Let’s be honest – few really know about the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Kids are more aware about oxalic acid poisoning brought about by the milk tea scare, teenagers are more worried about Zayn, Louis, and Naughty Boy, and yuppies are more into the Mayweather-Pacquiao tango. Before the Mamasapano incident, not even old people have given the BBL any thought.
One rarely hears the BBL as a topic of conversation in family dinners. The only time my family ever touched the topic was when I asked what they thought about the President missing the funeral of the 44 fallen Special Action Force police officers, for an inauguration of a Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plant. Our conversation ended with us agreeing that PNoy’s scheduling manager dropped the ball on that one, with my family digressing from the battle that started it all, i.e., the Mamasapano bloodbath, thus missing the entire point completely.
Blood has been spilled.
The bloodshed does not just pertain to the Oplan Exodus crossfire, which left dead police officers, rebels and civilians; the debacle was merely a sad ending of a mission that started out as the tenth attempt to capture FBI Most Wanted Terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir (Alias: Marwan).
A deeper look at Bangsamoro’s history reveals a not-so-pleasant plot to a twist-laden story, beginning in the olden times when Spaniards tried and failed to convert the Muslims down south to Christianity.
Having lost in the war, Spain sold the Philippines to the Americans, including the unconquered Moro Sultanates. Seen by the Whites as barbarians that needed civilizing, the Moro people tried holding their ground against foreign invasion.
The 400 years of resistance was full of Moro wars against Spaniards, a couple thousand-casualty battles in Jolo against Yankees, and a number of massacres.
The sad part is that these involved Filipinos against Filipinos.
If one were to pinpoint the exact event that served as this country’s turning point for the worse, the most probable culprit is the Jabidah Massacre. Sabah is that part of the globe that had been under British control and became part of Malaysia. Our Muslim brothers were stunned; they claimed that the Sulu sultanate was the landlord and the Malaysian inhabitants were merely tenants.
The government was, with arms wide open, in support to this, as it would mean that Sabah was hence part of Philippine territory.
The late Presidents Macapagal and Marcos hatched a plan that would beat all networking strategies – they established special military units that would “Grima Wormtongue” their way into planting seeds of doubt among non-Malays for the annexation of Sabah. This was Oplan Merdeka or “Operation Freedom”.
What started as a bond in a valiant effort to fight a common enemy ended up being sour. Tausug and Sama Muslims were recruited with the promise of bread and butter. But they found out that they were pawns in the plan that involved killing fellow Muslims and relatives in Sabah.
When the recruits grew restless, Marcos hit the reset button and did as the Nazis do – he wiped out the recruits from the face of the Earth. Then he pulled a mafia move and sent the AFP back to Corregidor for a clean and cover-up mission.
Take heed, because all of this Jabidah mayhem was controversial. Even Ninoy Aquino admitted that after channelling his inner Nancy Drew and sleuthing around, he never really found any proof of the whole thing. But then again, his son Noynoy is a believer and claims otherwise. And so the plot thickens.
Push and pull
It became clear to the Bangsamoro people that the oppression and discrimination was never going to stop. The love child that emerged from this ordeal was the Moro National Liberation Front led by Nur Misuari.
The MNLF wanted an independent Bangsamoro, which they were able to somehow get when Marcos buckled through the intercession of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Misuari was happy with the Tripoli Agreement for an Autonomous Region in the Bangsamoro Land, although the fighting didn’t stop.
Chaos ensued as the Tripoli was made folly and the MNLF never got what they wanted; the unsatisfied MILF broke out from the MNLF.
The MILF continued on with hostilities against the government, and their ties with known terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf, Al-Queda, and Marwan’s Jemaah Islamiyah made them a national threat. The late President Corazon Aquino, despite failure of peace negotiations, sought to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, engraving it to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
It did not, however, settle the chaos in the south, which President Estrada tried fixing by taking the opposite road and initiating an all-out-war policy. President Arroyo reversed this and used peace talks until a ceasefire agreement was signed.
A bad ARMM
The ARMM that Cory had built had become swathed with corruption and bad governance. Noynoy called it a “failed experiment”. Since elections in ARMM were “determined by traditional warlord politicians who use goons, guns, and gold to cling to power”, i.e., Maguindanao Massacre, the administration’s actions to fix the unfixable was congruent to the President’s vision of “daang matuwid”, strong on reform.
On the other hand, Executive Secretary Sinarimbo of the ARMM says that said system is flawed because its basic structure lacks the “idea of self-determination”.
It is clear is that achieving national peace isn’t going to be easy.
Up for the challenge
Who else is more desperate to earn that Nobel Peace Prize than our very own President?
A bill was built upon by the peace deal between the MILF and of the Philippine government, where the highlight is the creation of a Bangsamoro Parliament, in the hopes that it would be protected from Manila influence that had caused major flaws in the ARMM.
To the future Bangsamoro people, the BBL means better funding and laws that are more culturally sensitive, as well as the normalization and pardon for its rebels. To the government, it means a substate still under its jurisdiction, and the demobilization of the MILF. It’s supposedly a win-win situation.
Unfortunately for PNoy, the Mamasapano incident happened. He was literally in the same island of Mindanao to attend funerals of bombing victims, even though he has publicly shown distaste in attending such events. Hello, Purisima? The plot thickens further.
Bumps in the road
The MILF claims they had no idea that a military operation to wrench Marwan out from the BIFF was going down in Mamasapano town, and so through confusion regarding a seemingly broken ceasefire agreement, they went out like the cast of The Expendables – with guns blazing.
All because they never got the mass text.
Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Bongbong Marcos then withdrew from co-authoring the bill. The MILF have washed their hands, but a report by Senator Grace Poe seems to point out that it was indeed an overkill.
Further controversies ensued, with the MILF having as their chief peace negotiator a man with too many names and doubtful citizenship. Some say it’s the Malaysian magic that urged the MILF to have peace deals with the Philippine government. How else would have PNoy managed to sweet talk his way into taming the MILF?
They say that without Malaysia, the BBL wouldn’t have been agreed upon that fast.
My conspirator dad thinks this BBL shindig is a Malaysian ticket for the other country to further secure Sabah, an issue that apparently has never been fully resolved.
Even Misuari thinks this ménage a trois is a “vicious conspiracy” involving, of course, money. The MILF naturally denied the allegations of Malaysian funding, past, present, or future.
These roadblocks that the BBL faces are but a few of the many hurdles that the administration should overcome. Those, and all the possible constitutional loopholes in the bill.
The Red Blur
I admit that I’m not too keen on the BBL, and this is not because I’m a Catholic northerner who “don’t trust them crrrazy Muslims”. I just think this is going a little bit too fast.
Sure, the peace negotiations started long before, but I find it strange that even the senators were not immediately informed that Iqbal isn’t really a legitimate name. Come on, tots can’t even enroll in pre-school without having to submit some sort of identification and birth certificate.
Is the rush because of the 2016 elections? It sure looks that way. Don’t get me wrong, “Where Is The Love” has been my jam growing up, so I understand the importance of national peace. And the south will be getting much needed benefits, so there’s that.
What I can’t get out of my system is the feeling that everything is half-baked.
Whatever it is, the future of the Moros and indigenous groups in ARMM is dependent on the repercussions of this bill. Will it crash and burn like the ARMM, or will it finally solve a peace problem we’ve been facing since time immemorial?
Passive youth or not, these are the kind of issues we should all be thinking about.