Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The BBL at the wake of Mamasapano

The peace process as far as the MILF-GPH track goes have led us to the national debate about the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Mamasapano for all it's pain, was the catalyst.

It used to baffle me, and I once felt it to be slightly injurious, that all this attention to the peace process with the MILF has bubbled up into the national consciousness because of the pain that Mamasapano inflicted on the psyche of our peoplehood. It was a pain which was complicated and made even painful by the controversies surrounding that badly done operation.

Why do I say it was badly done? In memory of our fallen SAF, their wounded comrades, and their families - the performance at the tactical level on the field by those 44 that we lost along with those who survived Oplan Exodus was extraordinary, their legacy will always be glorious.

But we bled too much in Mamasapano. The entire Country knows it, understands it in our heart of hearts that we lost too many. Even for one such as Marwan, 44 was too much. I personally would that we had lost none, not a single one of them. Nada.

How do we bring justice to the fallen 44?

Continue with the peace process. Proceed smarter. Give the BBL a fighting chance. Recognize the hope invested in it. Find the lapses that were internal to the operation. Dispense with command authority. Quit assuming blame on the President. Wait. Command authority only applies when there is a clear and established chain of command which in this particular mission was deemed lacking. Why? Determine accountability and extent of administrative liability. The fault is structural first. It is personal last. Loop the families into what is being done. Determine criminal liability. Exhaust all means to enforce the law of the land, in coordination with the MILF through the AHJAG, where criminal liability is found and the persons culpable reasonably identified. See to it we never have to endure another "Mamasapano".

In time, when we have peace, we shall return to these terrible days of loss and make compensation for all lives lost to us - this time in spirit - and through a right remembrance of those days help to fully heal the nation. We shall build monuments to our unity. We shall honor war no longer but the virtues of our common peoplehood that led us all to peace. We will have renounced war within as well as without. And the defense of the Republic shall be stronger and surer for all of us.

The Mamasapano incident is illustrative of where our counter-terrorism efforts intersect with our internal peace and security efforts. Two distinct but very closely related things. Distinct because the MILF is not a terrorist organization. Closely related because terrorism at present is motivated by political exploitation of religiously inspired tensions. Let me underscore here that the landscape of terrorism is also evolving.

Terrorism is something I have thought about for some time now. I am careful about my labeling of something or someone as terrorist. I know accordingly when and where to apply the label. For I have seen and now believe it contrary to our efforts to contain the scope and spread of terrorism if such a word is left so broad as to escape a precise definition, at least, in the usage of the State.

Marwan is a terrorist. He was a callous and indiscriminate mass murderer. No matter his labeling of himself or his ideals, he is a political extremist. Left. Right. Center. It doesn't matter. His politics was way off base, serving an ideal/s less than human and therefore, more than real or possible.

One becomes a terrorist for the sake of politics alone. One crosses the line from peace to war through murder. Murder for the sake of justice. Murder in behalf of the nations. A lie for the sake of the truth. An affront to the collective dignity of the living communities of the earth.

What the State serves are human causes. Human causes natural to and evident of its own Nation. The particular Nation of which the State is sovereign expression of an intangible truth. Justice is what it speaks of. Not vengeance. Restoration. At the center of this Justice is Human Dignity and Human Promise. Goodness upon the earth. Humanity upon our humanity.

In Mamasapano, we got Marwan. And we will continue to hunt down, capture or kill terrorists such as he. It is clearly in our national interest to do so. In pursuit of counter-terror operations such as those which this Nation of ours through the Philippine State, as a Republic will very probably continue to mount, we, the people, may very well be asked again and again to make many small sacrifices for and in each the other's behalf. Some of us will render the full measure. Receiving loss for loss - continuing the violent cycle. Perhaps feeding it. To what end?

I think it is important to hear that the defeat of terrorism itself will not fully depend on operations such as that one we now will remember as Mamasapano. Politics at its very core is a hearts and minds game. When the ideals that espouse extremist politics that support terrorist thinking seem again what they really are, unreal and inhuman, terrorism will die. Person by person, terror as we know it will diminish. Not in the field alone shall the threat be fully countered, contained, deterred and finally diminished to the point of irrelevance.

Mortal fear is a negative freedom. To defend against it, we have to know when and where to defend.

Not so much that the people may be completely free from fear but in being inclined to the public good, fear not each other. Civic peace. Consider then, little acts of human kindness - mercy and compassion. For these things defend from terror just as mightily as the mightiest of arms.

Imagine for just a moment, just one hour of little acts of kindness multiplied by 100 million Filipino souls - what amount of good it does to the receiver, and more importantly what amount of good it does in the giver... multiply this further by the grace and the Providence of God.

In saying this, we return to the ideals of our national peace. Why do we forget that we are all Filipinos? That nobody wanted Mamasapano who believes in the promise of our peace as a Nation. I would hate to think Mamasapano is being politicized. There is nothing there that needs our convincing. No policy over it that needs defining. The pain is unanimous. The lessons clear.

We should be mourning all of our losses in this continuing war within ourselves. In saying this, I shall add to the Fallen 44, in the general list of casualties that our internal divisions have exacted from our nation through the years, the fighters from the MILF side that perished as well as the civilians who perished with them.

Why should anyone feel content or even happy to see everyday in the papers the mounting toll of decades worth of indifference and inaction on our part? Do we not know one life alone lived to its fullest can change our national destiny, alter it by degrees, make it a shade brighter, a tad more colorful...?

How much more can we dare to lose? How much more can we afford to overlook before the scale tips from light to dark and how slippery goes the slope from there... How easy it is to see all those lives lost without a care. As if we weren't graced by God to be one nation, as if we ourselves refused to embrace the legacy of our heroes, known and known to God alone.

So we return again to the peace process. It is good that we are talking about it.

Perhaps, the enlivening of the national conversation as regards the peace process in particular with the MILF was serendipitous of Mamasapano. Let us not lose the moment.

Let me just say that the BBL is not the end of all ends as regards the peace process with our brother and sister Muslim Filipinos. But as regards the GPH-MILF track, it well might be. It is important to give the BBL a fighting chance.

But equally important is to not lose our horizons despairing over the political what ifs being brought to play in our minds. The absolutisms of partisan politics. Good when good. But mostly bad. As if the only choices we got to deal with were either the BBL or an all-out war (or the BBL as it is or nothing). Because it isn't.

It isn't good for a democracy to be limited to black and white choices. Because often times, both black and white choices are wrong. Democracy is all about finding the middle course between two extremes. It is about having an honest conversation on issues that matter to all-in-the-nation. Horizontally across our communities as well as vertically up echelon to our leaders in the formal government of the State.

Democracy is the grace-inspired dawn of enlightened human reasoning in a nation. It is not the rule of the mob. It implies give and take. It requires listening and hearing and in between them, compromise. It is the caregiver and nurturer of the peace that our Republic is sworn to defend.

Trust is requisite to freedom. Respect is a requisite of trust. This respect as a shared belief in the necessity for mutual confidence between the central government and the BPE is written into the BBL as the principle of parity of esteem. Respect is also at the root of this principle. A respect which was built on years of dialogue and common action between the GPH, the OPAPP, and the MILF.

I think some of this fundamental sense of trust was tested during the Congressional hearings. I also think the MILF should do some soul searching because what was done to some of our troopers fall terribly short of the mutual respect they themselves require in the BBL. Discipline your forces.

When and where did we lose respect for each other? I think it was long before Mamasapano. A lingering pain from Colonial times. A wounding we long endured to the point where we became comfortable with the pain. A pain that have long eluded our capacity for social adaptation. A pain we adopted instead. It went right back into our national psyche. Not because we remembered but because we lack memory.

We are each fully accountable for each other. For as long as heaven recognizes the citizenship Providence Divine did vouchsafe for us in our hearts, all our generations together are each fully accountable for each other. Did we not implore the aid of God Almighty as a people in our 1987 Constitution?

We asked for trust yet show less respect. And the cycle begins again. Mamasapano had nothing to do with the peace process. Ideally. Were the Oplan that was its genesis redone without the mistakes we know were made on the fly, the peace track with the MILF would have not at all been - in any way - significantly associated with it. But now, the reality is - that it is.

All this attention is good. We can make great headway in the peace process through it. The BBL may benefit from it. I am not against the BBL. I am against a sloppily crafted version of it. I am against a version of it that lacks respect for the hope and the effort invested in it.

I am against whatever unfairness is therein contained in its draft form. Unfairness meaning any lack of equitable concern for the other communities wherein the BPE shall dwell in actuality amongst, in the context of its promised peace, a peace which we shall all likewise as one Nation make our own, like a wedding. One peace. For life.

Funding is one of my primary focuses. Because we are not yet that so well endowed with loose funds and constrained politicians. Funding and planning are two things intimately related in my mind. They are each a side to one coin. National security is my secondary focus, this includes civil defense, including effective public service commitments and real community policing. Education is my third. Human Fluency. These must be structurally spread equitably across the Republic. Most notably in the CAR which is the ARMM's closest political kin.

Fundamentally, constitutional bodies such as the COA, COMELEC, CSC, CHR and the Ombudsman must remain at the national level being wholly responsible to the one whole Filipino nation. I understand what is being called for as the asymmetry of political powers. But the branch should know where it must connect to the trunk and the trunk to the roots and the roots in the ground. Furthermore, there should only be one AFP and one PNP.

The CAFGU and its equivalent evolution or outright decommissioning after the peace process is another question altogether.

I want a vision from the BPE that goes beyond and above the constraints of the letters of its enabling law. I want to gauge the buoyancy of its spirit. Political commitments. Shared human causes. Subsidiarity.

And above all, moderation. Moderation in politics that preserves common respect. Respect in politics that encourages confidence in the process, and trust in the politicians. Not absolutisms. Truisms.

Not artless partisanship. Clubbing each other over the head like thugs. Patriotism. Helping each other along the way like citizens.

Politics is a fight. But whenever it is a noble fight. Like it is as one expects in watching the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, at least for the Pac-man, it shall be glorious. Glorious and profitable to the nation.