I Want Whatever He’s Having

Congratulations to the MILF and, I suppose, the Administration for the recent peace agreement. The document calls for the establishment of an autonomous region, Bangsamoro, to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The signing has been hailed as the first step in “a final and enduring peace”. The Camp David accord between the Israelis and the Palestinians was similarly described but let us be positive. As the cliche goes let us give peace a chance. What the world needs is love.

Having said this, one wonders what qualifies the MILF (membership: 11,000) to be an equal partner with the Republic (membership: 94 million) in dividing up Mindanao?  All along we have been told they are a  band of ruffians who behead our soldiers, murder innocents, and destroy property. Now we are jumping into bed with them. Should we not be dating first?

Not to worry, says Malacanang, the MILF will only be involved in the design phase. The final framework will still have to be agreed upon by the community in a plebiscite.

I would not be so dismissive. With their seat in the Transition Commission the MILF will mold the final terms and leadership of the new structure. So while the people have the final say, they will agree to whatever the Government and the MILF (and the money of the Muslim international donors) recommend. Who will tell them otherwise?

The Government (not the MILF) assures us the Bangsamoro will not become a separate Islamic state, that forces will not exploit the new modality to secretly build their finances, political base and military until they are ready to say goodbye. Other than their word, what guaranty do we have this will not happen and what will the Government do if it does?

I have no issue with Islam. It is an attractive religion: It is uncomplicated, it is not anti-RH, its leaders do not collect ivory nor young boys, and it allows for four wives. I also do not begrudge the Muslims’ longing for a home of their own. I just want to know how the rest of us can get the same deal.

Regional autonomy is a wonderful thing. It is like living with your parents but in separate quarters with a private entrance. Your laundry, meals and utilities are taken care of. In an autonomy, the Central Government handles the tedious tasks of national defense, monetary policy, and foreign relations while the regional government gets the good stuff like keeping most of the taxes (the MILF wants 75%), deciding disputes and generally doing as it pleases.

The qualifications for autonomy are: 1) The people must be culturally and religiously different; 2) They must have been there first; and 3) They are supported by other nations with a similar faith and, preferably, lots of oil.

Actually we already have a number of autonomous regions in the Philippines. They are called family dynasties. P-Noy has said his next step is to sign a peace agreement with the Communists. I say he focus instead on the family dynasties who are far more dangerous.

The candidates for 2013 confirm our worst fear: This country will soon be ruled by 100 families if we are lucky and by 30 if we are not. The Dys in Isabela, the Marcos’ in Ilocos Norte, the Singsons in Ilocos Sur, the Villafuertes and Fuentebellas in Camarines, the Jalosjos’ in Zamboanga, the Plazas in Agusan, the Angaras in Quezon, the Estradas in M. Manila, the Binays in the Philippines (forgive me if I have missed some); have pretty much parceled out the nation for succeeding generations. In business it is called “vertical integration”. The grandchildren run for councilor, their uncles for mayor, their parents for Congress and Governor, the grandparents for Senate or the Presidency. When the term limits are up, they just switch things around. As a model it really works, you can deal with nationhood over Sunday lunch.

 Since they cannot constitutionally qualify for autonomy (they would have to prove their indigenousness and unique religion), political families are working on the next best thing, a parliamentary system. This is why Congress is itching to Cha-Cha. In a parliamentary system, they will have greater political and fiscal independence. They will no longer be beholden to the President’s pork barrel.

The Chinese are about to take away Scarborough and the Spratleys. Much of Mindanao could possibly be a separate state in the foreseeable future. The family dynasties have carved out what is left over. If we do not do something, the Filipino could soon be homeless in his own country.

Here is my suggestion: Let us populate an area with like-minded people, choose a religion that is still not taken (Buddhism works for me), and get Canada to endorse us. Then let us file for autonomy. Maybe this way we have a chance.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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6 Responses to I Want Whatever He’s Having

  1. Ever the cynic, eh? Compromises are difficult when people think with their passions, and everyone has to give up something to find harmony. Maybe you ought give up your querulous view for a few months or years to give this a chance to work. Nothing else has, and all we have seen is slaughter. The Government must negotiate with SOMEONE to get some principles in place. Then it is up to the MILF to sell the deal to a broader range of Muslims, just as a few founding fathers in America managed to sell their deal to the rest of the pilgrims and convicts and explorers who represented the population on the East Coast of the New World at the time. The form of government does not matter as long as the substance creates a better mechanism for building an economy and supplanting anger with hope.

  2. manuelbuencamino says:

    Leo,
    You need a more nuanced view of dynasties. The Angaras have done much for Aurora (not Quezon.) Now look at Sonny Angara’s legislative record. His being the son of Ed Angara should not disqualify him from going to the Senate and continuing to author good laws. How about Jun Magsaysay? His father was president and he has close relatives in positions in Zambales. Should he be disqualified too? Let’s judge candidates on their merits not by their bloodlines. Let’s not be too simplistic.

    • If I may butt in. There is no question that the scions have superior education and opportunity and therefore are highly qualified. A regular Jose would have a hard time getting to Harvard for a sterling law education. So it is hard to argue that a regular Jose is better qualified. I’d suggest that people not condemn the scions for their successes, but advocate for the establishment “mentor paths” for executive development of non-family stars, identified during college, that get them onto the success track, too.

    • The issue is family dynasties as a political phenomenon and not the individual qualities of their members

      • manuelbuencamino says:

        The issue is the use of a facile label like family dynasties. It everyone puts in the same bag. By so doing individuals with merit, like Jun Magsaysay and Sonny Angara, are tarred and disqualified from office because of their family name. And the nation pays for the loss. The political phenomenon is not family daynaties, it is lazy labeling. And it leads to a phenomenon much like the phenomenon where entire classes of people are deemed unfit because of race or gender. I know it takes a lot of work to look at people sharing similar traits and family names as individuals but that work we must do if we want to get the best. Moreover, family dynasty should not be confused with warlordism. They are not synonymous although the temptation to see them as such is tempting.

  3. Manuel says:

    Wow! That’s pretty heady stuff you are talking about! I would not have seen the dynastic labeling as lazy but you are absolutely correct! Take a bow – you dog

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