ISIS’ rise and terror should tell us to junk and bury BBL now

by Rigoberto Tiglao on November 26, 2015

First of Two Parts

It is quite astonishing.  The civilized world has been aghast over the jihadist carnage in Paris since it occurred two weeks ago.  In just a few years, what was once merely a rag-tag army called the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) has grown strong to challenge the US and the West, and even Russia, vowing to destroy their cities.

Yet, Senate President Franklin Drilon is apparently unaware of all these developments, and instead of joining the world in condemning the ISIS atrocities, instead, boasts that Congress will pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which critics have been warning could eventually lead to an Islamic state in our country.

SIS, what ISIS?  Websites of the MILF (above) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (below), accessed yesterday, show no mention of the ISIS’ atrocities in Paris.

SIS, what ISIS?  Websites of the MILF (above) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (below), accessed yesterday, show no mention of the ISIS’ atrocities in Paris.

ISIS’ big difference from its predecessor, Al-Qaeda (“The Base”), which had really fuzzy ideas about its ultimate goal after it had destroyed the US (“The Great Satan”), is that it vows to establish a global Caliphate, an Islamic state. This is emphasized in its name, which in Arabic is transliterated as “Dawlat-al Islamiya Iraq Sham,” with Dawlat meaning “state.”  The ISIS’ success in taking over major cities in Iraq and Syria has, therefore, fired up militant Muslims worldwide, that at last, they could help in the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate.

And how does “Bangsamoro” translate? It is the Moro Nation-State, with Moro, of course, being the former pejorative name for Muslims in Mindanao, which the Islamic insurgents have in defiance embraced.

The MILF, and sadly even this gullible (or bought?) Administration, has been claiming that what will be established is merely an “autonomous region,” which will still be part of the Philippines.

This is all clearly hogwash, which President Aquino and his naïve, yet egoistic negotiators would easily see as such if their minds were not obsessed that they could win the Nobel Peace.

Read the BBL and it says it will establish all the three essential attributes of a nation-state for Muslims in Mindanao:  a clearly-defined territory and people, a state which will even be a parliamentary one in violation of the Constitution, and even its own army, disguised as the Bangsamoro Police.

There has been no such “autonomous” Muslim entity anywhere in the world because of one major reason:  It is an article of Islamic faith for its faithful to seek to establish an Islamic state. After all, one of the main accomplishments of its founder was to establish the first Islamic state, and Islam had been a martial religion in its growth, expanding ITS caliphates throughout the world.


In contrast, there is no such article of faith for establishing a theocracy among non-Muslim religions and minorities as the mountain tribes in our case, or even the Basques or Catalans in Spain, or the French in Quebec, which makes autonomous regions for them feasible and without risking dismemberment of the nations they are part of.

Except for the Philippines, countries with substantial Muslim populations have, therefore, veered away from establishing “autonomous Muslim regions” as that would only open the way for the eventual secession of such territories.  Strongmen like Indonesia’s Suharto and Malaysia’s Tunku Abdul Rahman fiercely – and with violence – made sure that no Islamic group could advocate an Islamic state in their countries which are predominantly Muslim.

Marcos was arm-twisted with the threat of an oil embargo in 1976 by the Libyan strongman Gaddafi to agree to an autonomous region for Southern Philippines as a means to end the MNLF insurgency. Since the insurgents also fought Marcos, Corazon Aquino thought to reward them by prodding the Constitutional Commission to require the establishment of an Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The framers of the 1987 Constitution, however, were clever enough not to give room to Muslim insurgents to control the autonomous region and develop it to acquire the resources to demand secession. But thanks to Filipino corruption – whatever their religion – the ARMM has never developed the unity and strength to become a prototype for an Islamic state.

That Islamic ideal had been bludgeoned to near extinction after the fall of the last Islamic empire of the Ottomans and the colonization by Western powers of most Muslim-dominated countries and areas.

That ideal was revived, though, with the help of Muslim Middle Eastern countries’ newfound wealth when they wrested control of their oil from the West. That was given expression by what is called Wahhabism, after an 18th-century preacher and scholar, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who propagated teachings that are now labeled as jihadist thinking. Ironically, it’s the rich Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, which have been funding Wahhabist religious missions all over the world, which explains why such teachings have spread so fast in just two decades.

The founder of the MILF, Hashim Salamat, fell under the spell of Wahhabist thinking when he studied to be a Muslim cleric at the Al-Azhzar University in Cairo. In an interview, he said he drew inspiration from Syed Qutb – a famous teacher of Wahhabism that was al-Qaeda’s spiritual teacher.

Same worldview  as ISIS

That the MILF still shares the same worldview as the ISIS is the reason why it can’t condemn that barbaric organization even after the Paris massacres.

Yes, there have been some news reports headlined, “MILF condemns Paris attacks.”  But the actual MILF statement of just four paragraphs has no reference at all to the ISIS. IT even reminds readers that such atrocities have been undertaken against Muslims in “in Palestine, in Myanmar, and elsewhere in the world.”

“We are deeply saddened by today’s tragic events in Paris, France. These blind, indiscriminate acts of violence deserve nothing but condemnation.

This is unacceptable. The MILF rejects such acts of terror against humanity and all peace-loving peoples.

Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. May we all find our way through these troubled times and emerge with a stronger resolve to pursue peace for all peoples in all parts of the world.

We take this opportunity also to condemn in same strong terms the violence against civilians in Palestine, in Myanmar, and elsewhere in the world.”

I couldn’t even find that statement in MILF’s official webpage, as if it was sent only to media to be forgotten and not to be included in its archives.

What I found equally shocking is that Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles-Quintos and her factotum with the MILF, Miriam Coronel – who routinely issues press releases almost every day, and who has been telling us day in and day out not to be worried about Islamic jihadism – didn’t even bother to issue a statement on what is, next to the Twin Towers 9/11 carnage, the most horrible act of Muslim holy war in this century.

Even more astonishing is that the President himself seems to be afraid of mentioning the word “ISIS.”  Was he told by the MILF not to?

Here is Aquino’s statement on the Paris attack, nearly as short as the MILF’s:
Terror and brutality have plunged the City of Light, Paris, into the darkness of horror and grief. The Philippines and its people stand in solidarity with the people of Paris and all of France, in this time of deepest sorrow and the gravest outrage against the perpetrators of these crimes.

The deaths of over a hundred in the attack on the Bataclan Concert Hall, the vicinity of the Stade de France, and on restaurants in the city center, were atrocities that demand a united voice from the world in condemnation and grief. In our time of need, France and her people stood shoulder to shoulder with the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. We stand with France now, in the firm belief that the light must never dim in Paris.

For our part, we reassure our fellow citizens that we are taking all necessary precautions. The PNP is on alert and our security forces are assessing the situation, including the continuing evaluation of our security procedures. There is no credible threat registered at this time but let us all be cooperative and vigilant. The Department of Foreign Affairs will be issuing updates on the situation in Paris and has been directed to render all necessary assistance to our countrymen in France.

We’re still lucky. If not for the Mamasapano massacre, in which 44 of our elite policemen were massacred by Muslim insurgents, including MILF guerillas, and if not for Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who put in his best effort to prevent Aquino from ramming the BBL down the throats of legislators in Congress, a plot to establish an Islamic State in Mindanao and Sulu had been stopped dead in its tracks.

Aquino said that P70 billion would be raised to fund the Bangsamoro nation-state when the BBL is approved.  Why not devote that much money, instead, to the existing ARMM, through better infrastructure, public utilities, and education, without having to give insurgents the political power they could later use to establish an Islamic state?
On Monday: Does the MILF have links with ISIS?

What kind of a country have we become now that our senators ignore the Constitution, that document which binds us as a nation?

The disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares that was brought before them as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) involved the definition of ‘natural-born Filipino’ according to the Philippine Constitution – a very basic principle, as it determines who constitute the Republic and who can rule it.

The three Supreme Court justices who also sit as SET members – Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro – wrote very detailed opinions that left no stone unturned, and provided no iota of doubt that Llamanzares is not a natural-born citizen, according to the Constitution. She, therefore, can’t be a senator.

Five of the senators in the SET – Vicente Sotto, Loren Legarda, Bam Aquino, Cynthia Villar and Pia Cayetano – simply closed their eyes to the issue and voted in Llamanzares’ favor. Senator Nancy Binay bowed to the legal wisdom of the justices on what is entirely a constitutional question of the justices on what is entirely a constitutional question.

As a foundling, Llamanzares had to undertake a legal process to become a naturalized citizen–one who has all the rights and duties of a natural-born citizen, the justices explained. However, whether we like it or not, the Constitution categorically specifies that only natural-born and not naturalized citizens can be a senator (or a congressman, vice president, or president).

Llamanzares practically lied through her teeth when she claimed that based on customary international law and treaties, she a natural–born Filipino. It turns out that traditional international law merely exhorts nations to allow foundlings to gain citizenship in the country where he or she was found. However, it cannot order sovereign nations to confer on them the status of being natural-born. In the first place, the Philippines has not even ratified the treaties she cited, and even if the country did, these cannot be superior to our own Constitution.

The Supreme Court justices, in fact, wrote lengthy rebuttals that none of the five international agreements Llamanzares invoked could make her a natural-born citizen. Yet astonishingly, four senators still invoked international agreements to justify their votes, apparently believing every argument Llamanzares presented.

Senator Villar’s dismissive one-paged opinion on the Llamanzares case

Senator Villar’s dismissive one-paged opinion on the Llamanzares case

The three Court justices wrote dissenting opinions of 10,000 to 26,000 words each, or more than ten times the length of this column.

In contrast, the explanation on the votes of the four senators each took just about 500 words, or just half the length of this column. The four wouldn’t even ask their stable of lawyers whom we, taxpayers, pay for, to write at length to justify their support of Llamanzares.

Senator Pia Cayetano didn’t even bother to explain her vote.

One- page opinions
I don’t know how much more they could insult the Constitution when they wrote such half-page opinions that simply ignored its provisions, which I suspect could have just been written by their junior staff.

The writers of Aquino and Sotto may have even consulted each other, as the opinions of the two senators very idiotically appealed to former President Ramon Magsaysay’s adage, “those who have less in life should have more in law.” That is an emotional pitch that really goes against the very essence of the rule of law – which is, that it is served equally to all.

Don’t they realize how important it is for the senators of the Republic to express complete and total respect for the Constitution?

The five senators’ vote is another indication that our Senate, which, once upon a time lived up to its name’s etymology (senatus) as a body of wise “old” sages, , has accepted its depraved and damaged status.

That’s what it had become after President Aquino successfully bribed 20 of them with hundreds of millions of pesos in pork barrel and DAP money to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona from office in 2012 for a charge that wasn’t in the eight counts of impeachment, and for a violation of a law that merely required him to amend his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

After all, the three senators who disregarded the Constitution and voted in favor of Llamanzares on the issue of her citizenship are the same senators who also disrespected the Supreme Court in 2012 when they voted to take Corona out: Cayetano, Legarda and Sotto. So nothing’s new with them. The two others who blocked Llamanzares’ disqualification as senator were: Cynthia Villar, the wife of that Villar who was viciously vilified by Aquino in the 2010 elections, yet still voted against Corona in 2012; and “Bam,” nephew of the President who assaulted the Supreme Court.

I found it shocking that a senator of the Republic, Legarda, reduced the significance of the Constitutional issue that was being debated on into something as follows: “Lawyers can argue ad infinitum on the legalisms. But legalism – however exalted – can always be contradicted by other legalisms.” That kind of statement reveals her utter ignorance of the meaning of the rule of law, developed over centuries by various civilizations.

She should have listened to Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who lectured her colleagues during the impeachment case to say: “The rule of law is a body of legal principles which ignorant people think as legalisms. “

Vox populi?
It is also astonishing for the senators to dismiss the case as moot since Llamanzares, as Villar put it, “has been overwhelmingly elected to her position.” Thinking herself profound, Legarda again ignorantly wrote: “Verily in our democracy, the ultimate maxim is Vox Populi Vox Dei.”

While often quoted by demagogues, that phrase has its meaning better explained by its origins. It originated from an 8th century scholar, Alcuin, in his letter advising Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor: “Those people should not be listened to, who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.”

In the case of Llamanzares, indeed the issue is whether we comply with the Constitution, or simply accede to her electoral victory as senator, which after all, was undertaken through subterfuge, since the issue of her being unqualified for the Senate was not raised at that time.

There is no iota of a doubt, if you read the justices’ opinions (posted on the SET website), that she will be disqualified as a presidential candidate for not being a natural-born citizen when the case is brought to the Supreme Court. It would even be one of the few unanimous decisions of the Court: Carpio on the one hand, and Brion and Leonardo de Castro on the other, very often are on different sides in terms of Court decisions. In Llamanzares’ case, there isn’t any point they disagree upon.

It’s really game over for Llamanzares in terms of her presidential ambitions. Too bad for her financially, as campaign contributors realize at this early stage that because of the three justices’ opinions on the SET case, the Court will disqualify her candidacy for the presidency.

What’s bad, though, is that the Constitution has again been debased by senators in a crucial case.

The Supreme Court justices share part of the blame why senators ignore their views and the Constitution. In 2011 and 2012, the Court ruled that Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. violated the Constitution’s limits on foreign ownership, as the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim, together with the Japanese NTT group, controlled 49 percent of its capital.

Yet, through what Legarda might call “legalisms,” PLDT, and even Globe Telecom, which is owned 47 percent by Singapore Telecom, have practically ignored the Court’s decisions and the Constitution’s clear provisions. A stockholder, Jose Roy 3rd, filed a petition in 2013 calling the Court’s attention to the fact that its decision has been ignored. Nearly two years later, the Court still remained utterly silent on the petition. Have Carpio, who wrote the strongly worded decisions against PLDT, and the Supreme Court, become afraid of an Indonesian billionaire?

We are a country whose Constitution isn’t respected, whose Supreme Court justices are ignored. How can we claim we observe the rule of law? What can we expect this country to become?

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