O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy,-
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips,
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue-
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial. -Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
In my view, the fatal flaw in the whole process of creating the MOA — even going beyond the constitutional issues and whether or not it was negotiated by the government in bad faith — is that the MOA was crafted in the shadows beyond the pale of public discussion and debate.
Which reflects the consensus, I suppose, on where the administration went wrong; but I am not convinced a hundred years of consultations or any administration expending political capital would get either side to budge. There are times when things just sort of fall into a kind of balance, uneasy at first, but which gradually becomes second nature and hence, while unofficial, semipermanent. This is the problem now; this where things had been for some years now, accounting, in large part, for both the sense of optimism until last year, in Christian Mindanao, and the gradual appearance of Moros in other parts of the country, where they began to engage in trade and even start setting down roots.
The focus of political attention was first, the Supreme Court and then, after several days’ avoiding the limelight, the return of the telltale sign of presidential tension, a bum stomach on Friday (but by Saturday, the President made an appearance in Pampanga to pitch constitutional amendments while the Deputy Spokesman denied what the Presidential Spokesman had confirmed the day before).
Apropos of the Supreme Court, blogging At Midfield, veteran journalist Ding Gagelonia boiled down the high court’s options to three:
First: The High Court will lift the TRO and toss out the petitions as premature given that the agreement has not been signed and that no actually illegal act has been committed, thus allowing the signing of the MoA-AD to proceed but with a caveat that it be immediately renegotiated;
Second: The Supreme Court will replace the TRO with a preliminary injunction stopping the MoA-AD altogether;
Third: The Court will toss the issue back to the Executive Department effectively removing the TRO on the ground that it is a political question, allowing the MoA to be signed after renegotiations.
The Inquirer editorial last Sunday pointed out, however, that it was a mistake to read to much into what some Justices vis a vis other Justices said during oral arguments. I have heard it said that the high court would rule as the President wished; and it may be that even as the President and the Justices wrestled with that dilemma, another presented itself. Which is, that even as the President was summoning her political troops to pursue another constitututional amendments offensive, her military troops were chomping at the bit in fury over the RP-MILF deal (I’ve heard it suggested by a retired senior officer, that the copies of the agreement obtained by media were leaked from Camp Aguinaldo).
Last Friday (August 15), ABC5 reporter Jove Francisco recounted in his blog, how the President made herself scarce, opting to huddle with officials:
The President may have opted to stay mostly inside the palace these past few days, but she’s been quite busy meeting with lawmakers, cabinet officials and LGU officials, too.
Their SUVs parked just outside the New Executive Building betrayed the supposed intent to make the meetings low key and under the media’s radar. (Some see this as a consolidation of forces at a time that there are moves to amend the constitution, especially because congressmen and local leaders have key roles in the whole process.)
I had to instruct my team to stake out in Laurel Street to monitor the President (if ever she’ll go out of the complex) and her visitors who come in and out of the gates. (To the chagrin of PSG members guarding the gates. But what can we do? Limited coverage or access to our subject just makes us more creative in thinking of ways to do our job…
The last time we saw PGMA was last Tuesday.
The day that she convened her cabinet and when the Timor Leste leader went to Malacanang for a state visit.
She was in red and she looked angry, if you ask me.
That was the day the Palace went Great Guns in favor of constitutional amendments, and (on that same day) in her blog, veteran reporter Ellen Tordesillas argued,
Remember four days before the Sona, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front pulled out the talks in Kuala Lumpur when the government bactracked from its earlier commitment of holding the plebiscite in the more than 700 barangays that would be included in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity aside from the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao?
On the eve of the Sona, former Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon, now presidential adviser on peace process, announced a “breakthrough” that enabled Arroyo to announce in her Sona “Last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved.”
An source close to the peace talks said the “breakthrough” was nothing more than the government agreeing to the demands of the MILF. Which makes one wonder why did they try to backtrack in the first place?
The source said the government really had no intention to sign the agreement but they want to maintain the hypocrisy in front of the MILF and other countries involved in the peace talks. The “Supreme Court scenario” was part of the plan.
Actually, the source said the government was hoping that the opposition would bring the issue to the Supreme Court. But the opposition was slow in reacting…
With the suspension of the signing of the MOA, the government was expecting the MILF to attack communities to justify Arroyo’s declaration of a state of emergency. But the MILF didn’t.
The source said the MILF occupation of the barangays in Pikit and Midsayap which was reported by Piñol and the military didn’t happen after the MOA signing was aborted in KL on Aug,. 5. As Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said in the press conference where they issued a 24 hour ultimatum for the MILF to withdraw, the rebels were there some two months before. “The MILF-and the Christians in the area have co-existed peacefully,” the source said.
Apparently, the MILF sense Malacañang’s ploy of making them the excuse for inciting hostilities to justify Arroyo’s emergency rule that could lead to her staying in power beyond 2010. They are not taking the bait. Instead of engaging in an all-out war with government forces, they opted for “repositioning” of the forces under one its most loyal commander, Ombra Kato.
Without a full-blown war in Mindanao and time running out for her, Arroyo has to crank up her Cha-Cha train. But with Cha-Cha, she may yet cause in a bigger scale, turmoil she has wished in Muslim Mndanao.
(The day before, or last Friday, Tony Abaya in his column echoed a similar though not identical line on the government and its Mindanao strategy)
Then last Saturday (August 16), blogging At Midfield, Ding Gagelonia revealed that sources had told him that the result of all the Palace huddles was that the deal’s a goner:
This writer has just confirmed from several highly placed sources that the deal to give the MILF a sovereignty-clothed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is off, in the present form that It is configured in the initialed, but unsigned,Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD).
This writer’s sources said the move “to renegotiate” the MoA-AD was first admitted during yesterday’s in-chamber meeting of the high tribunal justices with lawyers of the oppositors and the government’s representatives.
The Palace let loose a trial balloon to see how the MILF and those emotionally and politically invested in supporting the Palace’s push for the RP-MILF agreement would react: the reaction was lukewarm, to put it positively: MILF silent on ‘NGO-led peace talks’
We have to consider the possibility that at this point, a cleavage might have occurred within the ranks of the MILF, between those still clinging to the hope the Palace would pursue the agreement, and those saying “we told you so, they’ve always been faithless, let us resume hostilities” camp. On that same day, as per Moroland’s Weblog, the theological basis for resistance in case the Supreme Court invalidated the agreement:
With the outbreak of hostilities between the AFP-PNP and MILF forces in Cotabato, its impact on the GRP-MILF MOA is still uncertain.
Lawyer members of the MILF Negotiating Panel told Luwaran:“The situation created by the outbreak of hostilities does not result from a breach invoked by the parties.”
Nor is it because of withdrawal from the MOA or any prior agreements between GRP and MILF. The stumbling block is the so-called “politics of law.” They said that Supreme Court is a “nonmajoritarian institution” for its legitimacy rest elsewhere than to implement the will of the people. Asked if people should be worried they said the specter of instability still haunts Mindanao (and) will not go away so long injustices and serious grievances of the Bangsamoro people are not addressed.
Even the moderates will have little reason then to warm up to the mindset of Supreme Court justices. Given that the TRO is set for oral argument before the Supreme Court yesterday August 15, for the MILF and Government negotiators two questions linger. What has sparked the outburst? And what can be done about it? MILF leaders are in no doubt as to the true reasons for the outburst spawned by the abortion of the signing of the MOA-AD.
Asked to comment, Muslim religious scholars (ulama) have issued this terse admonition: “Power without an attributable source causes unease.” Solons are making a big mistake to rush in only to preempt the collective prerogatives of the Bangsamoro people. The ulama described the “angry mood” of Senator Mar Roxas seen on TV footage and so, they said, the motive is suspect. Taunting the former senate president, Khaled Musa says Frank Drilon has joined the petition to intervene in the TRO losing his statesman bearing to the call, all of a sudden, of his Ilonggo forebears.
The oral argument on MOA-AD before the Supreme Court throws into question powers not yet derived immediately from the principle of “advise and consent” of the Senate, warns lawyer Datu Michael O. Mastura. Most serious still, according to Mastura, a former congressman, Senators Roxas and Drilon are inclined “to drag the Puno Court whose policy is judicial activism into the politics of law.”
The MILF and the Bangsamoro are left with no other choice but to advance their revolutionary armed struggle to realize their right to national self-determination and the return of their homeland. At the same time, there is a need to heighten political work among the people in the affected areas as well as throughout the country in order to advance the understanding of the just and legitimate cause of the Bangsamoro struggle. Aside from struggling against the same basic problems suffered by the rest of the Filipino people, the Bangsamoro revolutionary forces have to struggle against the added particular burden of national oppression and chauvinism imposed on them by the rotten ruling system in the country. To be able to attain genuine full autonomy, they also need a contiguous restoration of their historic homeland snatched from them by oppressors.
The Communist Party of the Philippines calls on the revolutionary forces under its leadership to give full support to the struggle of the Bangsamoro for national self-determination and the return of their ancestral lands. All the more should the national-democratic revolutionary movement and the Bangsamoro revolutionary movement unite, deepen mutual understanding and heighten cooperation to advance their common and particular struggles against the same enemies–the US-Arroyo regime and the entire rotten, reactionary and oppressive semicolonial and semifeudal system prevailing throughout the country.
The CPP instructs the New People’s Army throughout the country to intensify tactical offensives against the fascist armed forces as a concrete step to support the resumption of the revolutionary armed struggle of the Bangsamoro as well as to take advantage of the present preoccupation of the enemy forces in fending off the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.
I never realized how serious the situation right now about bomb scares here in my place until I heard a news about the bombing here in our city not so long ago. It was after when me and my sisters came out from the church to go to Gaisano Mall and saw that all people were hurriedly walking away from the mall. We were curious. We want to find answers so we listened to some adults chatting about what happened. We listened and realized that the bomb scare in Iligan was not any more a scare but a reality.
Now it’s serious! There were two bombs exploded in the city. Are there dead? HHmmm..I’m not yet sure. But there were hurt. They were rushed to the hospital for medications and safety. I just can’t tell you how many of them were affected or victimized by that bombing. (What mom?.. … more than 10?), ooohh, my mother just told me now that there were more than ten that was hurt.
Oh no! Now it’s serious. It’s really serious! God help us! Protect us from harm and keep us away from danger! Bless all those bombers and I hope you will continue touching their hearts! Keep us safe! We believe in you God!
It was this afternoon when our mayor announced that the classes tomorrow for all levels here in our place is suspended due to the present “unkind” commmotion happening. The said commotion started yesterday when to bombs exploded in two lounging houses here in Iligan. In addition, it was early this dawn when some neighboring municipalities of Iligan City were invaded by some MILF. The dark dawn a while ago has become even darker when some families were killed and some were evacuated away from the danger zone. The main roads connecting some parts of Mindanano passing through Lanao del Norte were temporarily closed because of the unsafe situation. Since Iligan is also included in the threat because of that bomb yesterday and has become one of the evacuating places for a number of people from the affected municipalities, Iligan City was announced to be under the state of calamity. Calamity not by nature but calamity brought by man! So because of that, a curfew starting tonight from 10PM to 5AM was imposed to ensure safety for all.
Right at this very moment, it’s still quiet. I just don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I’ll just hope for the best and safety for everybody through prayers. I think that would be just the simple way I could do now.
See doctor-blogger preMEDitated about text messages (bearing rumors and from officials) in Iligan. The Stylus Master, originally from that city, reported on his family members’ situation:
We immediately contacted our family, friends, and relatives there. And true enough, the city is in a state of calamity. All the family are huddled together in my grandmother’s house, and they’re calling the other relatives to come over to hide there. My brother’s family is also packing their things to evacuate their area.
He then put forward a reaction to the MILF’s arguing hostilities were being undertaken by a “lost command”:
The upper heirachy of the MILF explained that the ones causing the trouble are “lost command” MILF groups, and that they have no control over them.
That’s just terrible, and a cause for fear. And it’s ONE GOOD REASON to scrap their deal in the first place.
Cause if they can’t control their own people, who’s to guarantee that they can control them if the deal is pushed through?
The MILF had tried to establish plausible deniability: MILF: Lanao del Sur ambush may be handiwork of 3rd party. (As for the MILF, for its updates and its opinion on what’s going on, see its official website,Luwaran.com) but in terms of public opinion, this may have backfired. Another blogger,smoke puts it this way, in reaction to the “lost command” argument: “Enough talking already.” Blogger Jherskie puts it in stronger terms. In Notes of Marichu C. Lambino, the lawyer-blogger zeroes in on the MILF’s dilemma: the attacks that took place violated the agreement with the government brokered by the Malaysians in 2001. So it has to say subordinates acted without authorization.
Danton Remoto reported as follows on Sunday, concerning Lanao del Norte:
My campaign team in Lanao del Norte just texted that they are fleeing because the MILF took over their towns this morning. More than 20,000 people have fled. Some are taking their bancas to cross over from Lanao del Norte to Ozamiz City, on the other side of Northern Mindanao. Iligan City is on red alert. Fr. Regie Quijano of Kulambugan town has been killed by the MILF. Fr. Regie is a friend of our cause — human rights for all Filipinos, including LGBTs, and justice and peace for Mindanao. We should mourn his passing and pray for his soul.
6 Priests and a couple of civilians were taken hostage by the MILF rebels. Their status is still uknown. Arsons and massacres are happening now in Kauswagan, Lanao Del Norte.
Blogger nydrad, whose family is from Lanao del Norte, hopes peace will be restored:
my trip on lanao del norte, mindanao, our province, would not be pursued anymore on friday, i think, to think that my mom already bought us a ticket…
with the MILF attacking our province, with my so much surprise, that to i think it was far away from north cotabato…
just earlier this morning, Iligan City and Kolambangan, was attacked! bomb explosion there, killing there, what a chaos! i have many relatives there! and my mom is now worried, kept on calling my lola on what was their situation there, and from what i heard now, the way on our home there, was closed already, and my lola and tito badi’s [my mom’s brother]family, have been evacuated by army’s now…
im restless… especially watching the news now… the army have already declared an war on MILF!
i don’t want to think of the worse, but i kept on thinking the “IF’s”
oh, pls. pray for the peace in mindanao now, this won’t do any good…
And yet, in Katapagan (another town in Lanao del Norte),as recounted by Plan B on Monday morning:
well the milf (moro islamic liberation front) forces are inching towards kapatagan this evening. all the male residents were called to a meeting to discuss the events of the day and to prepare them for the coming violence and troubles ahead. in many ways it is good my family is here in manila instead of there. in other ways it is REAL GOOD we didn’t go there last week to visit, otherwise we would be stuck in the south. all modes of transportation have been cut off and discontinued. the concern right now is with family and friends down there, who are unable to leave. this is an uneasy night, no one will be able to sleep well at all.
despite the troubling events of this evening, my aunt and uncles still got together to chat and spend time together. these events are unfortunately, common, in the town where my family is from (lanao del norte). that is why I haven’t been able to go home in more than 25 years. we had a mini family reunion even though our hearts are heavy with concern and fear.
If the Bangsamoro people is indeed a First Nation, a people unto themselves who are distinct from the rest of the national communities, then it is logical that the Bangsamoro people possess inherent and unequivocal rights which are demandable from the Philippine State, irrespective of whether these rights are found in the Philippine Constitution or not. In fact, it is imperative that if these rights are not found or protected in the Philippine Constitution that the Philippine State should initiate a process to entrench these rights. If the “rules” of the game do not, at present, allow these rights, then “new rules” must be put in place. This, as I have already stated, is the essence of peace talks – negotiating for “new rules”, to change the present “rules”.
If one accepts the statement that the Bangsamoro people is a “distinct people” and a “First Nation” then it follows that they have the following basic rights:
1. The right to self-determination.
2. The right to freely determine their political status.
3. The right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
4. The right to freely dispose their natural wealth and resources.
5. The right not to be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
The MOA is nothing but the explicitation, the articulation, and the enfleshing of the basic rights mentioned above. The MOA is the operationalization of the inherent right to self-determination.
Of course, if one does not agree with this first principle and foundation, then we will have divergent opinion on the MOA on AD and more. We should always respect our differences but we must try to understand where we differ and I think most of our disagreements stem from our disagreement with this first principle and foundation.
While blogger AWBHoldings.com explained why he’s unimpressed (and possibly, resentful):
…how I wish he posted his proofs, not what-ifs. The problem with his First Nation is that many will dispute the notion – some will say the lumads comprise the First Nation, etc.
And lastly – he is being pretentious if he thinks the MILF represents the entire people of Mindanao. The fact that there are Mindanaoans who are opposing the MoA AD belies his illusion. He, together with the Arroyo Administration panel, should have first consulted all stakeholders before shoving the country in a corner. The fact that he called most reactions are emotional speaks of his short-sightedness and tunnel vision. His ignorance of the total picture of the Mindanao situation has actually EXACERBATED the tension instead of easing it.
I am all for peace, but at what cost? The comparison between the MoA AD and Chamberlain’s capitulation at Munich is somewhat apt – we will not have peace and we will have war. That is the cost of peace that Mr. Montesa and the likes want to impose on us.
This is actually something all-to-familiar, in terms of otherwise sincere proponents of peace and reform, who then get so emotionally engaged in achieving their dream, that they remain blind to the Faustian Bargain that made it possible. Instead, they not only get nothing, but set their own cause back, as they have become identified with the President. Jose Abueva learned this, and bitterly acknowledged it on my show; Bong Montesa and others are experiencing it, now.
For me it’s not a matter of being the Christians or Muslims governing Mindanao. Let us think of our history. Let us trace back our heritage. We were not the Muslim or Christian that branded us today. We were the lumads. we were the same indigenous people. We were the same people long way before Islam and Christianity came into our land. Yes, you are a Muslim or a believer in Christ today, but you were the same people who worshiped the moon yesterday.
Mindanao, so to speak, is our ancestral domain whether you are a Christian, a lumad or a Muslim. Christians do not own Mindanao. Muslim too. Even the lumads. It’s all ours.
Meanwhile, some responses to my recent column, and the immediate past entry on this blog, concerning foreign interests in Mindanao. First, from Scriptorium:
I wish to mention the 2 other geopolitical currents that are relevant to the issue: the present pan-Islamic Reformation, and the accelerating retreat of Western power.
(On a note related to the above, David Kaiser, historian and blogger at History Unfolding, proposes that the world is entering a period of instability reminiscent of the 1930’s) And from the nutbox, also responding to my putting forward that Malaysia’s motivated by dreams of a “Greater Malaysia”:
That this “Greater Malaysian Federation” will make for “a large, extremely wealthy, country” is, I think, an understatement. I believe it would be a dominant regional power in this part of the world.
This regional power would control the sea lanes where oil exports from the Middle East to China, Northeast Asia and the United States pass through; as well as the potential oil and gas reserves of Sulu Sea and Liguasan Marsh. Should this regional power assertively claim more lands in Mindanao, the Philippines would be defenseless.
And this regional power, by the way, would be against the United States. Which is why I agree with Quezon when he said that among the priorities of the United States in the Mindanao conflict is containing Malaysia.
Of course, as I have said in my previous post, the Americans have their own designs in Mindanao too. But these designs stand in the way of Kuala Lumpur’s. This is why the Malaysians have consistently rejected the idea of the United States being part of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which, in turn, is the reason why Washington had to resort to using the United States Institute of Peace to work in Mindanao and Sulu for its interests.
With regards to the domestic consequences of all this: the Palace declaration of All Systems Go for constitutional amendments; the President putting herself behind a military offensive in Mindanao, and so on, I don’t know if I can be as optimistic as Mon Casiple:
The Malacañang ploy of endorsing the Pimentel resolution on federalism backfired and earned for its pains a resurgent anti-Cha-cha movement. This particular poison called “extension of GMA stay-in-power” has now fatally affected three current major national initiatives, one after the other: political settlement with the MILF through MOA-AD, federalism through the Pimentel resolution, and charter change through a constituent assembly.
Whatever the merits of these initiatives, proponents should admit that these are now politically dead where they stand—the killing bolt shot from the bolt of widespread public resistance. It is now time to go back to the drawing board. However, the one lesson learned is that the people will not support nor tolerate any major national initiative or policy that is perceived to be in aid of GMA’s continued occupation of Malacañang beyond 2010.
It ain’t over until it’s over. As recently as the State of the Nation Address, when I immediately pointed out the President had opened a Pandora’s Box by announcing an Ancestral Domain agreement and giving the go-ahead for constitutional change, foreign and domestic colleagues were dismissive, skeptical, or more focused on other things. Her motto could well be: try, there is no fail.
Update, August 19:Bob Martin gives a report from the ground and hopes things stop inching towards Davao City:
Last week, when Feyma and I went to Digos, as I reported in my post about Pomelo, on our way home to Davao, we saw a LOT of Army vehicles, including armored vehicles moving toward North Cotabato. The skirmishes there were quite real, believe me. This past weekend there was more action. On Sunday, Iligan City experienced three bombings, one of which was in a hotel there. There were plenty of injuries there due to the bombings. A lot of people are speculating that MILF people perpetrated these bombings.
Yesterday (Monday) was a big day, though. Many attacks happened all around Lanao del Norte Province, including in Iligan City. Seven farmers were killed in cold blood by MILF, six other civilians, and seven Army personnel. President Arroyo addressed the Nation on TV at mid-day and said the the actions of the MILF were tantamount to a declaration of war in Mindanao. In addition, MILF rebels attacked Maasim town in Sarangani Province. I have been to each of these places that came under attack, and have visited each of the places multiple times, so I am quite familiar with not only Maasim, but the areas in Lanao del Norte that were attacked as well.
For their part, the MILF spokesman stated that the attacks were not “sanctioned” by the MILF. At the same time, though, the MILF leadership ordered their people to stop the attacks. By making this order, it would seem that the MILF is admitting that it is their people who are behind these horrid actions. This means that either the MILF sanctioned the attacks, or that they do not have control over their people. No matter which is the reason, should the GRP be negotiating with the MILF if they can’t even control their own people? Giving away part of Mindanao to these people? What is the MILF giving in return. Supposedly, the MILF is giving peace to the government, but what we are seeing right now is not peace, you can be certain of that.
I have a lot of very good friends in Iligan, and I wish them nothing but the best. I hope that they and their families remain safe, and that nobody is injured or killed.
So far, I consider Davao to be very safe. But, some of these things (particularly the problems in North Cotabato) are getting close to the City. I have a lot of confidence in Mayor Duterte, though, and if anybody can keep the city safe, Mayor Duterte is the one. Right now, I have no reason to think about leaving the area, and I doubt that it would come to that. But, things are getting somewhat worrisome for the area, and hopefully things can be calmed before things flare up any further.
Blogger Placeholder asks, if it must be war, are those who led us down the path to war, the same ones who should prosecute it? He makes an apt comparison with how the British dispensed with Neville Chamberlain:
Instead of relying on private armies, vigilante groups, all those fighting on the government side should be regularized. This is to prevent the problem of having to deal with private warlord armies in the aftermath.
Any conflict would not be isolated to Mindanao, so prepare for a general mobilization. Considerconscription.
My fellow bloggers seem to be confident that the MILF does not represent the Muslim people and are no more than bandits. I’m not so sure but even granting that premise, the conduct of the war should be such that we take care not to make this a generalized Christian vs. Muslim conflict. It will be difficult to do this once bombs start going off in Manila, but the Government, Media and Civil Society groups (Secular, Christian and Muslim) should prepare for this. If necessary, laws against Hate Speech must be promulgated.