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Wednesday, 27 January 2016 13:40

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

 

Los Angeles, CA. — Time is running out for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that proposes to create an exclusive Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a unique political region embedded in the Constitution, that became the legacy of then President Corazon C. Aquino. The ARMM was institutionalized to appease Nurulajih Misuari and silence the guns of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters. The BBL is supposed to quiet down the deadly fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and make peace with their leaders.

The olive branch has been extended to both rebel groups seeking their own separate sub-states — wanting to govern their own “people” who are Filipinos. Misuari got his peace deal in 1996. The MILF’s is forthcoming, if ever it does. That will be determined today when the House votes on the BBL on second reading...that is if it has a quorum.

The contras to the BBL, one of them Rep. Celso L. Lobregat, already delivered their speeches. After the voting, assuming that there is a quorum, the proposed law will be sent to the Senate pronto for deliberation. The upper chamber has only seven days to come up with a unified version of the bill before it is transmitted to the president for signature. Exasperating, Pancho. But money can work wonders.

You see, our congressman has given Malacanang a lot of reasons to down Tylenol. He pointed out constitutional infirmities in the BBL that led to a thorough review of the proposed law that will grant the MILF vast and sweeping powers over air, land and sea within its territorial jurisdiction. The BBL would have been enacted into law had there not been vehement objections from the House led by Mr. Lobregat and in the Senate by practically everybody, including and foremost vice presidential candidate Sen. Bongbong R. Marcos. Incidentally, the son of the former dictator paid Zamboanga a visit to grace the reunion of the Aranetas. I’m surprised why Mar Roxas wasn’t invited. Maybe, the Aranetas will throw another party exclusively for him as we go deeper into the campaign.

From the observations, I have it that the BBL will be passed and the provinces and cities that voted to be part of the new Moro political entity will ratify it in a plebiscite that will be called after the national elections.

Zamboanga has chosen to be independent, as are Davao and Cagayan de Oro — out of and away from this political structure. If the MILF finally and sincerely embraces democracy and helps the central government install lasting peace, law and order in Mindanao, then the olive branch that PNoy extended to it shall not be in vain. If the MILF is sincere in re-joining civil society, buries or decommissions its weapons of destruction and orders its fighters to be integrated into the police and armed forces of the Philippines, then there shall be peace. If it organizes a posse to search and destroy renegades of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as a sign of vigilance against terrorists, then there shall be peace. If the MNLF does the same in Sulu and Basilan against the ISIS-influenced Abu Sayyaf, then there shall be peace in Mindanao. Absent that, the so-called ‘war in Mindanao’ will not cease. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte knows that.

The BBL intends to put an end to the alleged social injustice and other political and humanitarian indifferences that have allegedly segregated the Muslims from the rest of Philippine humanity. That is an assertion, not a fact, used only to negotiate for some concessions. Filipinos - Xtians or other faiths -  have always embraced their fellowmen.

The House vote today is crucial to Mindanao, although it is hobbled by an uncertain future. If it is true that the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF have sworn allegiance to ISIS, the new ARMM (if ever it comes about), Zamboanga, Davao nor Cagayan de Oro won’t be spared from the rampage of these terror groups for they, too, are seeking their own Islamic state. The olive branch does not apply to them.

Ergo, the MILF should deal with the BIFF, and the MNLF should confront the Abu Sayyaf. Then, our borders should be tightened by the police and military just be make sure that shipments of arms to these rebel groups are quelled. These groups gained notoriety by bombing villages, kidnapping, conducting ambushes even in broad daylight, as they seem to fear no one. They even brag about their kills. They’re more deadly than an Ebola outbreak. They should be stopped already, before they shop us.

Although denied by the authorities, there are young men and women who have already been radicalized by these terror groups. Indoctrination was a word we used in the late ’60s as an inference to those who have been brainwashed. The difference was that the radicals of old did not possess lethal weapons, only their glib tongues, placards and Molotov cocktails.

This threat that we are facing is for real. That is why the security of Zamboanga should be at the top of City Hall’s agenda of concerns. We weathered the bloody attack on our shores in 2013. Don’t forget the M/V Doulos tragedy, the bloody raid on Ipil that cost the lives of innocent men, women and children. Peace will never be achieved in Mindanao, not even with the passage of the BBL unless the government, the MILF and the MNLF unleash their combined might and pulverize the ASG and BIFF.

Then, and only then, can we sleep soundly.