U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney was in Kuala Lumpur to witness the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the MILF the day before yesterday, which was aborted at the last minute by a restraining order issued by the Supreme Court. Ever her ebullient and cheerful self, Ambassador Kenney reportedly tried to lift the somber mood in Malaysia by being upbeat and looking at it as a “temporary setback” and “part of the rule of law”.
The effervescent Ambassador Kenney was the only one who seemed to take the turn of events in stride. Presidential peace adviser and would-be signatory Hermogenes Esperon Jr. considered the non-signing a national embarrassment. Officials from both the Philippines and Malaysia had intended the signing to be a special diplomatic event, with Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim serving as witnesses. Among those invited for what should have been a historic signing to lay the foundation of a Bangsamoro homeland were representatives from the U.S., Japan, Brunei, Libya, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the World Bank. The U.S. was supposed to have announced an additional U.S. $ 25 million in development assistance for Mindanao had the signing taken place.
Makati representative Teodoro Locsin had strong words against the proposed pact. In a privilege speech which he entered into the House records, Locsin attacked the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) as an unconstitutional set-up which “shall exercise absolute political powers.”
Indeed, it shall possess absolute powers without any prohibition against the discrimination, abuse and enslavement of women which happens in some Muslim states. As such, it shall exercise absolute powers without any of the civilized limitations in the Bill of Rights, such as equal protection of the laws, due process and the prohibition against such cruel and unusual punishments as stoning to death a woman taken in for adultery.
Not only will the inhabitants of the BJE be denied the Bill of Rights, warned Locsin, there was no reference at all to the Philippine Constitution, which should supposedly prevail over any covenant entered into by the government.
Locsin maintained that the non-mention of the Philippine Constitution in the text of the MOA meant that the agreement would take effect upon signing by the government and MILF panels, and that it would no longer be subject to Philippine laws.
Locsin also described Malaysia–which had been brokering the peace talks between the government and the MILF–as “the country that was funding the secessionist struggle in the South.” Not the best way to describe your nearest neighbor but there it is, a fairly accurate assessment of the role Malaysia has played in the decades-old conflict in Mindanao. There are historical irritants between the Philippines and Malaysia, notably the former’s claim to Sabah. The Malaysians have sought to undermine Manila’s authority over its southernmost regions by supporting the latter’s internal enemies, while at the same time presenting itself as a mediator. It certainly has a vested interest in the establishment of a Bangsamoro homeland. Malaysia will find it easier to deal with and exert influence on the projected Islamic state, over which it intends to act as midwife in the birthing, than the oftentimes intransigent Philippine government.
The U.S. also wants a Bangsamoro state for reasons of its own, according to Locsin. It finds it more expedient to pursue its national interests through warlords and tribal chieftains, who wield authoritarian powers, than the often “rambunctious” (Locsin’s word) Congress and venal executive branch. This is the model it used in propping up the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, and in building alliances in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. will conveniently look the other way as regards human rights and other abuses as long as whichever regime is in power remains susceptible to its influence and control .
No wonder the U.S. and Malaysia were so eager to give their imprimatur to the discredited agreement.
The Inquirer discusses the undeniable reality that in the eyes of the international community, the MOA, once signed, trumps the Constitution, and that the Supreme Court is the last line of defense against the dismemberment of the republic.
Let us underscore this sobering reality: US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney and Ambassador Sayed ElMasry, adviser to the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s secretary general, had gone to Malaysia, together with Ambassadors Makoto Katsura of Japan and Roderick Smith of Australia (as well as MILF’s domestic sympathizers from the National Democratic Front), to witness the signing of the RP-MILF agreement and thus give it the blessings of the international community.
When the Supreme Court stepped in and prevented the signing of the agreement, the Philippine, Malaysian, American, Japanese and Australian governments ended up red-faced in the company of the MILF (which neither recognizes nor has any loyalty to the Philippine Constitution). Opposite them are those against the deal because they believe it fundamentally subverts the existing provisions of the Philippine Constitution. Their voices reflect majority opinion in our country. They are waiting to see if the Supreme Court ends up deciding the case with dispatch merely to beat Malaysia’s announced Aug. 21 resumption of talks. The country is watching whether the Court will decide based on the real merits of the case, or on what the President wants. In a word: since no one, including the nations of the world, cares for our Constitution, then it remains for our Supreme Court to decide the matter with true integrity and the utmost fidelity to constitutional precepts. As Jose P. Laurel famously declared, “No one can love the Filipinos better than the Filipinos themselves.”
Joaquin Bernas discusses the legal implications of the MOA and why the matter is highly explosive.
Ramon Farolan traces the organizational roots and motivations of the MILF and explains why the MOA is a rotten deal.
The separatist MILF had sought the U.S. assistance in securing an “equitable peace agreement” because of the latter’s “strong leverage” over the Philippine government, according to a report of the US Institute of Peace (USIP). House Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo and U.P. law professor Merlin Magallona have claimed that the United States has been actively involved, through the USIP, in the peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF. Ocampo, of the party-list group Bayan Muna, has further charged that the United States prodded the Philippine government into forging the controversial agreement.
Senators ask U.S., Malaysia: Why are you supporting MoA ? What’s in it for you ?