Dateline Manila: Zambo City NOT included in the proposed Bangsamoro PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 August 2014 11:29

BY Sammy Santos

 

Section V of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that was forged between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on October 15, 2012 defines the areas of coverage of the proposed Bangsamoro that is envisioned to replace and improve the existing Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The section which deals on territory states that the envisioned geographical coverage of the Bangsamoro shall include the following:

“(a) the present geographical area of ARMM;

(b) the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite;

(c) the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and

(d) all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro as mentioned in the next paragraph.”

I read this provision over thousand times now and not once did I ever see the name of Zamboanga City as among the areas to be included in the geographical coverage of the Bangsamoro.

That is the reason why I had to react to a Facebook post made by a well-meaning Zamboangueña who asked with trepidation if Zamboanga City would be included in the Bangsamoro as envisioned in the current Mindanao peace process initiated by President Aquino.

The peace process, I believe, is now entering its crucial stage with the announcement of Malacañang that the president was poised to certify as urgent to Congress the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law which would amend Republic Act 9054, or the ARMM Organic Act.

What tickled my interests in the FB post of the Zamboangueña was her obvious state of alarm as she called on the people of Zamboanga City to hold mass rallies to oppose the inclusion of Zamboanga City.

She lamented that Zamboanga City First District Rep. Celso Lobregat seemed to be the only one standing firm in opposing the inclusion of Zamboanga. In her query, she suggested that Zamboanga City would be damned once Congress enacts the Bangsamoro bill and President Aquino subsequently signs it into law.

Her post completely puzzled me and prompted me to ask: Whoever said that Zamboanga City would be included in the area of coverage of the Bangsamoro. I am interested because I have been closely following the Mindanao peace talks for many years now, especially during the time when I was a journalist.

In fact, those in the know will remember that I took a significant role in convincing Senate President Franklin Drilon and then opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano to question the constitutionality of the so-called MOA-AD agreement entered into by President Gloria Arroyo and the same rebel group six years ago.

In that proposed MOA-AD, parts of Zamboanga City were to be included in the coverage of the peace agreement and that was a major reason, among others, why we opposed it.

But under the proposed Bangsamoro agreement, I am absolutely certain that Zamboanga City will not be included, having been exposed to this information as I volunteered to help in the communication team pushing the current peace process.

Responding to the well-meaning Zamboangueña’s question, I made my own FB post. It read as follows:

“LET ME SHARE A COMMENT I JUST SENT TO A WELL-MEANING ZAMBOANGUEÑA WHO ASKED THE QUESTION ON WHETHER ZAMBOANGA CITY WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE PROPOSED BANGSAMORO:

Quien man contigo ya habla kay incluhido el Zamboanga City na proposed Bangsamoro territory? (Whoever told you that Zamboanga City will be included in the proposed Bangsamoro territory?)

From the very start of the current peace talks, Zamboanga City was never included because the Aquino government was fully aware and respects the decision of the people of Zamboanga City not to be included as indicated by the results of two referendums on the matter. There is no document in the peace process that says Zamboanga City will be included in the Bangsamoro now or in the future.

El mga hente ta habla kay querre el gobyerno incluhi con el Zamboanga City na Bangsamoro amo ta hace loco kaninyo kay querre sila tienne (The people who say that the government wants to include Zamboanga City in the Bangsamoro are the one misleading you because they want to create an) issue where they will be the heroes again and the people of Zamboanga City will rally behind them.

It’s about time we free and insulate the peace process from petty and cheap local politicians who gain political clout by misleading and scaring the people of Zamboanga City. Wake up, compoblanos!

The problem really is serca ya tamen el election. Usa kita de atun pensamiento. Basta ya el embosteriyas del mga politico canalla. (The problem is elections are near again. We must use our minds. Enough of the lies of selfish politicians.)

I appeal to all the people of Zamboanga: This war in Mindanao has been going on for 40 years now, has cost the country, particularly Mindanao, Zamboanga City included, hundreds of billions of pesos worth of lost development opportunities and more than 150,000 Filipino lives.

For this costly and cruel war to continue just because some people want to regain political power is simply absurd, heartless, ruthless, callous, and inhuman. Definitely, not the traits of decent Zamboangueños.

Please pass on. We grew up with this war because we did not have a choice. Now we have a choice. We must give peace a chance.”

* * * *

The FB post then triggered a lively exchange of messages between me and my old college friend James Makasiar, now one of Zamboanga  City’s most successful businessmen and civic leaders, on the issue of the Bangsamoro.

Our FB exchange was littered by light banter and good-humored raillery reminiscent of our young and reckless days at the Ateneo de Zamboanga campus in the 1980s.

Here it goes:

James: Hi Sam, (the new LP turk?) can you please explain to me, like a 10 year old, what’s in it for me if Zamboanga is included in the Bangsamoro and what I have to lose if it’s not?

Or do you suggest that I pack up my things and enjoy Metro Manila’s weather and traffic jam and high cost of living? And leave the matter to the smarter guys in the august halls who are wallowing in PDAF and DAP funds which they spend like there is no tomorrow?

Oh, by the way, do you still remember the saying: the road to hell is full of good intentions. Thanks. Makicow, wag mag afraid. Lol. AMDG.

Sammy:  My dear James Makasiar, Thank you very much for your comments. Let me clarify first: I am not, never was, a member of the Liberal Party but I must confess I was tempted to apply as a neophyte in a highly-secretive sex cult called ‘Liberated Party’ allegedly founded by the legendary tandem of Gino Espano and Chito Ignacio.

Sammy: Kidding aside, I cannot understand the fuss why you guys keep asking if Zamboanga City will be made part of the Bangsamoro. From the very start, Zamboanga City was never part of the Bangsamoro territory. I got this information from the horse’s mouth: former GRP chief negotiator now Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen who negotiated the deal with the MILF.

The MILF, which is Central Mindanao-based never asked that Zamboanga be included. The peace process primarily involves the strengthening of the autonomy and governance aspects of the present ARMM and Zamboanga City is not included in the ARMM, lest you have forgotten.

Sammy: BTW, you might ask why I know. It is because I volunteered to help, pro bono, in the communication aspect of the present peace process. I am a peace volunteer here. And perhaps like our friend Mike Regino (who, if you remember, worked with us when we appealed to Frank Drilon and Adel Tamano to question the ill-fated MOA AD before the Supreme Court during the Arroyo administration), I will never support any process that will prejudice Zamboanga City. So take my word for it: Zamboanga City will NOT be included in the Bangsamoro. I will hang myself at the City Hall if it will and I will request that (another college buddy) Rey Patron be my hangman.

Sammy: What will Zamboanga City profit if the Bangsamoro succeeds? Simple James Makasiar, you will have peaceful neighbors and the business climate will certainly improve for progressive traders like you. And definitely, you will not have to pack your things and migrate to overcrowded Metro Manila unless you really miss your classmates in your frequent visits to the ‘Classmate Digital KTV’ nightclub on Quezon Avenue.

Sammy: Zamboanga City has everything to gain if the Bangsamoro succeeds. Jeezz, how can you argue against peace? Well, perhaps somebody’s political career will soon be irrelevant, but who cares?

James: Ha ha ha. How I wish it’s as simple as you think. I really wish for it to succeed. Why don’t you push for the success of Bangsamoro in Marawi, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi or the ARMM area which has been run by them, if they succeed, Then just maybe, I will begin to understand your position.

Sammy: One last thing, my friend. I said it before and I must say it again: We must insulate the peace process from politics. The problems of PDAF and DAP belong to crooked politicians and may their souls burn in hell. But certainly, our children and their children’s children can use some peace and progress not only in Zamboanga City but in the entire Mindanao.

James: The smart guys have made these a case study. Why have they not succeeded in uplifting the lives of these people, my Muslim brothers? They went to Harvard and have not found the solution yet? Goodness, a guy from Ateneo de Zamboanga may need to lecture them!

James: You are telling me it took 40 plus years to think that Muslim Mindanao did not succeed because it should have been a Bangsamoro land instead?

James: Btw, Muchu yo lenya berde, we can start with senators. And if you allow the mob to burn them, you might end up with no friends. Lol

Sammy: The road to peace was never easy. We can learn from the Irish, the Cambodians, the Spaniards and many more. But the question James is: can we give up on peace? Do you want (your son) Niel’s children to grow up in the same atmosphere of war, prejudice, hatred, and bigotry as we did. The senators and congressmen that you refer to are transitory; I dream of permanent peace for our grandchildren.

James: Oh, btw, why do your senators need bodyguards and bulletproof vehicles?

James: Also, please believe me, I have never been to ‘Classmate’ although I know where it is. I know it’s expensive.

Sammy: Nice chatting James. Let’s get together soon. I miss the days when we thought we could change the world with a fairy’s magic wand. Now we realize that only fairies with limp wrists exist. I would love to ask (our college professor and dear friend) Sir Emir Espano if the Little Prince is grown up and is now the man-father who is the son of the child...gee, I am confused now.... The Bangsamoro issue is much easier to explain. He he he.

Sammy: Re Classmate: Copy, James. I believe (your wife) Tess read the clarification. Hail to the chief!!!

James: Sure Sam, anytime. It’s always good to have a mental calisthenics with guys like you. Common sense is not very common nowadays. Last word, for as long as our brothers have arms and there is no opportunity to give their children the same enjoyment as the other children enjoy, there will never be peace! Do I need to go to Harvard to learn that? Or I’ll just be a senator? Lol

Sammy: Just call when you need a campaign manager. But I am afraid it can’t be pro-bono anymore. I am pro-Cher now. He he he.