Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Peace in P5 million

It was very disconcerting to read in The Manila Times how President Noynoy Aquino handed a staggering P5 million to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in their last secret meeting in some shady hotel in the land of Tokyo Japan. It's as if like it was only yesterday when we threw criticisms as to the secrecy of such talk as we demanded the full disclosure of it. After all, we don't want another Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain glaring all of a sudden on our faces, just like what the previous Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did.

First, the Malacanang won’t validate nor deny such story. Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte was even quoted saying, "if President Aquino did gave P5 million to the MILF leader, it would be for social alleviation, education and other needs of the Muslim people.

But later, after torrents of criticisms and the rapid spread of the story in e-mail and text messages, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, in an interview over dzMM admitted that the MILF was handed P5 million pesos, but not in the so-called secret meeting of President Aquino in Tokyo, Japan with MILF’s Al Haj Murad Ibrahim and that the president did not hand the money himself.

Implying that the release of the story in time when the nation is incensed with anger over the killings of more than 19 soldiers and police elements in Basilan, Zamboanga and Lanao del Norte is malicious, Lacierda explained that the money was wired through Peace Panel Chair Marvic Leonen in a meeting with his MILF counterparts in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last August. Apparently, the money is to be used for a so-called Bangsamoro Management and Leadership Institute and more importantly, it was part of the agreement of the MILF with the previous Arroyo administration.

But of course, media sources tell otherwise. The said money was said to be used for purchase of ammunitions and trainings of their armed men.

Not only the Palace is hiding again behind the shadows of Arroyo’s crimes, they are actually trying to make sense the giving of the P5 million which by the way came, obviously, from the national coffer. The defense used saying the money was used to fund trainings of young Bangsamoro leaders is either plain naïve or just blatant stupidity, again from the administration’s mouthpiece. Since when was when was MILF building schools, giving out food for the impoverished Muslims and promoting the welfare and Mindanaoans? If so, then they would be peacefully campaigning for posts on ARMM and not busy themselves by building cells, camps and communicating with the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) which coincidentally functions as al-Qaeda's arm in Southeast Asia.

That P5 million appears to be a way of buying out some time for the government, like some cheap token so a carousel ride would keep on going for a definite period of time. And why was it given when the ceasefire agreement was not yet in motion? Why all this secrecy?

Isn't it painful to hear that the bullets that killed the 19 soldiers in the past encounter in Al-Barka, Basilan as well as the other soldiers and police in Lanao and Zamboanga came from the very same government they are serving?

This is why the MILF leadership and its numerous renegade groups are getting cocky. They see our president as "easy." And this is why there are silent cry for mass resignations as well as coup within the AFP today. The recipe of it all are present no matter how soft they seem to be as of now and another wrong move could lead the entire country crashing into wild avalanche which not even the entire Presidential Communications group can undo.

The status quo is no longer a political circus were men ride in colorful wagons trying to outshine one another. It is no longer a simple matter of overhauling the government's image and pin pointing of who's behind the agenda or not. Our sovereignty is being threatened and for so many years already. Don't we think it's time to live with our anthem "aming ligaya na 'pag may nang-aapi ang mamatay ng dahil sa 'yo"?

What the administration did is what you would call "framing the argument." When the president said "we do not want an all out war" against the MILF, he provided only two choices as to the matter: it's either you're pro war or not.

There are definitely many choices we could act on right now instead of thumb twiddling and creating raucous which could lead us to what Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago called "a failed state." Like the temporary halting of the peace talk and the re-framing of the boundaries of ceasefire. Who are we talking to? What happens if not every demand of the MILF is agreed upon? Would there be another splinter cell the way the current MILF sprung from Nur Misuari's MNLF? Do these Muslim rebels even consider themselves as Filipinos?

In the larger picture, we are forgetting the other Filipino inhabitants of Mindanao like the Lumads, Christians and other Muslims as well. Mindanao is not owned by the Bangsamoros. There maybe contesting to this as to certain juridical territories but Philippines is owned by no less than the Filipinos. What the P5 million symbolizes right now is the buying of time by the president over the MILF and giving in to their demands. Are we to fear these armed groups and deny lasting peace and justice for our Filipino brothers in Mindanao?

For Mr. Conrado de Quiros, this is clearing thinking. Thinking long term solutions not by surrendering via certain amount of money and thinking for the majority of Filipinos. Thinking of the possible international implications of a government scolding its soldiers instead of the enemies and thinking for our last resort in case everything fails and being prepared for it. And most of all, we could not win a war with only a single ball dangling malignantly.

Now, there’s the rub for you.

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