Why MILF may turn its back on BBL

By Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 28 2015 05:11 PM | Updated as of May 29 2015 03:07 AM

They probably mean well, but I’m not sure that those who call for “all-out peace” reflect the sentiments of the Bangsamoro or even just the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

I’ve always thought genuine peace can sprout only if rooted in the soil of justice – only with the easing of pains caused by historical injustice and ensuring that no social group slips between the cracks of any new system.

Maybe, the groups calling for “all-out peace” also feel the same way.

But they have not said as much, not in the aftermath of that ad hoc committee farce of a hearing on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Some party-list representatives from the “all-out peace” bloc voted with the administration bloc to uphold the surprise working draft of the committee chairman and vice chairman.

There’s been scant criticism from this sector of the changes to the original draft, which was based on the comprehensive peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

I can imagine the thought bubbles:

"Mr. Aquino called congressional allies to the Palace. They came back with a new working draft, with administration bloc whip Neptali Gonzales to backstop the waffling ad hoc committee chair, Rufus Rodriguez. The marching order was to vote for the draft and defeat any opposition. Success! Now, we have to defend the bill against all critics."

I am sure members of these groups sincerely think they stand beside the MILF on the issue of self-determination. The mystery is, nobody seems to have spoken with the MILF on the matter of the last ad hoc committee draft (also taken up by two other committees).

Nobody seems to have asked the other party in the peace agreement whether the new working draft is acceptable.

The word “peace” does not exist in a vacuum. Anytime between now and the weekend, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal will be sending Malacanang this message: If the House of Representatives passes what the ad hoc committee spat out, the MILF will reject the BBL.

Chairman Iqbal, of course, has said the MILF will continue to push for peace even if the BBL dream crashes to the ground.

That, however, does not mean the MILF will accept – for the sake of peace – whatever scraps from the table the powers deign to throw its way.

Crushed hopes

The BBL will most likely crash. Eleven senators support Sen. Miriam Santiago’s report that clearly calls the measure unconstitutional. Any version coming out from that chamber will definitely be unacceptable to the MILF. That is, if the Senate actually passes a counterpart measure.

Can government supporters now sigh with relief because they can blame someone, something for the failure of the BBL?

Not too fast.

Iqbal and the MILF leadership have given up a lot for peace. I’m sure critics of the BBL will disagree with this – most critics feel the government has conceded too much to the MILF.

But try stepping into the shoes of the aging leaders of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group. The MILF broke away from the MNLF when some guerrillas felt the latter was selling out the dream of self-determination.

How can the MILF go back to the Bangsamoro people and explain acceptance of a law that, in the words of Iqbal, may have 90% of the number of provisions in the peace agreement – but only half, at most, of its most substantial provisions?

In earlier articles, I mentioned what would be deal breakers for the MILF: the provisions on security, fiscal autonomy, control of natural resources, especially the critical areas of water, including watersheds, forestry, minerals; the right to contract with foreign entities. (I missed out of the Wadi, probably because of ignorance of what that would mean to Muslims.)

Read: MILF could lose critical powers when House votes on BBL

Read: BBL shows social fault lines that fueled Mindanao conflict

Deal breakers

Most critics focus on the huge sums that will go to the Bangsamoro government should a plebiscite uphold the BBL. But most wars for self-determination – whether ethnic or otherwise — are often all about control of a territory’s natural resources. The MILF wouldn’t be worth its name if it just grovels at the altar of mammon and forgets all about its reason for being.

(To read more, go to http://indayvarona.com/2015/05/28/milf-may-turn-its-back-on-bbl/)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.