great fanfare the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF) signed a peace agreement on the 27th of March, 2014.
Formally known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), the
government agreed to sweeping concessions including Muslim self-rule, in
addition to pouring billions of pesos into a newly designated Bangsamoro
Autonomous Region, all in exchange for the MILF disarming and making
peace with the government.
After its signing, the
entire country and the world hailed the peace agreement. Finally, it
would put an end to decades of bitter fighting and bloodshed. And with
President Benigno Aquino III riding a wave of popularity at that time,
Filipinos of all stripes were happy to embrace his agreement with the
The Bansamoro Basic Law
(BBL) would have easily become law. There was no reason for it not to.
But 10 months after the signing of that peace agreement a single
incident would unravel everything. On January 25, 2015, forty-four
police officers were brutally gunned down in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
They were on an official mission to capture global terrorist Zulkifli
bin Hir (alias Marwan), a Malaysian national with close ties to both the
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups. Information
passed on to Philippine intelligence officials indicated that Marwan had
been hiding out in Mamasapano and was under the protection of the Bangsamoro
Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Without getting into
the details of exactly what happened that fateful day in late January,
the bottom line is that by dusk, 44 members of the Philippine National
Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) lay dead, slaughtered by armed men
in an area supposedly controlled by the MILF. Whether the 44 policemen
were killed by the BIFF, the MILF or a combination of both is also not
relevant for the conclusions we about to draw for this editorial.
Because as far as we're
concerned, the policemen were there conducting a legitimate operation
(that even had the knowledge and approval of the Philippine president)
... and Mamasapano was under the control the MILF. Therefore, it was the
responsibility of the MNLF, who had just signed a peace accord with the
government, to see to it that the police had safe passage inside their
territory. It was the responsibility of the MILF to stand by those
policeman, help them complete their mission and protect them from
lawless elements who might try to do them harm.
If the MNLF is unable
to guarantee safe passage inside its own territory, then they have no
business making deals with the government. They become an insignificant
player and should remain on the sidelines where they belong.
However, if they had
control over that region, why did they not help the police? Worse yet,
why did they aid the BIFF as some suggest? If the MILF actually aided
the BIFF instead of the police, then it is obvious that the peace
agreement they signed with the government was made in bad faith.
Because the MILF signed
that peace agreement with the Philippine Government, they should have shown
good faith by working with the police from the start. Using its direct
channels with the Aquino administration, the MILF would have been able
to quickly verify that the police were there under lawful orders from
their superiors. The Philippine government after all was about to grant
the MILF an autonomous region in Maguindanao. In addition the
Philippines was prepared to give them billions of pesos to help them
along. One would think those were incentives enough for the MILF to make
sure those PNP-SAF policemen accomplished their mission safely.
appears that the MILF is not a thinking organizationóbecause how can it
explain what it did in Mamasapano that day. It also appears that despite
their signing of a peace accord with the government, the MILF still sees
the Philippine government as their enemy and not as their partner for
peace. There are also those who believe that the MILF simply hoodwinked
the gullible Aquino administration into giving them autonomy and
billions of pesos, but the rebels never planned to give up their armed
struggle at all.
Whatever the ultimate
reality will turn out to be, it appears that the MILF finally took off
their mask and showed the country and the world what they really are. It
is extremely unfortunate that 44 brave young men had to sacrifice their
lives in order to unmask that reality.
For the MILF and the
complicit Aquino administration to now complain about foot-dragging in
congress with regards to the passage of the BBL is absolutely ludicrous.
Because it was no one but MILF rebels who "shot themselves in the foot"
that day. They and only they are to blame for the current predicament of
the BBL in congress. For the rest of us, it was a good thing we found
out sooner rather than later. Can you imagine how much more complicated
things would be if all this happened after the BBL had become law? After
the incident at Mamasapano, anyone who still thinks we should continue
to negotiate with the MILF is either in denial, or simply delusional.
We owe it to the 44
heroes of the PNP-SAF to prevent the BBL from becoming law at this time.
Let us instead work with moderate Muslim leaders who want to bring about
real change in Mindanao, and who can do it without holding a kris
(sword) to our throat in order to get what they want. Published 1/30/2016