Advocacy Mindanow: Former MILF leader issues ‘warning’ on CAB and BBL PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 December 2014 11:44

BY Jess Dureza

 

What if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) does not become a reality as envisioned? What if the  MILF’s Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro (CAB) does NOT succeed?

Playing  with words, former MILF spokesman EID KABALU interpreted the BBL as “ba-ba-la”, a Tagalog word for “warning”. He spoke during a forum last Thursday of the BISHOP ULAMA CONFERENCE attended by bishops of the different faiths, Ulamas and other religious leaders. Former Senator FRANCISCO “Kit” TATAD and former SECRETARY NORBERTO “ Bert” Gonzales were also present. Mr. KABALU warned that the present situation on the ground, the gridlock in the different branches of government, the failed presidential system, the corruption and national leadership crisis, the constitutional issues, the undue high expectations, the dominant presence (translation: “interference”)  of foreigners in the peace process  are, among other things,  some of the danger signs that could serve as “babala” to all that things in the peace process  are not that “okay” as expected or perceived. He urged  Mindanaoans to be  ready with other options.

CONGRESSIONAL HEARING — Coincidentally, at precisely the same time Mr. KABALU was giving his talk, not far from the BUC venue in Davao City, a congressional hearing was also in progress where Congressman RUFUS RODRIGUEZ with his special committee from Manila was getting inputs from the different sectors and resource persons on the BBL. I would have attended the congressional hearing were it not for the fact that I had earlier committed to Archbishop (Emeritus) FERNANDO CAPALLA to also speak on the “challenges” facing the BBL. I explained to  Zamboanga City Congressman CELSO LOBREGAT, a member of the committee, and OPAPP Usec JOSE LORENA’s assistant (Ms. VANNY PALLARCO)  of  my predicament. I recall Cong. RUFUS personally invited me when I met him last in Manila during the late Senator TING PATERNO’s wake.

WARNING —At the BUC assembly, I sat up and listened intently to Mr. KABALU, a former stalwart of the MILF, talk about his “babala” or “warning”. I remembered him as the  public “face” of the MILF during the peace negotiations during my stint  in Malacanang handling the negotiations for the government. He was an active spokesman, always there and ready to slug it out in the media speaking in behalf of the MILF. The public remembered him for his distinctive, crisp delivery and style of speaking. I recall gamely tangling with him before in several occasions while I spoke for government. Then suddenly, he disappeared from public view.  According to the grapevines, he was expelled due to some “differences” with the MILF leadership.

“NOT SACKED “ —It was only during last Thursday before the BUC that he made public the circumstances of his leaving the MILF. He said: “Contrary to what many thought, I was not sacked. I voluntarily and irrevocably resigned.” He confided that he sent in his letter of resignation days before the MILF central committee convened to expel him.

OTHER OPTIONS —I could tell that the reason for his leaving the ranks of the MILF evidently could explain his position today. To me, he seemed to have doubted  that  the MILF formula was the only correct solution for the deliverance of the Bangsamoro. He mentioned in passing about his attempt to  foray into the forbidden field of politics which was contrary to MILF’s “hands off” or “non-participation” policy in Philippine elections. Evidently, EID KABALU believed  that there were other “paths” or options, other than just peace talks,  that could also bring about the Bangsamoro aspirations. He hinted about the difficult road  his fellow MILF travelers were taking.  He  took the forbidden political  path.  He made himself available and lobbied, although unsuccessfully, to be appointed as ARMM governor during the onset of the AQUINO administration, clearly in violation of the MILF policy. That did him in.

“STEP DOWN, MR PRES.” — Now, Mr. KABALU is one of the stalwarts of the newly formed BANGSAMORO TRANSFORMATION COUNCIL, the Muslim wing of the NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION COUNCIL (NTC) that is espousing for substantive reforms and calling on President Aquino and his government to immediately step down to start the reform agenda.

NO END? —One significant “babala” he mentioned was   the  eventuality that MILF leadership  will accept “whatever is available” from the government. He talked about the prospect that NOT  everyone in the Bangsamoro will agree with the final configuration of the BBL after constitutionally-bound Congress approves  the law  which will  vary or be different (translation: “watered-down”) from the original version of the MILF.

“What I think will happen is that those in the MILF who have decided to totally forego of war and conflict will accept whatever is available and those who disagree will  just continue with their struggle, hence a scenario of never-ending conflict,” he predicted.

GO FEDERAL —But he has a fall-back position for the Bangsamoro in case all else fail: “let’s go FEDERAL”. His arguments were simple and clear. According to him, if a federal set-up is established in Mindanao or all over the country for that matter, what the Bangsamoro is demanding are all present in federalism. “We need not negotiate with government anymore because federalism in concept provides those arrangements, “ he theorized.

He took a swipe at the dominant presence of foreigners in the peace process. “We do not need foreigners who do not understand or practice our ways to tell us what to do,” he barked. We ourselves must solve our own problems together”, he added.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL — From his assessment, unless the Constitution is amended, the CAB cannot be implemented because the BBL that Congress may eventually pass cannot, on its own or motu proprio, amend the Constitution.  The presidential system, although highly centralized and unitary, by its nature assures a “stalemate” or a gridlock because what the executive department commits ( like the CAB) does not necessarily bind the legislative ( in acting on the BBL) not to mention  the judiciary. In a federal, parliamentary set-up the government speaks with one voice.

The expected Supreme Court petitions questioning whatever Congress will enact will be the final nail in the coffin of the CAB and the BBL.

FALL BACK POSITION — So where do we go from there? His answer:  a federal system installed will be the fall back position.

That’s EID KABALU for you and his seeming  transformation from a leading rebel leader  seeking reforms by force of arms to a reform advocate working within the system.  At least this is the impression I got from him during the BUC forum. I am sure there are other facets about him as a “transformer” that I am not privy about. But in the meantime, I take him at face value.