BEHIND THE LINES: He has spoken, what now, sir? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 July 2014 11:44



The honorable gentleman from the first district, Congressman Celso L. Lobregat, has brilliantly spoken last Tuesday at the City Council before an attentive crowd of 200 representing the various sectors of the city. His well-researched lecture on the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement pointed to certain flaws that may be questioned before the Supreme Court — especially jurisdiction over natural resources in the areas included in the agreement. One thing’s for certain: we cannot have one government with two systems. We cannot create a sub-state, only an autonomous region because that is the only legal, political, geographical structure permitted by the charter. So, the government is willing to expand the coverage of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in terms of powers, without necessarily contravening national laws.

These were all pointed out, and more, by Mr. Lobregat in his hour-long lecture to an equally-intelligent audience. What I need to know from my former boss at city hall are his recommendations and conclusions on his extensive, personal research on the agreement based on two previous agreements signed by the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1976 and 1996. We have read the BFA. The only thing glaring there is that Zamboanga is not included in the expanded, reinvigorated ARMM. If we’re not included in the ARMM, what are we fighting against? We need to know exactly from our elected congressman our options, if he has any to suggest. That is precisely why we beg him to submit to the people his recommendations.

Of course, last Tuesday’s dissertation of Mr. Lobregat was loaded with scary plots — from the use of the Maria Cristina Grid to water supply. And he succeeded in doing that — scaring his audience. It is now incumbent upon him to bring his case in the lower House when deliberations of the agreement before its passage into law starts. The parameters of powers of the new ARMM must be fully explained and the grant of such able to stand the test of time and legal scrutiny. This document will be challenged before the high tribunal as was the MOA-AD, Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. The fight will have to be done in congress, sir. We fully understand the ramifications surrounding the agreement. The MNLF, for one, won’t recognize any law expanding the ARMM unless the two previous agreements are incorporated in the set-up. Isn’t Zamboanga included in the two treaties with the MNLF? Think about that.

And why is President Aquino in pursuit of peace in Mindanao? The Business Mirror in its editorial last Tuesday said, and I quote a part of it:

“Data gathered from the Commission on Human Rights in the ARMM said the war (in Mindanao) cost more than 60,000 lives, two million refugees, 353 mosques destroyed, 200 schools demolished and 35 cities and towns devastated. In this war, the government spent roughly P76 billion from 1970 to 1996. Former President Joseph Estrada’s all-out war against the MILF in 2000 cost the government another P6 billion.

“That is why the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement is a milestone in the pursuit for peace. The 39-year war in Mindanao is a step away to complete cessation. It is the closest this country has reached to achieving peace in that war-torn region.

“However, the ‘peace’ process seems selective. It chose one group, the MILF, and disregarded the rest. Worst among the setbacks is the seeming lack of consultation among Muslims and Christians living in the area. Indigenous non-Muslim tribes ... are also raising a clamor of the government’s failure to implement the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. They call themselves ‘victims of peace.’

“Although the Bangsamoro Framework Agreeement is an achievement in itself, it is still nowhere near the accomplishments of Nobel Peace laureates. This ‘peace’, for want of a better cliche, still rests on a journey of a million miles.

“”No peace is real until it is for all.”