From Free Malaysia Today (Feb 28): 12 boats from US for Sabah security command
Contribution being made under agreements during Obama's visit to Malaysia.
SANDAKAN: The Eastern Sabah Security Command is getting 12 boats from the United States of America to boost its asset strength.
Defence Deputy Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri said the contribution followed a number of agreements signed between Malaysia and the US last year.
The agreements was signed during US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country, he told reporters after visiting the Pulau Berhala army camp near here.
He said the boats were currently being modified according to Esscom’s specifications.
Abdul Rahim, who is also Kudat member of parliament, said a proposal to build an army camp in Kudat, under the 11th Malaysia Plan, is also being considered.
“Hopefully, we can secure an allocation for it, and further reinforce Esscom’s defence,” he said.
The phrase which says that text without context is pretext is very relevant to this understanding. It is a pity that many people including many legislators who are ignorant of the facts of these negotiations are discussing the BBL without a good grasp of the facts surrounding the proposed law.
As a background and hopefully as a modest guidance, consider the following context and narrative:
The BBL is the end product of a 17 long and hard negotiations, interspersed with bloody wars in Mindanao, between official representatives of the GPH and MILF.
Both peace panels have their respective official mandates and credentials. These negotiations with the MILF started with President Fidel Ramos in 1997, then President Joseph Estrada, who signed and agreed with the MILF the acknowledgment of the seven major camps of the latter, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (from 2001 to 2010), and then today under President Benigno Aquino III from 2010. In the course of these negotiations, the GPH has fielded 11 negotiators, whose competences and skills are known far and wide, and the MILF only four.
The Parties agreed that the agenda of the peace talks is: “How to solve the Bangsamoro Problem or Question.” What is this problem? About the massive Moros’ loss of lands, violations of human rights that led to series of massacres committed by government forces especially during Martial Law, social and cultural discrimination, economic inequities and widespread poverty, etc.?
The truth is that all these issues combined are not the problem itself. They are mere part of the problem. The problem is political; it is to restore back to the Moros their right to govern themselves, which they lost when they were made part of the Philippines --- against their will --- in the grant of independence in 1946 and which is pursuant to their right to self-determination. Independence is not a factor in the asymmetrical relationship; it is genuine autonomy that is pursued by the Parties in the BBL. This grant of genuine autonomy is already a compromised solution. It is below independence and above integration as previously pushed by government. It is an improvement of the administrative region arrangement in what is in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) now, which had been rejected by the MILF, at least three times in the past.
In a letter to Cong. Rufus Rodriquez, head of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro, in December last year, MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had clarified that the position of the MILF is the BBL itself as crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) reviewed by the Parties up to their highest levels. However, he also said that the MILF is amenable to improving or enhancing provisions of the BBL. This is not to gloss over the plenary power of Congress over legislation, but rather it has to be taken in the context of an appeal to the higher sense of statesmanship of legislators --- in the exercise of their collective wisdom --- to pass a good BBL.
There are aspects of the BBL which bear adverse consequence to the success of the whole peace process especially the aspect of normalization. For instance, the issue of the Bangsamoro Police, which is a part of the Philippine National Police, has direct relationship with the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants. It would be extremely difficult on the part of the MILF to undergo this decommission if the police in the Bangsamoro government cannot protect through infirmities in the BBL the limbs, properties, and well-being of the people of the Bangsamoro. There has to be safeguard, as proposed in the BBL, that the chief minister shall have operational control and supervision and disciplinary powers over the Bangsamoro Police. The tragic incident on January 25 involving the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has made this point very relevant in this discussion of policing in the Bangsamoro. Chief Superintendent Getulio Napenas of the SAF-PNP in their planning of Oplan Wolverine considered the MILF as “enemy”. The disastrous effect of such “hostile” operation gives credence to the necessity of a police in the Bangsamoro as professional, civilian in character, effective and efficient in law enforcement, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control, and accountable not only under the law of its actions but also to the communities it serves.
The other issues in the BBL which have far- reaching consequences to the success of the peace-making in Mindanao are Shariah and the need for an office to conduct election in the Bangsamoro suited to a ministerial system of government. The Shariah, whose main source is the Qur’an which is deemed the words of Allah, is one of the legitimizing factors of the MILF-led struggle in Mindanao. Diluting the provisions of the Shariah in the BBL is tantamount to suppressing the rights of the Muslims in this country in the exercise of their religion. In Islam, there is no separation of the Church and the State.
The importance of the Bangsamoro electoral office, which shall be part of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), is anchored on the need to conduct of elections suited to a ministerial form of government. For all practical purposes, the Comelec, whose mandate is to conduct all elections this country, will have to find way for this special arrangement, and in order to give legal personality to this office that it is designed for a ministerial or parliamentary system, a provision in the BBL is very much desired and called for.
There are other equally important provisions of the BBL that cannot be sidelined, such as the need for offices for human rights, civil service, and auditing. The issue is not to create separate and distinct offices, knowing fully well that these are constitutional bodies, but their lack of it in the future Bangsamoro entity would be to deprive it of the chance to account for itself and at par with progressive and responsible juridical entities around us, here and overseas.
Thus, diluting the BBL is not solving the Bangsamoro Problem or Question at all. The problem will stay and perhaps it will worsen, even if the MILF folds its hands and allow chances to proceed. The radicals and those who oppose the peace process will be given more legitimacy to pursue their hard agenda.
Do we want this to happen and let the BBL fall on the wayside, because 44 SAF-PNP died in Mamasapano? Are we sure that giving up the BBL would not produce more deaths and destructions in the future? Do we want to perpetuate the way of war in Mindanao?