Association of Generals and Flag Officers, Inc. Fellowship Meeting

General Jose To the officers and directors of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers, Inc. (AGFO), led by its incumbent Chairman and President LGen Edilberto Adan,

To the members of AGFO, our valiant and indefatigable retired and active personnel of our tri-service national armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force), our tri-service national police force (PNP, BJMP, BFP), and our national coast guard.

Other esteemed guests and friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

Maraming salamat po sa inyong pagkumbida sa inyong lingkod upang makasama kayong lahat sa inyong fellowship meeting ngayon umaga. Maraming salamat din sa kasalukuyang Pangulo at Tagapangulo ng AGFO na si Gen. Adan, na siyang may pangunahing ideya na ako ay maparito.

Honestly, I could not turn down the invitation. And, no, it was not out of fear and dread of the General that made me say yes. But rather, I felt morally obliged to pay you all a visit, by way of gratitude and appreciation to your invaluable participation and contribution in the Senate deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), especially on matters within your field of expertise.

Nadagdagan pa nga po ang aking hiya matapos kong bigyan ng “assignment” at karagdagang trabaho si Gen. Adan ukol sa pagpapatibay ng ilang bahagi ng BBL. Ngunit sa kabila ng lahat, buong-puso at walang-pag-aatubili pa ring tinanggap ng mabait na Heneral ang aking mga pinagawa! Maraming salamat po!

For today, you requested me “to give a short talk about the Peace Agreements between the MILF and the Philippines”.

I will claim neither expertise nor extensive personal knowledge with regard to peace agreements and their implementation to the situation in Muslim Mindanao. As the uniformed personnel of the country, who have at one time or another fought for the sovereignty and integrity of and for the maintenance of allegiance to our beloved country, you know better what the peace and order situation in Mindanao is, through your actual frontline and on-the-ground experience. In fact, some of your mistahs, brothers and sisters in the uniformed personnel may have perished in the battlefields of Mindanao in the line of duty for the cause of peace and the sovereignty and integrity of our country, and were not as fortunate to have lived on to tell the tale. May they all rest in peace, and be forever remembered by our grateful nation.

Rather, allow me then to just refresh your minds about some of our existing peace agreements (not only with the MILF, but also with the MNLF), the resultant legal systems, as well as the security aspects of the BBL, in the hope of igniting your practical views and inciting your reactions, as we hope to segue into an open forum a little later, which I am informed is likewise a scheduled activity of your fellowship meeting this morning. This way, we can mutually learn from each other—as I too can benefit from your analyses of the security and defense aspects of the BBL and the Mindanao situation—and in the process we can also make this fellowship meeting of yours a useful adjunct of our legislative work in the Senate Committee on Local Government.

As a consequence of the country’s continuing effort to have peace in the war-torn Muslim Mindanao, several peace agreements have been inked between the Philippine government—primarily through the Executive Branch—and certain groups claiming to represent a divergent “Moro” or “Bangsamoro” identity, and espousing ideals in varying degrees over the years: separation or secession as means for complete independence from the Philippines, and, lately, of autonomy within the context of Philippine sovereignty.

1976 saw the first peace agreement known as the “Tripoli Agreement”. It gave birth to what is now known as the “Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” (ARMM) as formally institutionalized in the government structure by way of Republic Act No. 6734 in 1989, which was in turn amended and expanded in 2001 by R.A. 9054, as a result of further agreements contained in the 1996 Jakarta Peace Accord.

Fast forward to 2012. The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) was executed between the Philippine Government (GPH) and this time with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), following an unsuccessful attempt to forge the Memorandum of Agreement on the Muslim Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the same group in 2008. This 2012 FAB led to the 2014 CAB or the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), ultimately bringing forth what is now lodged in Congress as the draft bill on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Notice the variance in the designation of the parties—not just the change from “MNLF” to “MILF”. On the government side, before it used to be “Government of the Republic of the Philippines” or “GRP”, then it simply became the “Philippine Government” or “GPH”. Please observe also that all these agreements between the “Government” and the ARMM/Bangsamoro proponents have had to be operationalized through congressional action or legislation first before they could be formally instituted in our government structure.

Note also that some of the agreements, notwithstanding the fact that they were initiated, entered into, and vouched for by the “Government of the Republic of the Philippines” itself, nonetheless still proved susceptible, and in fact actually subjected, to judicial nullification, like what had happened in the botched MOA-AD in 2008, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The reason behind all this is no other than our constitutional system of democracy, as organized by our Philippine Constitution, which has partitioned and allocated the major powers of government to three (3) great branches: the Executive, Legislative and Judicial departments.
Lawmaking was reserved to our bicameral Congress. Law-implementation was given to the Executive branch, headed by the President. While law-interpretation was handed over to the courts, the last bastion of which is the Supreme Court. This triumvirate of the great branches has been installed by our Constitution precisely in order to ensure a healthy and efficient checks-and-balances system between and among them.

So, the “government” that is referred to in the peace agreements, i.e., “GRP” and “GPH”, does not necessarily mean the entire Philippine government, let alone the entire Filipino people. It just refers solely to the Executive branch of the government. While indeed they are agreements that still have to be abided by the parties in good faith, they do NOT bind the rest of government, much less the Filipino people.

For one, whether considered as a “treaties” or “international agreements” in the legal sense of the words (and I believe the Supreme Court to this day still has not confirmed the real legal nature of these agreements), these agreements would still have to be adopted and enacted by Congress through legislation, for them to effect the desired fundamental changes to our government structure, as part of the law of the land. This is precisely the reason why we are tackling the BBL in Congress today.

And even granting that the BBL is enacted by Congress sooner or later, the Supreme Court also stands and serves as another check, and is not prevented from exercising its mandate of judicial review under the Constitution. Upon petition of one who has sufficient legal standing, the High Court can declare the actions of the other departments, whether the executive or legislative, as illegal and unconstitutional and/or for having been done with “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction”.

This system of check and balance is the reason why we are doing everything in Congress to study and assay the provisions of the BBL, in spite of the strong recommendations (and lobbying) of Malacañang. This is not to say that the acts of the Executive department could not be trusted, as in fact it is presumed to have done the same in good faith. However, as representatives of the People, Congress directly participates in the national dialogue about the direction and the future of the country, about its policy, and the attainment of its aspirations and development goals. And in the whole process, Congress is duty-bound to consult and listen to the People, especially those who have substantial knowledge and interest on the matter.

And this is why we reached out and asked the brave and learned men and women of AGFO for their views and comments on the draft BBL. In behalf of the Committee and the Senate, I sincerely thank the AGFO for its invaluable participation, which in fact has been extended and prolonged in view of the recent assignment and additional work that I gave AGFO, through Gen. Adan, to assist in the revision process of the BBL, particularly on the matters of normalization and decommissioning of hostile forces.

As retired officers of the uniformed personnel, you possess crucial knowhow and remarkable technical and tactical analyses about these important public issues and matters, which now you are at liberty to speak your minds about, as compared to the time while you were in active duty, during which you were in virtual “gag order”. You could not possibly speak about anything that could compromise sensitive plans and missions, let alone comment on anything that would tend to be critical of the government. Before, practically everything was “classified”. But now, you are free to do so, and your insights, coming as they do from a collective wellspring of intellect and experience, are essential in enriching the public conversation, and needless to say, capable of ultimately benefitting public welfare and safety.

Notably, we appreciate your inputs and suggestions on the following matters: the express inclusion of strict timetables and milestones in the decommissioning of the MILF; the concept of “Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration”, which is a peacekeeping principle of the United Nations; the dangers inherent to a “Bangsamoro Police Force” and an “AFP Bangsamoro Command”; and so much more.

These are indeed spot-on and propitious inputs, as the draft BBL obviously either dismally lack or is materially deficient in these important areas. Rest assured, we took note of all these in our revision.

Literally in just a few days, I will be required to submit the revised draft of the BBL to the other members of the Committee.

So, please indulge this representation as we move on to open forum, and pique each other’s brains and interests to try to improve the draft BBL on this aspect of normalization and decommissioning, to possibly prevent what you fear to be an “incarnation of the BIAF” that is in the offing.

To end my message, please allow me to personally acknowledge you, our brave generals, flag officers and senior officials of our uniformed personnel:

Thank you for your gallant and selfless service to the country, not only during the time while you were on active duty, but also during this period of your retirement wherein you continue to be of service to our country by being active and involved in important public issues and in furthering the awareness and understanding of the public with regard to a highly controversial matter such as the BBL. Truly, you have done the country and the Filipino people proud, and, as shown by your undying commitment, you still continue to do us proud!

I highly encourage you to continue to be government’s partners in nation-building, and continue to be proactive and be a strong, united and influential voice in public affairs, especially on the highly specialized and technical field relating to our national defense and security.

Mabuhay ang Association of Generals and Flag Officers, Inc. (AGFO)!

Mabuhay ang ating buong unipormadong hanay sa Pilipinas!

Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat!

At ngayon naman po ay dumako na po tayo sa ating “open forum”, kung saan inaanyayahan ko ang lahat na makibahagi sa pagpapalitan ng mga kuro-kuro at palaisipan!

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