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.