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Cause first, before anything else

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(BY: CLEM M. BASCAR) FOCUS: THE HISTORICAL AND COMMERCIAL ROOT-CAUSE OF THE MINDANAO CRISIS WAS THE IRREGULAR INCLUSION OF MINDANAO AND SULU AS PARTS OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS WHICH WAS THE ONLY COLONIAL POSSESSION OF SPAIN THAT OUGHT TO BE SOLD AND CEDED TO THE UNITED STATES UNDER ARTICLE 111 OF THE DECEMBER 10, 1898 TREATY OF PARIS ABOUT FIVE MONTHS AFTER THE CONDUCT OF THE “MOCK WAR” ON AUGUST 13, 1898 FOR THE CAPITULATION OF THE CITY OF MANILA WHICH WAS CLEARLY CONTRARY TO THE ETHICS AND LAW OF WAR. THE SALE AND CESSION OF MINDANAO AND SULU ONLY BY LINES AND COORDINATES WERE CONSUMMATED WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE AND CONSENT OF THEIR RESPECTIVE REIGNING SULTANTS, LEGISLATURES, AND ADHERENTS WHICH UNFORTUNATELY HAVE NEVER BEEN FREELY AND OBJECTIVELY DISCUSSED IN PUBLIC SINCE THE INCEPTION OF THE PEACE PROCESS TO RESOLVE THE MINDANAO CRISIS MORE THAN THREE DECADES AGO.

With greater seriousness and frankness, let me again express my personal conviction that without going back or addressing the very root-cause of the decades old Mindanao Crisis, no amount of diplomatic effort, no sub-political structure of any form and kind, no quantity of investment of time, money, and other kinds of resources, no administrative or legislative measures no matter how expertly and well-crafted they may seem to appear, and no doctrines, principles, and jurisprudence are used as legal bases, will bring about the complete extinguishment of the raging, escalating, and ever- intensifying flames of belligerence in Mindanao and Sulu.

 Why has Congress up to this time not taken hold of the most relevant, fundamental,  and useful diplomatic  document which surreptitiously sold and ceded Mindanao and Sulu by Spain to the United States without the knowledge and consent of their respective reigning Sultans, legislatures, and adherents- THE DECEMBER 10, 1898 TREATY OF PARIS? Is Congress afraid that the Philippines will eventually lose political grip of these two Sultanates which according to world-respected and recognized historians and authors were not colonial possessions of Spain by virtue of conquest or other means of territorial acquisition and ownership? Is the Philippine government afraid that by taking hold, reading very seriously, analyzing intelligently, and objectively interpreting Article III of this cited diplomatic document will expose the biggest commercial scandal committed by colonial powers in including these two independent, sovereign, and unconquered Sultanates in the technical description defining the territorial limits of the Philippine Islands which ought to be only territory owned by Spain that should be included in the sale and cession to the United States for 20-Million Dollars? And why is Congress avoiding, disregarding, or taken for granted the Royal Heirs, the Royal Datus, the Sharifs, and the adherents of these two illegally sold and ceded sultanates when they are the ones who are the rightful historical, ancestral, monarchial, political, and legal territorial owners of Mindanao and Sulu by virtue of statehood? Is this not mind-boggling and diplomatically shocking?  I believe they should be the first ones to be consulted by right of nobility, royalty, ancestry, and statehood.  

 As I consistently, persistently, and emphatically stated and contended over and over again that no one in the position of power, influence, and leadership  at the national level, up to this point in time, has ever taken up the cudgels to create a team of history and legal experts that will conduct an independent, comprehensive, objective, scientific, and  in-depth study and review of the colonial history of Mindanao and Sulu whose primary objective is to  aid Congress in crafting the suitable organic law that will effectively address the real historical casus belli of the outbreak of the liberation or self-determination armed struggle jointly launched by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in 1972.

It is true that the Philippine government since the outbreak of the GPH-Liberation Fronts hostilities, has tried various modalities and strategies in addressing and containing  the political demands and aspirations of the Liberation fronts which have already attained the status of belligerence, including the “all- out- war” policy. In between ceasefires, peace talks are held  which brought about some agreements, consessions and compromises such as the enactment of laws creating automous political structures, the last one of which was branded by the present national administration as a “failed experiment.” Now in its place, another sub-political entity is being proposed and to be given organic life with the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) this time, under aegis of  the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

This again is being done without Congress conducting a thorough, impartial, and honest-to-goodness historical research as to the real root- cause of the Mindanao Crisis. That is why,  a lot of congressmen conducting consultations to elicit reactions and recommendations that will aid them in fine-tuning the draft BBL, appear to be so unfamiliar about Mindanao and Sulu’s colonial history. When confronted with historical questions related to the root-cause of the belligerence in Mindanao and Sulu, they try to avoid answering them and shift quickly the discussion toward other issues and concerns.

What is even surprising and to an alarming degree, suspicious, some legislators who are supposed to exercise utmost due diligence and to adopt the position of impartiality and nuetrality in the conduct of consultations  among the various stakeholders, openly show their bias against or in favor of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. The members of the Congressional Ad Hoc Committee most particularly, its Chairman whose principal responsibility is to moderate in generating and eliciting reactions, suggestions, recommendations, insights, and sentiments from the series of public consultations needed to improve or refine the draft BBL, should maintain total fairness, objectivity, impartiality, neutrality, and widest possible latitude of liberalism and openness at this stage of information gathering and fact-finding process. All issues, doubts, negative and positive thoughts, defects and perceived flaws, strengths, weaknesses, expected benefits and advantages, anticipated contraints and stumbling blocks, as well as threats, and risks associated with the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), must be expressed freely and without restraint imposed by the Chairman or any member of the Committee. This is the real essence and purpose of public consultations conducted in aid of legislation pursuant to the enactment of the proposed organic law for the creation of the New Bangsamoro Juridical entity.

No persons and institutions should be contacted in advance to deliver position papers or  speeches of opposition or endorsement in public consultations of this nature because it will defeat its real purpose of eliciting the true and spontaneous sentiments and opinions of the various stakeholders. The process must be conducted in a manner that will avoid any suspicion or speculation that this is being scripted to make it appear that the public is overwhelmingly in favor or against the proposed law. Only the agenda and the text of the draft proposed law should be made available in advance to the people. The grounds rules for the consultations must provide equal opportunity for everybody to voice his opinion for or against and should not be restrained or curtailed as long as he follows the time limit imposed and does not in any way offend or defame anybody’s honor and dignity. Ideally, the consultations should not only be concentrated in urban centers but also in rural communities. Maximum effort must be exerted to insure that all voices in the a community are expressed, heard, duly appreciated, and documented properly. If possible, consulations should be done sectorally and comprehensively to avoid creating the impression that they are being rail-roaded or being hurriedly conducted to serve vested interests or just a matter of going through the motion or for the sake of formality to satisfy a technical or legal requirement. 

 Freedom of expression and genuine democracy must at all times be the guiding principle and spirit in the process of public consultation, otherwise, like in the previous organic laws enacted by Congress to resolve the Mindanao Crisis, the envisioned New Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) to replace the Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) might end up again as a “failed political experiment” and the vicious cycle goes on and on ad infinitum at the expense of the honest and faithful taxpayers of this country.

But over and above other issues and concern, the root-cause of the belligerence in this part of the globe must be given primacy and paramount importance. Otherwise, we will always be administering the wrong medicine to a chronic ailment and the horribly destructive cycle of war and violence in Mindanao and Sulu, will never end. 




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