My father fell sick after I took him out to Father’s Day dinner. He unfortunately got food poisoning and he wasn’t able to make it this morning, so I’m here to recite his speech on his behalf. Once again, apologies for his absence. I hope that I do his speech justice.
To the students of Polytechnic University of the Philippines in attendance this morning,
To the organizers of the symposium, especially the Center for Peace and Poverty Alleviation Studies, and the Department of History,
To the administrators, teaching staff and other personnel and employees of the University,
Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat! (Applause.)
Thank you for your warm welcome and for having invited me here at PUP to speak at this forum, although it was scheduled a month before its intended date. The invitation was supposed to be still on July 30, but we had to schedule the event sooner for reasons I am going to explain in a short while.
Pasensya na kayo. Alam ko, kasisimula pa lamang ng inyong klase. At kumbaga sa kotse, marahil hindi pa siguro umiinit ang mga makina ninyo, upang sumabak sa ganitong kabigat at kaseryosong talakayan.
Pasensya na at yung Tagalog ko medyo “ok” lang.
Sa July 30 po kasi ay balik-Session na ulit kami sa Senado. At inaasahan namin na magiging sobrang bigat ang trabaho dahil sa panukala ng Bangsamoro Basic Law. May hinahabol po kasing “deadline”, di-umano, ang Malacañang, kaya po nakatitiyak ako na talagang magiging puspusan ang aksyon at debate sa Senado tungkol dito pagdating ng July 27.
Kaya minabuti ko pong makiusap sa mga organizers ninyo na gawing mas maaga ang ating forum, upang sa gayon matuloy ito at hindi masayang ang napakandang pagkakataon na makausap ko kayo na mga mag-aaral ng PUP.
Alam ninyo, sa mga nakalipas na buwan, napakarami ko nang nakausap na mga kababayan natin tungkol dito sa BBL. Umabot pa ako sa ilang mga bayan sa Mindanao. Nakausap ko ang mga taga-roon, ang MILF, pati MNLF, ang mga opisyal ng lokal na pamahalaan at mga ahensya ng gobyerno, mga indigenous peoples, mga Sultan at mga Datu, at mula sa iba’t ibang sektor ng lipunan.
Sabi ko, sa dami ng aking mga nakausap, hindi ko pa nakakapanayam ang mga kabataan at mga mag-aaral. Kapag ito’y hindi ko gagawin, napakalaking pagkukulang nito, dahil ang kabataan ang siyang kinabukasan ng ating bayan at ang siyang pangunahing makikinabang sa anumang ginagawa namin na mga ito.
Sorry, ninenerbyos din ako.
That’s why we are all here now. Thus, I beg your indulgence and patience in what I consider to be a very important dialogue with the young yet important sector of our society assembled here this morning. And to get on with our discussion for today, you requested me to share with you my reflections on the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill, post-Mamasapano incident.
As a short backgrounder, first, this so-called “Mamasapano incident” was the deadly encounter that happened in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, province of Maguindanao on January 25 of this year, wherein about four hundred Special Action Force of the PNP attempted to covertly go in MILF-controlled territory to serve the warrants for the arrest of bomb-makers and fugitive terrorists Marwan and Usman.
Unfortunately, however, they were engaged in a heavy firefight by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and other loosely-organized armed groups, numbering about a thousand. When the smoke cleared, the clash resulted in the deaths of our “Fallen 44”, about twenty-plus casualties from the MILF and BIFF side, and about seven unconfirmed number of civilians.
This tragic Mamasapano encounter occurred four months after the BBL was filed in Congress, and while deliberations on the bill were already underway. And naturally, because of the public alarm and outrage that was triggered by the event, the BBL hearings were temporarily suspended, to make way for official investigations of this encounter, including those separately conducted by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The investigations opened a Pandora’s box of important issues, which not only involved our national security, law enforcement and coordination between our police and the military. It also greatly impacted on the entire BBL itself.
Almost in an instant, tremendous public uproar about the BBL erupted. This was primarily because the MILF, which is the group that was prominently involved in the Mamasapano encounter, happened to be the SOLE EXCLUSIVE NEGOTIATOR of the peace agreement with the Government of the Philippines. The peace agreement with the MILF ultimately yielded what is now the bill on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Of course, the issue of trust cropped up. Paano mapagkakatiwalaan ang MILF sa kapayapaan sa Muslim Mindanao? Akala ko ba hangad ng mga pag-uusap ay kapayapaan? Kung ating tatandaan, gusto lang naman ng PNP SAF na maghain ng arrest warrants laban sa mga tinaguriang “high-value targets”. Tapos, lumabas pa na ang mga wanted terrorists na ito ay nagtatago at kinukupkop sa mga lugar na kontrolado ng MILF.
Bukod pa rito, kinuha pa ng MILF ang mga armas at kagamitan ng ating mga PNP SAF! Yung iba, nakuha pang mag-text ng mga hindi-kaaya-ayang bagay sa mga naulila ng ating Fallen 44.
Tapos, nagkasundo na ibabalik ang mga gamit ng PNP SAF na naagaw ng mga MILF. Ngunit nang isauli, sadyang “cannibalized” at kulang-kulang naman ang mga armas at mga piyesa nito.
Paano nga naman mapagkakatiwalaan ang MILF sa kapayapaan sa Bangsamoro, kung ganito?
As early as 2012, in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which the MILF signed with the Government, MILF agreed to start the “normalization” process, so that communities in the Bangsamoro territories can already return to conditions where they can achieve their desired quality of life”.
Moreover, the MILF agreed to “undertake a graduated program for decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use.” Ibig sabihin nito, ititigil na nila ang pakikipaglaban sa gobyerno at sisimulan na ang paglalansag ng kanilang mga armadong grupo.
This was signed way back in 2012! However, it was only just this month that we heard the process of decommissioning actually taking place. In fact, I was even invited to be present at this so-called “decommissioning ceremonies” of seventy-five high-powered weapons and one hundred forty-five combatants.
I begged off, though. I wanted to tell them that I would only attend the decommissioning ceremonies of the VERY LAST FIREARM, the LAST VERY BULLET, the VERY LAST COMBATANT of the MILF. To me, that is the most crucial and most reliable signification of their most-awaited paradigm shift towards the exclusive use of peaceful means and methods in their cause of autonomy.
Related to this, there is also the issue about the effectiveness and efficiency of our agreed ceasefire mechanisms with the MILF. Because of the Mamasapano incident, the effectiveness of our ceasefire mechanisms was put to question.
Akala ko ba may maayos na proseso ng ceasefire o tigil-putukan kapag may mangyayaring kaguluhan? Pero bakit napakatagal naman bago nagkaroon ng tigil-putukan noong January 25? Kung tunay na maayos at epektibo ang mekanismong ito, tiyak mas mabilis sana at naging mas maaga ang pagtigil ng barilan. Mas marami sana ang naligtas sa ating mga SAF mula sa kamatayan.
There are so many issues brought to light by the Mamasapano incident. It is indeed very saddening that this tragic event had to happen first, and the lives of 44 brave policemen lost, before these relevant issues were brought to the attention of Government and of the people. At the very least, we are greatly comforted by the thought that our Fallen 44 heroes have given their lives not only for the single valiant purpose of bringing fugitives to justice, but for more important and transcendental reasons: that of revealing imperfections, weaknesses and causes for concern and areas for improvement on the part of Government, the other important personalities, and the numerous agreements and mechanisms in the entire peace process involving Muslim Mindanao.
However, regardless of the impact of the Mamasapano incident, we still have to see through this BBL in Congress, until its proper and most beneficial conclusion, and ultimately, for ratification by the People.
In this BBL, we are renewing our constitutional commitment to peace and development with our brothers and sisters in Muslim Mindanao. And in light of this commitment, we are likewise attempting to recalibrate the terms of the grant of autonomy to Muslim Mindanao, which, as of present time, is legally known and legally recognized as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Of course, we are doing this all in the context of, and within the framework of our constitutional democracy. The form of government that is ordained and authorized by our 1987 Constitution is a unitary, presidential, republican, and constitutional form of government. On the national level, we have the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Then, on the local level, we have what are called the “territorial and political subdivisions” of our country, or our local government units, like your very own City of Manila.
Under the Constitution, our local government units (LGUs) are allowed to enjoy local autonomy, which is in the nature of “administrative autonomy” or decentralization of administration. They have certain powers allowed under Constitution and further enfleshed under the Local Government Code, and are under the general supervision of the President.
But then, our Constitution also recognizes what are known as “autonomous regions”, which are an aggrupation of local government units, which share a “common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage”. The only two (2) autonomous regions authorized by the Constitution are: the Cordillera region; and Muslim Mindanao.
These autonomous regions are special, in that under the Constitution, they have extensive powers, which are not otherwise possessed by ordinary local government units. Based on an enabling law to be enacted by Congress, these extensive powers of the autonomous region would be exercised by the regional government, which would have its own special executive, legislative and judicial branches. According to the Supreme Court, the autonomy they enjoy is “political autonomy”, and not merely administrative autonomy.
However, notwithstanding the political autonomy, these autonomous regions are very much still part of, and are never intended to be separate from, the Philippine State. In fact, the Constitution mandates that they shall be “within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines”. Moreover, like ordinary local government units, they are also subject to the general supervision of the President of the Republic.
Now, as of this time, only the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao had been organized. Yung sa Cordilleras, hindi pa. The Cordillera region has not yet been officially organized as an autonomous region, despite two (2) attempts by Congress in the past two decades. But I am aware that efforts are being made now in the Cordilleras to undertake its third attempt at autonomy, perhaps inspired and buoyed by the whole BBL saga.
So again, what we have now is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or the ARMM, under Republic Act No. 9054.
However, in September last year, Malacañang sent to Congress the draft of a bill, entitled “Bangsamoro Basic Law”, which, as its full title conveyed, sought to abolish the ARMM and repeal the existing law, which is RA 9054. In groping to understand the reason behind all this, we go back to what the President had said a few years ago that the ARMM was a “failed experiment”.
Yes, our President said that!
Pero ang problema—ANG MALAKING PROBLEMA—ay lumabas sa aming mga pagdinig sa Senado na marami pala sa probisyon ng BBL ang labag sa ating Saligang Batas!
Kaya ang aking ginawa ay minabuti kong humingi ng isang pauna at pampaganang lecture o sermon mula sa aming dalubhasa sa Senado sa Saligang Batas, na si Senador Miriam Santiago. Ang ginawa ni Senador Miriam ay inimbitahan niya ang mga magagaling at matitinik na mga utak sa Saligang Batas upang pag-aralan itong BBL, at kung ito nga ba ay naaayon sa ating Saligang Batas.
Sa kasawiang-palad, ipinagtibay ng Report ni Senador Miriam ang aming mga naunang hinala: LABAG TALAGA SA KONSTITUSYON ANG BBL!
Ang gusto raw di-umano ng BBL ay gawing” isang “part-sovereign state” o isang “sub-state” ang tinaguriang “Bangsamoro”. Allegedly, it has all the elements of a State under the Montevideo Convention, namely: 1) Permanent population; 2) Defined territory; and 3) Capacity to enter into relations with other States.
Tapos, magiging iba ang istruktura ng gobyerno sa loob nito: Parliamentary. Eh, ang gobyerno nga ng Pilipinas ay Presidential, ‘di ba? Paano naman mangyayari yun?
‘Ika nga, kumbaga sa sikat na libro ngayon ni Senador Miriam: “Stupid is Forever”!
Bukod pa rito, napakaraming kapangyarihan ang binibigay sa Bangsamoro government! Mas marami at mas malawak pa sa mga kapangyarihan na pinapayagan sa mga autonomous regions sa ilalim ng ating Saligang Batas. Sa dami ng kapangyarihang ibinibigay sa Bangsamoro government, para bang may sarili na itong buhay na hiwalay sa bansang Pilipinas.
What do all these observations lead to? If Congress were to pass this exact version of the BBL as drafted by the Palace, then the resultant law would clearly and grossly violate our Constitution. Hence, all the painstaking work of Congress could just end up being another sumptuous target of a petition by a concerned and well-meaning Filipino taxpayer for certiorari and prohibition with the Supreme Court on the ground of unconstitutionality!
In any event, and without preempting the official findings and recommendations of my Committee, we are aware of the following remedies and options allowed by the Constitution and existing doctrines of the Supreme Court:
1) Congress might have to modify and adjust the present version of the BBL, in order to align and make it consistent with the Constitution. Shorn of the unconstitutional provisions, the BBL could then already proceed to be a legitimate subject of legislation by Congress. To repeat, Congress cannot pass a law that would go against the Constitution. This is based on the doctrine of constitutional supremacy.
2) If the proponents of the BBL in Congress are really bent on passing the BBL in the exact shape and form as drafted by the Palace, then there would be no other legal recourse but to initiate a coordinate move of amending or revising of the Constitution. This is in order to accommodate and make possible all the drastic changes in our existing government structures and institutions called for under the BBL. Thus, under the Article XVII of the Constitution, said proposed constitutional changes shall be done by Congress either through direct action, upon a vote of three-fourths (3/4) of all its Members; or through a Constitutional Convention. This particular view is shared by eminent legal minds, most notably by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.
These are the peaceful, unifying, and constitutional ways of doing it. In the name of peace, let these be done.
No shortcuts. No railroading. No threats of violence. No threats of war.
Let us do this right, as one nation united by our Constitution and under one Flag.
Tandaan at isapuso natin ang ating “Panunumpa sa Watawat”:
Ako ay Filipino.
Buong katapatang nanunumpa
Sa watawat ng Pilipinas
At sa bansang kanyang sinasagisag
Na may dangal, katarungan at kalayaan…
On my part, I assure our youth and our posterity that as elected representative of the Filipino people, entrusted with the life and the future of our nation, your humble public servant will continue the valiant struggles of our patriots by ensuring that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country are kept intact and respected by all, and our people united by a common aspiration for genuine and lasting peace, order, justice and development not only in Mindanao, but in our entire country as well.
Let me end on that note, my dear students.
Thank you for your time and attention.
I hope that you are able to pick up important lessons about our topic this morning, because of its sheer importance to our life as a nation, and to our lives as a Filipino people, especially to you—our youth. As the future of our great land, you shall be inheriting the country and the society that we—your progenitors and forbears—are now shaping and molding in your behalf. What we are doing now is HISTORY IN THE MAKING. And by your active involvement and your insights in the national dialogue, you too can be part of the process of writing this particular chapter of our history.
So, I urge you to be involved. And I also humbly ask for your support, your patience and your understanding.
Mabuhay ang ating mga magagaling at makabayang mag-aaral ng PUP!
Mabuhay ang Polytechnic University of the Philippines!
Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat!