Remembering the Mamasapano massacre

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Oplan Exodus PNP Special Action Force Fallen 44 members. (credits to Wikimedia)

Today is the first anniversary of the partly ill-fated Oplan Exodus operation to capture terrorists Marwan and Basit Usman, who were wanted by the United States government for terrorist activities threatening the security of the United States. The operation had postponed many times before it was executed due to fear of the government to alienate the representative of the Moros in the peace talks with the Philippine government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as Marwan and Basit Usman were hiding within the territories controlled by the MILF.

The operation was finally executed on January 25, 2015 because the government had to support the efforts of its American counterparts in fighting extremist Islam terrorism in exchange for military and economic aids expected by our country from the United States. The government had two dilemmas, whether to honor the MILF or the US government, and the dilemmas resolved by choosing the latter and the operation was executed. When the PNP Special Action Force entered the MILF territory where Marwan and Basit Usman hid, MILF told the media that the PNP SAF didn’t ask a permission from them and the MILF’s statement had angered the public arguing that the MILF as a rebel group, the government should do force to capture terrorists at all costs without following the rules of engagement like asking permission from somebody’s controlling the area where the terrorists hid. The chain of command was not followed like preempting DILG secretary and now Liberal Party presidential candidate, Mar Roxas, and instead, the operation was executed mostly upon the orders of PNP chief Alan Purisima and SAF chief Getulio Lapeñas while the president was on a visit in Zamboanga at the time of the operation.

These lapses caused the casualties of 44 PNP SAF members committed by the MILF and the immediate and lasting result of the mishap have been the increased skepticism of the general public with the peace process and the Bangsamoro Basic Law because the representative of the Moro people is the MILF and people cannot anymore trust their sincerity as they have perceived that the MILF would eventually break the proposed peace agreement thru BBL and pursue their long-time dream for independence from the Philippine Republic. For me, had both parties followed the realpolitik not just during the Oplan Exodus operation but for the entire deliberation of the peace process, 44 PNP SAF members would have survived, the people won’t give a fuss about the operation, and the peace deal would have been achieved by now. The Mamasapano massacre basically brought the dream for everlasting peace in Muslim Mindanao into a brink of collapse due to mistrusts by the Christian Filipinos with the peace deal and the false hopes by the Moros that peace deal would be achieved under the representation of the MILF on behalf of them after the massacre. For me also, to achieve the everlasting peace in Muslim Mindanao, I think both Christians, Muslims, and Lumads should be given their desired political autonomy equally like delegating the power to make economic, political, social, and cultural policies to them for their own benefit while at the same time, maintaining the territorial integrity of the country. In other words, evolving federalism should be the route for everlasting peace in our country.

The responsible of the partly ill-fated operation should pay the consequences of their actions so that the soul of slain PNP SAF members would be laid in peace and the people can move on and pursue the dream for political autonomy for everyone for the future welfare of our country.

Welcome back!

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Got my aspired degree last October 2015.

Folks, I am back after more than two years of hiatus due to my pressing academic commitments I had to face during my third and fourth years of my undergraduate studies. I had to set aside blogging because the path to graduate as a Political Science degree holder was really rough than what I used to imagine. It was rough because I studied at one of the elite universities in the Visayas, the University of San Carlos and its Political Science program is considered to be the toughest but rigid for me, because its students and graduates are groomed to be average, if not great, followers of the current political system instead of being great critical thinkers and advocates. Many of my colleagues in the Political Science department of the University of San Carlos, were not able to finish the degree because professors taught that they were ready enough to engage in such rigorous research crafting, from making a proposal until the publication stage, as most of us had never grow up gathering detail information in certain political issue during their formative years. I myself failed the proposal stage once because it was not crafted well, so I had to take the second time and passed after all and paved way to my graduation last October 24, 2015. I am glad that I was able to graduate but with the full implementation of K to 12 curriculum this coming AY 2016-2017, I think it is a high time for universities with social science programs to focus more with application instead with theories like any typical medical schools where medical technology students for example, are given an adequate time of one year of applying what they have learned from class lectures through internship in different hospitals and I think social science students especially political science ones, should be given opportunities to apply what they have learned from class lectures through a prolonged internship with any institutions or organizations, not just within the Philippines but also abroad.

For the past two and a half years since I took a break from blogging, the country and the rest of the world have changed a lot because of combinations of decision-making of leaders for many years that have taken effect today. Few months after I stopped publishing articles in this blog, the catastrophic typhoon Yolanda struck the country, damaged infrastructures in some areas in the Visayas, and probably cost 10,000 lives at most and for me, human activity had something to do with the tragedy as massive consumption of coal and hydrocarbons by humans for the past three centuries, had altered the climate realities than what the nature wanted. In relation with massive consumption of coal and hydrocarbons, the prices of both commodities have continued to plummet since mid-2014 because of overproduction of crude oil from the United States primarily as a result of the advancements of hydraulic fracturing or fracking while the economic growth in emerging economies, primarily China, has cooled down due to exhaustion of export-first economic model as developed countries are too cautious in spending money of buying stuffs from emerging economies and domestic markets of emerging countries like China are not yet ready to fill the gap left by developed countries, thus lesser economic growth in emerging economies means lesser demand for commodities that could have driven prices up. The process of healing the conflict between the majority Christian and minority Moro Muslims went bumpy in 2015 because of ill-fated Mamasapano massacre where 44 policemen were killed in action by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF while they successfully captured and killed the wanted terrorist named Marwan while Basit Usman was killed few months later. The aftermath of Mamasapano massacre had raised questions of the capability and sincerity of the MILF to surrender armed struggle for parliamentary participation from those who has opposed the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law where MILF is the representative for the Moro people. As of this moment of writing this article, the 2016 presidential election has been brewing and for me, neither of the candidates for presidency are deserving to serve the country for the next six years due to the reasons that I will have to discuss in my future articles. Well, I hope everyone will discern and enjoy my perspectives for enlightenment purposes.

Claiming Sabah is a quixotic thing to do

Map of Sabah. Malaysia and the Philippines have a long-standing dispute on Sabah's sovereignty.

Map of Sabah. Malaysia and the Philippines have a long-standing dispute on Sabah’s sovereignty.

Last week, 12 February 2013, there was a stand-off in Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia where 400 persons including 20-40 who were armed have infiltrated the town of Lahad Datu in behalf of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of the former Sultanate of Sulu on the basis that North Borneo or Sabah is in the dominion of the former Sultanate of Sulu and the recently signed peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF, appeared to have isolated that deal, prompted the decision to send the men to Sabah this month.

They were given until Tuesday or 26 February to withdraw from Sabah and return to Sulu but the Sultan has been consistent not to do so because the Malaysian government is still paying yearly rental dues to them as a result of the 1878 lease agreement between the British North Borneo Company and the Sultanate of Sulu.

The Sabah sovereignty dispute between the Philippines representing the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysia should be traced back in 1878 when an agreement between the British North Borneo Company represented by Alfred Dent and Baron von Overback and the Sultanate of Sulu, which stipulated that North Borneo be which stipulated that North Borneo was either ceded or leased (depending on translation used) to the British syndicate in return for payment of 5000 Malayan Dollar per year. The dispute on whether the Sultanate of Sulu leased or ceded North Borneo to the British North Borneo Company has been in contentious dispute until now because different interpretations of the American, British, Dutch, and Spanish interpretations of the word “padjak” where all of them expect the British interpreted to mean as “rent” or “arrendamiento” while the British interpreted as “grant or cede”.

The dispute has become a complicated ones when the Spanish colonial government in Manila, where the Sultanate of Sulu had belong as a protectorate after the Treaty of 1851,  relinquished all claim to North Borneo which had belong to the Sultanate in the past through the Madrid Protocol of 1885.

21 years later in 1906, the American colonial government, who was controlling the Philippine archipelago including Sulu after they ousted the Spaniards 8 years before, formally reminded Great Britain that North Borneo did not belong to the Crown and was still part of the Sultanate of Sulu. However, the British did turn Sabah into a Crown Colony in 1946. American reminders were denied on the basis that the Sultanate of Sulu was a mere protectorate of Spanish East Indies based in Manila during the signing of the Madrid Protocol in 1885 while they asserted that the Spain never acquired sovereignty over North Borneo.

This ambiguity has been passed to our Philippine government through the promulgation of the 1935 constitution which states that the national territory of the Philippines included, among other things, “all other areas which belong to the Philippines on the basis of historical rights or legal claims” as a weapon to claim North Borneo.

Malaysia asserted its claim on North Borneo after the British left in 1963 and the residents were decided through a UN-supervised referendum on whether to be a part with the Federation of Malaysia or with the Republic of the Philippines and when the results were announced, Sabahans chose to be a part with the former.

A year before the Federation of Malayan States, during the presidency of President Diosdado Macapagal, the former Sultanate of Sulu ceded its rights on claiming North Borneo to the Republic of the Philippines, thus gave the Philippines an authority to claim Sabah unsuccessfully from Great Britain. The Philippines broke diplomatic relations with Malaysia after the federation had included Sabah in 1963 but probably resumed it unofficially through the Manila Accord.

The Philippines tried to claim Sabah through force through forming a number of Moro Muslim recruits to train for the invasion of  Sabah which was not executed as most of the recruits were massacred during their training in Corregidor attempting to escape the training led by military handlers according to some accounts. The massacre became the root cause of Moro discontent against the Philippine government from Marcos up to the present time.

I think the reason on why Sabah is not ours was because the Spaniards were too late of consolidating their control on the Philippine archipelago including Sabah and when the Spaniards gained sovereignty over the Sulu and Sabah for a short period of time, the British, Germans, Austrians, and even Americans were already looking to control the then-Sultanate of Sulu and as Spain did not have enough money or manpower to control the then-Sultanate of Sulu, they had to relinquish Sabah in exchange for the sovereignty of Sulu archipelago. When the Americans wanted to claim Sabah in 1906 and 1920, it was way too late to claim it. Also, the Philippine government was way too late of pursuing to claim Sabah. Therefore, Sabah’s exclusion from the Philippines was a product of Spanish Empire’s long decline of its prominence to the British Empire, who  economically and militarily controlled the world when Spain gave up its control on Sabah.

I don’t think making foolish military actions to claim Sabah to us would gather sympathy to the Sabahans and in fact, the recent stand-off further scared the motives of the Sultanate of Sulu and the Philippines on claiming Sabah. We don’t have even an enough military technology and manpower to assert our claims on Sabah against the Malaysians, how much more of making a sensible military actions to claim Sabah?

We should not sacrifice our relations not just with Malaysia but also with the rest of ASEAN on claiming Sabah in a foolish way. We need to befriend all of them though a greater economic and political integration where if the latter achieves sometime in the future, it would be easier for the Filipinos to live and work in Sabah under the ASEAN supranation umbrella like what most European Union member states under the Schengen Area where the Germans can live and work in France or vice versa without barriers.

If we want to pursue our claims on Sabah, we have to clean our own backyard first like improving the lives of the Filipinos into Malaysian levels or greater than of that so that the people of Sabah will insinuate to be part of our country.

The GRP-MILF Bangsamoro agreement, a precedence for the break-up of the Philippines

MILF rebels in uniform.

After years, the Philippine Government (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have ended negotiations on the framework agreement for Mindanao in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and are set to sign the peace agreement on October 15 that will establish the “Bangsamoro” state within the Philippine territory, President Benigno Aquino II said last Sunday.

The goal of the upcoming peace agreement with the MILF is to create a government that is in conform with the traditions of the minority Filipino Muslims or Moros living in some parts of Mindanao. It would also aim to end the armed struggle by the MILF rebels fighting for an autonomy for almost 20 years. Allowing the Moros to run their basic internal affairs such as education, health, culture, and many others would assure the long-run survival of the Moro identity in the sea of the predominant Christians in the Philippines.

The details of the framework agreements states the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous political entity to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It entails the creation of a parliamentary form of government to be headed by a Chief Minister with the ministries who would govern the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous political entity. It gives a way for the implementation of the Shari’ah law in the internal matters in Bangsamoro. It gives the leverage for the Bangsamoro to create its own sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees, and charges.

The powers that would be reserved for the national government, however, are defense and external security; foreign policy; common market and global trade; coinage and monetary policy; citizenship and naturalization; and postal service.

The upcoming agreement between the Philippine Government (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would open the doors for the restructuring of our system of government through a Constitutional Reform or more known as the Charter Change that would be unlikely in a short-run but likely and necessary in a long-run. The agreement would be just a paper tiger if we stick with the outdated unitary-presidential and protectionist 1987 constitution. It would give a reason for other regions of our country to ask for greater autonomy from the national government in the matters of basic governance with the upcoming agreement as the precedence.

Our national leaders should now realize the nature of our country that is culturally, economically, linguistically, and politically diverse that needs to decentralized the matters of basic governance to the regions instead to be concentrated to the central government. Our faulty unitary system that was installed by the Spaniards have created a series of resentments of almost all Filipinos to the national government due to the latter’s incompetence in running the affairs of various regions that are different to each other.

The agreement between the GRP and MILF would give a reason for other regions including the Bangsamoro to secede from the Philippines especially if our national leaders would try to insist the flawed 1987 constitution in chest. If we really want to preserve our unity as a multicultural country, we need to give all regions a sort of autonomy through federalism in order to avoid a (bloody) break-up of our country in the future.