in 1970 and then the MILF founded in 1984 -- against what is termed even by non-Muslim Mindanaoans as “Imperial Manila” or the Manila government has been ongoing since the early 70s after the 1968 Jabidah Massacre.

According to the MILF the root cause of the Mindanao conflict is the continued denial of the historic and legitimate right of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination.  Unfortunately, the CAB (FAB plus Annexes) is fraught with pitfalls, some of them potentially fatal for the MILF, whose leaders and forces have been fighting for this fundamental right, first as part of the MNLF, then as the break-away MILF.

The same major criticism that then MNLF leader and eventually MILF Chairman Hashim Salamat had for the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine government and the MNLF may hold true today.  The CAB, in particular, the Annex on Transition, categorically subsumes the peace agreement to the GRP Constitution and legal processes.

The MILF broke away from the MILF in protest of the Misuari leadership's agreeing to be a dependency of the Manila government, and for most of the GPH-MILF negotiations, persistently argued for what they termed a "substate", superior to a regional autonomous region or the ARMM.  The latter was subject to the Central Government's legal processes, arbitrary and unilateral decisions as well as to the vagaries of changes in administration, not to mention being prey to the impositions of the economic, political and socio-cultural forces controlling such a government.

The MILF has, as GPH negotiator and now SC Justice Leonen pointed out, "changed their position" and is banking heavily on the sincerity, trustworthiness  and ability  of  President Aquino to uphold the government’s end of the bargain. They have been promised that the ruling Aquino regime will use its leverage on Congress (that will enact the Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL) as well as on the Supreme Court (where petitions challenging the constitutionality of the CAB and then the BBL are bound to be filed by oppositors).

Will the MILF countenance the watering down or excision of provisions in the CAB as it goes through the legislative mill? Or is it hoping that Mr. Aquino’s still formidable clout over Congress (fed by more than one trillion in presidential pork) can ensure that the BBL will get wholesale Congressional stamp of approval?

The Aquino government asserts that the CAB does not require Constitutional amendment even as the MILF insists that it does and has tried to keep a window open for this; i.e. the Transition Commission can recommend the necessary changes in the Charter for the purpose of harmonizing its provisions on regional autonomy with the CAB.

Nonetheless, oppositors can invoke the 2008 SC ruling that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) is unconstitutional and therefore key sections of the CAB that derives from the MOA-AD, if not its entirety, should also be struck down as unconstitutional. In this regard, Aquino’s appointment of to the Supreme Court of the former head of the GPH negotiating panel was a shrewd political move to embed a champion of the CAB and future BBL in the High Court.

But as a matter of fact, the assertion of the Bangsamoro ancestral domain in the CAB is virtually or practically obliterated.  It is replaced by the agreed-upon Bangsamoro territory (basically an expanded ARMM with a provision for possible inclusion of contiguous areas upon petition of 10% of residents and approval by majority of qualified voters) and the wealth sharing annex that only talks about a bigger share of the revenue from taxes and the exploitation of natural resources in to be allotted to the future Bangsamoro autonomous government.

The MILF had, in the MOA-AD, defined the ancestral domain as:  “… those held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through their ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial continuously to the present, except when prevented by war, civil disturbances, force majeure, or other forms of possible usurpations or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, as a consequence of the government project or any other voluntary dealing entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions.”

Furthermore, the MILF had asserted: “In the context of the present negotiation, Ancestral Domain pertains to the recovery and re-establishment of the National Homeland of the Bangsamoro People.” While the FAB provides for the recognition of a “Bangsamoro identity” this could merely be interpreted as a cultural identity but not identity as a historic people or nation akin to the recognition by Canada of the indigenous peoples of the Americas as the “First Nations”.

The Bangsamoro Transition Authority that the BBL will create (to be led by the MILF) has at most two years left of the transition period before it will have to contend with entrenched political dynasties of reactionary Moro elites in the 2016 elections.  It is dependent on the block fund that the Aquino regime will provide as its kitty to undertake the needed socio-economic and political reform.  The BTA will also be dependent on what foreign governments will provide even as it becomes beholden to these governments with their not-so-hidden agendas like the access and basing rights for US armed forces in the Bangsamoro areas.

The MILF would also have to depend on the Aquino regime to clear the way for its leaders to take over the reins of government in 2016 as the new Bangsamoro government.  And to ensure continued support for the BTA and the implementation of the rest of the CAB, the MILF would have to campaign hard for Mr. Aquino’s presidential candidate in 2016, hoping that the new Chief Executive will be of the same mind as President Aquino.

As to the Annex on Normalization, while the pace and schedule of decommissioning – essentially disarmament and demobilization of the MILF fighters –  is still unclear, the GPH has announced that this will start with the signing of the CAB and will proceed upon the phased implementation of the CAB such as the passing of the BBL and so on down the line.

So is the MILF only looking to achieve a “broader autonomy” compared to that given to the MNLF through the ARMM wherein “an existing five-province Muslim autonomous region is to be replaced by a more powerful, better-funded and potentially larger region to be called Bangsamoro”? 

But wasn’t that what Republic Act 9054, “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” passed during the Arroyo presidency was also – at least on paper – trying to do?  What happened was that the Moro elite, including the murderous Ampatuan clan allied with then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, got further entrenched and poverty and underdevelopment persisted and worsened in Muslim Mindanao.

Assuming that the terms of the CAB will be implemented to the satisfaction of the MILF (despite the fact that the road to that sought-after goal is littered with obstacles and pitfalls) what is the assurance that the Moro people would not only find themselves ruled by a new set of elite, albeit one that could emerge from what the Framework Agreement calls a “new autonomous political entity”.

A strong revolutionary Bangsamoro movement is  the only assurance that the Bangsamoro people would not find themselves in such a deplorable situation. #

Published in Business World
7-8 February 2014