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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Various groups, most notably the security sector, express apprehension over certain clauses the MILF insists on being included in the BBL that's being hammered out by Congress. Duterte is right: peace negotiations with NDF should be held here and not in The Netherlands



Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan (now retired), welcoming then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo upon her arrival from abroad e years back.

Over the past two Sunday segments of our “Radyo Balintataw” talk-show over dzRH, Cecile Guidote Alvarez and I concentrated on various aspects of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)---the positive and the negative side of it---in an effort to help shed light on this most crucial legislation that’s expected to be passed by Congress in time for President Duterte’s “State of the Nation Address” on July 23.  

Two Sundays ago we had as guest Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI, who has spent many decades in Mindanao. Fr. Mercado is  quite optimistic that the passage of the BBL---due for reconciliation in the bicameral conference committee of Congress from July 9-13---would help address some of the historical injustices to the Bangsamoro people, and bring about peace and prosperity to the more impoverished areas of that huge island down south.

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Unarguably, the proposed BBL---far from being the panacea for all of Mindanao’s ills---will have to reconcile many features to be raised between the Senate and the House. Earlier tonight over dzRH, we invited former PMA Superintendent and former Southern Command Chief Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan,  (ret.)---PMA class 1972 and now trustee and co-chair of the committee on national security of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations---to share with the nation the apprehensions of the "security sector," the military and police---over certain moves that the Bangsamoro is pushing in the proposed BBL. 

For instance, Gen. Adan noted that there appears to be an absence of MILF renunciation of its avowed goal of independence and the establishment of an Islamic State. Moreover, he stressed that certain "repetitious" words and phrases such as "asymmetric relationship,"  "aspiration for self-governance" and "right to self-determination" suggest equality of rank between the Philippine government and the Bangsamoro---which cannot be allowed. 

In fact, Sen. Franklin Drilon is reportedly objecting to the "self-determination" clause in the BBL, and he rightly asserted that it could be taken to mean political independence for the dissident group. 

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Just as sensitive, the term "normalization" as defined in the BBL's mother document, the "Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro" of October 2014, did not mandate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Moreover, it would seem that MILF armed groups would continue to co-exist with the AFP in the same 30 year-period prior to the end of the plebiscites on the BBL.  

There's huge worry too that actual decommissioning of MILF and MNLF armed elements would be quite tough. Recall that this issue was among the thorniest during the negotiations in Northern Ireland in the 1990s vis-a-vis the IRA.. 

These are just some of the nitty-gritty that would have to be threshed out in continuing negotiations between government and the Bangsamoro over the next many months. The common goal should be genuine peace and reconciliation in our beloved land, but it would seem from initial salvos that negotiations would be quite rocky. 

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I don’t always agree with President Duterte’s views and policies, but in his latest advocacy---to hold the peace talks with the Communist Party in our country instead of in Utrecht, The Netherlands---I completely agree with him.

For years now the government has been conducting peace talks with the communist leaders in Europe, mainly in The Netherlands, which has been a most expensive undertaking for the government. But so far, nothing much has been achieved despite the frightful expenses involved, with support from some European governments. 

Moreover, these communist leaders have lived abroad for so long that they may be quite removed from the current reality back home. How can they speak for the broad masses of Filipinos if they have been merely luxuriating in the European way of life, courtesy of some foreign governments. Recall the term "steak commandos?" 

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My classmate at the UP many decades ago, Jose Maria “Joma” Sison as well as a few other NDF elements who were contemporaries of ours have been living in The Netherlands for close to 50 years now. Obviously they are averse to coming home until conditions they seek to promote are imposed. If they are waiting for the country to come under Communist rule, however, I suspect that they would have to wait forever.

Communist insurgency in the Philippines is said to be the longest-running in the world---by now over five decades---and many lives have been lost on both sides.  The price the Filipino people are paying for peace is quite steep, yet it remains extremely doubtful if communism could be imposed here, as Filipinos are naturally averse to its doctrines, which run counter to our deep abiding faith in God.

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What should happen is for both sides to focus on real reforms. On the government side, more efforts toward eradicating poverty principally by marshaling precious resources toward that end, instead of their being siphoned off to or squandered by politicos through corruption and flagrant spending.

On the side of the Communists, there is need to show genuine concern for the country and our people. They should recognize that instead of the revolution that they have been dreaming about for 50 years to succeed, what would be more meaningful would be to help eradicate poverty and social injustice. Peace and order is a vital ingredient here. 

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The President's  concern for the poor seems genuine enough.  If he could just discard his erratic, ill-thought out and vengeful ways at times, he may be able to lift the country out of poverty and backwardness as he has substantial support across the social classes. 

Education is one sure way of eradicating poverty and the recently passed law allowing FREE EDUCATION AND TRAINING in state colleges and universities---if funded adequately by Congress---should help alleviate the extreme poverty that's luring some of the broad masses to the insurgents. 

Corollarily, there should be less extravagance on the part of government officials and definitely less corruption. 






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