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Peace in Mindanao: Will it come this time?

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(BY: ATTY. BATAS MAURICIO) LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall…” (Proverbs 16:18, the Holy Bible).

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PEACE IN MINDANAO: WILL IT REALLY COME THIS TIME?I am finding it hard to believe the claims of President Aquino and his coterie of peace advisers that peace will now finally come to Mindanao simply because he has already submitted to Congress, in a highly publicized gathering in Malacanang last Wednesday, September 10, 2014, a draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

How could peace come when, even now, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) refuses to be bound by a new entity that will be called “Bangsamoro”, insisting that it is only the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which should be recognized as the legal entity representing Filipino Muslims since it was duly-recognized by the Organization of Islamic Conference?

How could peace come when, even while Congress is yet to deliberate on the proposed law, factions have already broken away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and have vowed to continue the war in Mindanao? How could peace come when, indeed, many other armed groups in Mindanao appear to have been left out from the Bangsamoro Basic Law?

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MILF AS A THIRD “ARMED FORCE” IN RP? Then, the very ticklish issue of MILF members laying down their arms remains unresolved, as it appears to have been excluded from the proposed law submitted by President Aquino. There is a serious Constitutional issue regarding this because under the 1987 Constitution, only the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police are authorized to bear arms.

If MILF members are allowed to continue holding on to their firearms, that would constitute them as a military or police force, in the nature of a “third armed force”, even if they do not belong to the AFP or the PNP. If not properly resolved, this will make the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law repugnant to the 1987 Constitution, and could be nullified on that ground.

On the other hand, if MILF members are not allowed to bear arms, that makes them easy targets for the other armed groups in Mindanao, especially those which broke away from it on account of its participation in the drafting of the proposed law for the Bangsamoro. Indeed, this is a case of “damn if you, damn if you don’t” situation which requires a Solomonic solution.

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WEALTH SHARING ISSUES UNRESOLVED TOO: Then on the issue of wealth sharing, here is a piece we wrote in the past: “There is something that baffles me in the wealth sharing scheme signed by the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF): is it true, as a report of a major Manila newspaper is saying, that 75% of the incomes that will be earned by the Bangsamoro government that will be put up in Mindanao in 2015 will solely go to the MILF?

“Here is a portion of that report: `…A 75 percent share in taxes and earnings from natural resources and metallic minerals in the proposed Bangsamoro entity, and 50 percent from energy and other mineral resources.

“ `These are the terms won by the MILF in the wealth-sharing deal it signed with the government late Saturday night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the peace panels finally completed the wealth-sharing annex, with the lion’s share of earnings in the Bangsamoro going to the MILF.’

“Now, the question here is this: how about the other groups in Mindanao? What share will they have in the earnings of the Bangsamoro entity? And if the MILF will get 75% of all the incomes of the Bangsamoro entity, would that mean that only 25% of those incomes will be used in running the affairs of government in the region? Will 25% of those incomes be enough to run the region and provide basic services to our countrymen there?” -30-




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