Statement of the Association of General and Flag Officers
Delivered by LtGen EdilbertoP Adan (Ret), June 6, 2015 at 8:12 AM at the Senate Committee Hearing on the Basic Bangsamoro Law
(Note: This position paper is an amalgamation of the analyses and recommendations made by Col. Cesar Pobre Ph.D. and former DND Sec. Renato De Villa. Their papers were adopted by the AGFO and the PMAAA-BIRCI as their stand on the Bangsamoro Basic Law issue. This paper is supported by several groups of retired officers and veterans.)
Good morning Mr.Chairman, your Honors…
In behalf of the Assn of General and Flag Officers, the retired members of the PMAAA, the PNP, the PCG, and as well as the BJMP and BFP, let me express our appreciation for your kind invitation for us to attend this hearing on the proposed BBL. Members of these and other brother organizations are retired officers. Many of them are veterans of the campaigns against insurgency and terrorism in Mindanao.
As veterans, we experienced the scourge and cruelties of war, its physical, mental and psychological demands. We had to suffer the tormenting thought of leaving personal comfort and family behind, though unmindful that in putting our lives on the line we could come anytime into that fateful moment when “bells for us are rung, and our last taps is sung.”
And so when we say, “we abhor war, we long and crave for peace, lasting peace, just like anybody else,” please believe us. Our veterans fought for a noble cause…they saved Mindanao from separating from our republic, and becoming a separate Islamic state.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED
The Filipino soldier time and again, has proven that when provided the proper direction and adequate resources to defeat the nation’s enemies, he will prevail. This was demonstrated in the successful campaigns against the MNLF secessionist rebellion in the 70s and the major operations against the MILF in the year 2000 in Central Mindanao. We recognize that the military alone cannot resolve the problem in Mindanao but the problem cannot be solved without the participation of the military.
THE MILF: A REBEL GROUP
The MILF is a rebel group and rebellion is a crime punishable by the Revised Penal Code. The President has broad powers provided by our Constitution to deal with rebellion and sedition. He may call on the armed forces or he may choose the path of negotiations, the outcome of which should be within the conditions allowed by the laws of the land.
THE BBL: AN INSTRUMENT OF PEACE?
The proposed BBL is touted to be precisely that instrument of peace, the solution to the decades-old strife in Mindanao. But in our view, as the derivative of two covenants – TheFramework Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro- the BBL in its present form and substance, may not prove to be that instrument. This is because it contains provisions which can create more problems that it can solve. Also, it lacks provisions that would ensure its workability and prevent the dismemberment of our country.
OUR ASSESSMENT OF THE CAB, THE FAB AND THE BBL
A. On the FAB and CAB, In General
1. Conspicuously absent in these documents is an MILF’s renunciation of its separatist policy with the intent of establishing an Islamic State covering Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan. Nowhere in these papers can one find an MILF undertaking to renounce its policy of separatism and goal of independence, as well as to affirm or acknowledge the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. Plainly noticeable in them, though, is that the MILF is ranked equal or in partnership with the GPH, and that equality of relationship is expressly recognized as such in their provisions. Here are some examples:
a. Repetitious mentioning of the phrase “The Philippine Government and the Bangsamoro Government.” If the spirit of the agreements is for the Bangsamoro to remain under the RP as an autonomous entity, then, it might have been more appropriate to use “Philippine Government and Autonomous Bangsamoro Region”, like the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
b. Use of the word “asymmetric” to characterize the “relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government.” According to the dictionary, asymmetric means “not identical on both sides of the central line,” that is, the referent object on one side of the line is not the very same object on the other side. That the two are positioned side by side suggests that “asymmetric” is a horizontal and not a vertical concept. This is why the CAB describes the MILF as government in partnership with the GPH; and not a constituent part nor a subordinate of the latter.
c. Aspiration for self-governance. Without any qualification, this phrase can be interpreted as either independence in running one’s own affairs, or managing one’s affairs independent of external control. Thus, duality of interpretation can give the MILF the opportunity to suit it to its goal. It can be used to justify a declaration of independence later.
d. The Bangsamoro people are allowed to “chart their political future”. Since the term is ambiguous, it can easily be construed as an end-state of autonomy or independence, depending on one’s purpose.
e. Affirming their rights to self-determination. This right, however, was shot down by the Supreme Court when it ruled out that the people’s right to self-determination does not include the unilateral right of secession.
2. Bangsamoro Participation in the Central Government. Section 9, Article VI, of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) provides:
It shall be the policy of the Central Government to appoint competent and qualified inhabitants of the Bangsamoro in the following offices of the Central Government: (1) at least one (1) CabinetSecretary; at least one (1) in each of the other departments, offices and bureaus, holding executive, primarily confidential, highly technical, policy determining positions; and one (1) Commissioner in each of the constitutional bodies.
The recommendations of the Bangsamoro shall be channeled through the intergovernmental mechanisms.
Under the Constitution it is the President who is empowered to appoint the members ofhis Cabinet and heads of the various departments, offices, bureaus and constitutional bodies; even the members of the judiciary, the Sandiganbayan, GOCC’s, etc. Therefore, to require him to pick out from a particular sector of Philippine society, like the Bangsamoro, is a stark diminution of his power, which is unconstitutional.
3. A petition to accede by at least 10% of the people residing in an area contiguous to the core territory is enough to start the process of being included as part of Bangsamoro. Would this not amount to a case of tyranny of the minority over the majority, considering that only a very small number of inhabitants of a contiguous area can legally bind the rest of the population to accede to the Bangsamoro, much against their will? To be sure, that would be undemocratic.
4. The MILF cannot claim the right to represent and act in the name of all the groups of stakeholders, such as the MNLF, the traditional Muslim leaders or Datus, the Ulamas or religious leaders, the Lumads or indigenous people, the Christians, and others, in the absence of any formal declaration to that effect by each of them. For this reason, these groups are not bound by the MILF – GPH agreement. And since they will undoubtedly be affected adversely by it, the likelihood is they would oppose it and cause trouble.
B. ON BBL ARTICLE IV, GENERAL PRINCIPLES AND POLICIES
* Section 4 of Article IV provides that governance in the Bangsamoro is the responsibility of the duly elected civilian government… and that “Civilian authority is at all times supreme over the military.” We recommend that the second sentence of this Section pertaining to “civilian authority over the military” be omitted in the proposed law.
This is a provisionin the Constitution under Article II. Declaration of Principles and StatePolicies. We believe that the phrase “civilian authority” in regard to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (military) refers to the President of the Philippines only and not to any other official of the government. Our “civilian” President is theCommander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and he does not share that position with anybody else in government.
It will be very difficult for the AFP to take and execute orders from the civilian officials of the Bangsamoro government, as the AFP follows and maintains the doctrine that the entire organization is under the command and control of the Commander-in-Chief and operates through the established Chain-of-Command. The military is required to operate within the bounds of law. They are also required to comply with summons from both Houses of Congress and other agencies of government conducting an official investigation when their presence is required.
At the operating level, coordination between military commanders and civilian officials is the preferred approach to any situation that requires a common and cooperative effort that can be openly and publicly discussed.
C. ON BBL ARTICLE V, POWERS OF GOVERNMENT
* Under Section 1, Reserved Powers, the Central Government shall exercise as part of its reserved powers, authority and jurisdiction over Defense and External Security.
* We believe this provision limits the power of the President to address any situation with regard to national security, the threats to which may be internal or external. Thus, we recommend that this provision should be so reworded that the National Government shall have the power to exercise authority and jurisdiction on all matters pertaining to national defense and security.
D. ON BBL ARTICLE XI, PUBLIC ORDER AND SAFETY
* Under Section 2, there will be a Bangsamoro Police to be created for the primary purpose of law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro territory… and it shall be part of the Philippine National Police.
* The central question in regard to this provision of creating a “Bangsamoro Police” is that it may be in violation of the Constitution that mandates that the “State shall establish and maintain one police force which shall be national in scope and civilian in character…”, notwithstanding the provision in the proposed law that the Bangsamoro Police “shall be part of the Philippine National Police.”
* The proposed Bangsamoro Police shall be responsible both to the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government and the communities it serves. This requirement violates unity of command of the PNP from the President as Commander-in-Chief down to the lowest unit of the organization. It will likewise put the head of the Bangsamoro Police in a dilemma whenever there is a conflict between orders from the PNP National Headquarters and the head of the Bangsamoro government. Such predicament could mean loss of lives in an operational situation like the Luneta Hostage fiasco of 2010.
* Under Section 4, Bangsamoro Police Organization, for a period of 10 years following the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic law, the head of the Bangsamoro Police and his deputies may be selected from a list of Bangsamoro Police Officers with the rank of Police Sr. Superintendent. We believe this is impractical, divisive and discriminatory against well-qualified non-Bangsamoro Police Officers serving in the Bangsamoro area.
* Section 6 provides that the Bangsamoro Police Board shall be composed of eleven (11) members and six (6) members of which shall come from the Bangsamoro Parliament, who shall serve in concurrent capacity. We believe that this provision will encourage and provide a way for local politics to influence the administration and operations of the Bangsamoro Police if it gets established, despite the provision in Section 2 of this Article that the Bangsamoro Police “shall be fair and impartial, free from partisan political control and accountable under the law for its actions.” Present experiences of field officers of the PNP support this apprehension. We believe it would be much better if the Bangsamoro Police Board would be manned by civilians from different professions known for their integrity and civic-mindedness in the Bangsamoro territory.
* Under Section 8, Powers of the Chief Minister over the Bangsamoro Police, the Chief Minister shall exercise the following powers:
(1) To select the head of the Bangsamoro Police and his deputies;
(2) To exercise operational control and supervision and disciplinary powers over the Bangsamoro Police;
(3) To employ or deploy the elements of and assign or reassign the Bangsamoro Police thru theBangsamoro Police Director.
* We believe this provision will be a continuing source of conflict between the Chief, Philippine National Police, and possibly the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government/Chair of NAPOLCOM, in regard to PNP administration and operations as the Chief, PNP will treat the Bangsamoro Police as a subordinate unit/office of the PNP while the Bangsamoro Government will look at the Bangsamoro Police as “their police force’ and therefore subject to the Chief Minister’s command and control in all circumstances. This can cause demoralization and inefficiency in the ranks.
* We believe and recommend that in lieu of creating a Bangsamoro Police the Bangsamoro organic law should provide for the creation and activation of a Bangsamoro Region Police Office (BRPO), similar to the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) and other regional policeoffices, that will be manned, administered and function as the police force for the Bangsamoro territory, in accordance with pertinent laws, rules and regulations governing the Philippine National Police.
* The other aspects and characteristics of the proposed BRPO that are unique to the Bangsamoro government and area in regard to local requirements can be incorporated in the proposed law or document that directs the creation and activation of the Bangsamoro Regional Police Office.
* In this way, there can be no question that the constitutional mandate that the “State shall establish one police force that is national in scope and civilian in character” is being violated in the establishment of a Bangsamoro Police in Mindanao. It will also erase any apprehension that the Bangsamoro Police will metamorphose in the future into a private army of the Bangsamoro government.
E. ON BBL ARTICLE XI SECTION 15, DEFENSE AND SECURITY
* Section 15provides that “the Central Government may create a Bangsamoro Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines…”
We recommend the deletion of this provision.
* The President and the Armed Forces of the Philippines must at all times have the flexibility to address national defense and security situations anywhere in the country at any time to protect the people and the State. Creating a subordinate command in the AFP as required by law will diminish the flexibility of the AFP to respond accordingly to a given national defense and security threat situation, especially in terms of task organizing, force mix, deployment, logistics, intelligence and combat operations. No operational or area command is mandated by law; their establishment is based on the threat situation and geographic considerations, among others.
F. BBL ARTICLE XI SECTION 17, COORDINATION
* Section 17 provides that the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall establish coordination protocols, which shall govern the movement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the Bangsamoro.
* The recent experience of the AFP in following such “coordination protocols” with the MILF is a sad story of military disasters resulting to numerous casualties including the mutilation of our soldiers. Military operations require utmost secrecy to ensure success. Information leaks could lead to ambushes and casualties. Thus, based on military doctrines and actual experiences of the AFP such as in Basilan Province, the “coordination protocols” for purely military operations being proposed to be established inthe Bangsamoro law should be deleted.
* Moreover, the AFP should have unrestricted authority to move or deploy troops, equipment and other military assets wherever and whenever such deployment or movements are deemed necessary in the pursuit of the AFP mission mandated by the Constitution. The power and authority of the President to employ or deploy the AFP should not in any way or manner be diminished. We recommend that this principle be made a part of the proposed law on the Bangsamoro.
We recommend that Normalization as defined in the Annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) be included as a major provision in the proposed Bangsamoro organic law being crafted by Congress.
We are here today because a rebel group has threatened to continue its preferred form of negotiation i.e. the use of weapons and violence if we do not accede to their demands. It is just fair that the granting of their demands will be reciprocated by a clear definite commitment to disarm. Their capability to ambush and attack our soldiers and policemen and villages should be totally removed.
1. Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR)
Normalization, according to the Comprehensive Agreement Annex, is the means of achieving the desired quality of life, including sustainable livelihood and political participation, and ensuring human security. It does not contemplate that in order to ensure lasting peace so that socio-economic development could proceed in earnest, there must be disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of members of the military component of the MILF. This Agreement seems to treat these matters as merely peripheral, if not anathema. Kung ano ang pinakaimportante, yun pa ang parang hindi pinahahalagahan.
The CAB is unlike the peace agreements forged between some foreign countries and the militant separatist groups they respectively dealt with. On the other hand, because the DDR’s were deemed imperatives, the foreign countries indicated them in their respective agreements clearly and in a rather comprehensive and detailed manner.
The agreement between the government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement or Gerakin Aceh Merdeka (GAM) is an example. It provided that GAM had to hand over at least 840 arms within three months after the agreement was signed – and this was completed. With regard to the covenant entered into between the United Kingdom, on the one hand, and Ireland as well as Northern Ireland, on the other, it clearly indicated that there had to be a total disarmament of all para-military organizations (like the Irish Republican Army, or IRA) and decommissioning of all arms in the possession of all those organizations in two years – and this was done.
The Annex directs the MILF to decommission “its forces so that they are put beyond use.” Decommissioning, however, is not only going to be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all agreements of the parties. It is also to be carried out by a graduated and phased program. The four (4) phases of the program relate to voluntary registration of firearms and not handing over of firearms to the Philippine Government. Not mentioned in the phasing out are high-powered guns, crew-served weapons, self-propelled guns, and the like. It thus becomes evident that the process of decommissioning is going to be long, slow and difficult; and only for small-caliber rifles.
And since it will not be implemented by both the MILF and the GPH in a joint manner but by the MILF alone, there can be no telling when implementation will be completed, that is, if it will be completed at all.
Meanwhile, that the long and uncertain procedure of decommissioning is supposed to be ongoing the probability is not remote that the MILF may exploit the time to beef up its arms and equipment, quantity- and quality-wise, and fine-tune its military organization. And when the MILF forces shall have achieved the status or category of a standard army, then, likewise, the probability is not remote that the MILF – confident of support from other countries, would now repudiate the agreements it has made with the GPH, claiming the latter’s inability to comply with its obligations under those agreements, declare its independence and establish an Islamic state in the Philippine south.
We therefore recommend that:
1- There should be a timeline and specific calendar dates in the decommissioning of the MILF armed component and turn in of their weapons or armaments.
The provision in the said Annex (para. C9) that states that “The decommissioning of MILF rebels shall be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties” is too general and the process could take years to accomplish. In the meantime, there will continue to exist in Mindanao an armed MILF participating in the elections and other civilian activities in areas where they arepresent. It is entirely possible that “all the agreements of the Parties” could not be implemented as envisioned in the FAB for various unforeseen reasons. Would such a predicament then stop the decommissioning of the MILF rebels and their weapons and thereby stop or suspend the implementation of all Agreements?
2- The provision on Redeployment of the AFP out of or within the Bangsamoro territory should be deleted because it curtails and delimits the power and authority of the President and Commander-in-Chief to employ or deploy the Armed Forces of the Philippines anywhere in the country in anticipation of or in response to an emergency or grave security situation.
Law and order may be defined as a socio-political situation characterized by the absence of crime and lawlessness. A relatively lawful and orderly situation is indicated by low rates of crime or juvenile delinquency. All this would be the result of the effectiveness of the law enforcement system, including the legal social systems, as well as the family, church, civic organizations, etc.
On the other hand, peace and order is a socio-political situation characterized by the absence of organized violence. So, when for instance, anti-government elements take up arms and go violent the peace and order situation in the affected area is put in disarray as the normal activities of living break down. How to address the situation would then be a problem of the military and not the police as it would not be merely a matter of enforcing the law and keeping order but putting down violence that would have escalated to alarming proportions. Besides, the police are not so functionally trained and armed as to have the competency to deal with such a situation. The military referred to would perforce be the AFP for the simple reason that it is the only machinery of violence of the GPH. It is the one and only organized military force with legitimate existence under the RP. It is the only government instrumentality mandated by the Constitution to protect the people and the state.
Curiously, however, the Annex on Normalization provides that “Law enforcement and peace and order in the Bangsamoro shall be the primary function of the police force of the Bangsamoro.”
Ordinarily, a police force is equipped only with light weapons, to carry out law enforcement. But since the Bangsamoro police force has also to maintain peace and order it can justify without arousing suspicions the acquisition of heavy weapons and equipment, possibly including armored vehicles, planes, helicopters, ships and what not. In other words, the said provision grants the Bangsamoro the right and the opportunity for the build-up of a military force disguised as a police force that could well become the incarnation of what by then would be a decommissioned BIAF.
Only this time however, it would be a Bangsamoro armed force that is bigger and better equipped that is capable of engaging the AFP in case of a showdown, if and when the Bangsamoro should decide to secede, declare independence and establish an Islamic state.
The same provision, which makes the Bangsamoro police force solely responsible for the peace and order, or security of the area, is closely related to some other provisions of the Annex.
a. Defense and external security. This is one of the nine (9)reserved powers of the Central Government. Note that this power is not inclusive; it excludes internal security.
b. In the Bangsamoro the AFP is to retain only such installations as are necessary for national defense and security. Note that the provision does not specify which installations (bases, camps, training areas, temporary shelters, etc.) are to be retained. It is therefore capable of different interpretations, which could lead to trouble later.
c. The Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) shall set the criteria for the redeployment of AFP units and troops from the former conflict areas. This has the effect of negating the principle that redeployment is based on the needs of security, asdetermined by the Central Government.
On 18October 2011, some 40 Scout Rangers were dispatched to serve a warrant of arrest to the criminally accused and escapee Dan Laksaw Asnawi, the deputy headof the MILF 114th Base Command, known for his penchant for beheading his victims. Apparently, since he was believed to be with his men in an MILF territory, the troops had to ask permission to enter the premises in order to serve the warrant. Permission to enter was part of an MILF-GPH arrangement earlier agreed upon with regard to troop movement in territories pertaining to the MILF. But in so asking permission the Rangers might have unwittingly telegraphed their punches, thereby alerting Asnawi and giving him the chance to stage the ambush-slaying of 19 of the Rangers, some of whom were tortured to death and decapitated.
In summary, our recommendations are:
1. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should include a provision explicitly stating that the Bangsamoro or MILF renounces forever its avowed separatist policy and goal of independence and pledges to remain under or be a part of the Republic of the Philippines. The inhabitants therein shall be Filipino citizens, acknowledging allegiance to the Republic and rendering tonits government their habitual obedience.
2. The Normalization aspect of the peace agreement, instead of being a mere Annex to the Framework Agreement (FAB) should be included as a major provision of the Bangsamoro organic law being crafted by Congress.
3. Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration (DDR), or Normalization as termed in the Framework Agreement as enunciated by the UN, should be carried out jointly bythe MILF and GPH through a process that has definite timelines. The MILF armed component must disarm and turn in all their weapons on a fixed date.
4. All the above-mentioned provisions of the MILF-GPH agreements, in particular the FAB and CAB, on redeployment of the Armed Forces should be omitted or repealed.
5. The phrase “Civilian authority is at all times supreme over the military” in Article IV Section 4 should be deleted.
6. The Central Government shall exercise authority andjurisdiction over defense and security, both internal and external in Article Vsection 1.
7. There should be no Bangsamoro Police. Instead the present ARMM Regional Police should be reconstituted to become the Bangsamoro Region Police Office under the Philippine National Police.
8. The provision that allows the creation of the AFP Bangsamoro Command should be deleted.
9. Article IX Section 17 on the requirement to establish coordination protocols for themovement of AFP in the Bangsamoro area should be deleted.
10. The provision in the Normalization Annex of the FAB that the AFP is to retain only such installations as are necessary for national defense and security should be removed.
Incidentally,on October 18, at the ANC talk show hosted by Ces Drilon on the Bangsamoro BasicLaw (BBL), MILF Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal said the GPH must trust the MILF or Bangsamoro, that it will remain under the RP and the decommissioning will becarried out.
And just as the GPH’s trust is asked for, so should we also ask for the MILF toshow that it can be trusted. This it can do by consenting to the inclusion in the BBL of a provision expressing explicitly that the Bangsamoro is a constituent part of the Central Government, that it renounces its original policy of separatism and goal of independence, and that it undertakes to decommission its combat elements with all their arms removed from their possession.
It is unfortunate however, that the tragic Mamasapano Incident had to happen and that so much has already been – and continue to be- said and written about it. Its complications though are yet to unfold. But what is now clear is that Mamasapano is sending out the message of doubt that the MILF truly deserves the trust it has been asking for.
And so in closing, your Honors, may I be allowed to express the concern of many citizens: the need to enact a law that will not only ensure peace and security but the unity of the nation and the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines. The Government should not be afraid of the MILF’s veiled threat of war if the BBL is not approved in the form they want. This challenge is great. Time is short. The decision is yours.
Sa ngalan ng inyongnagtanggol sa bayan. Salamat po.