President Benigno Aquino III’s advisers on the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) currently pending approval in Congress obviously did not read up on history. Had they done their homework before embarking on the draft BBL, Aquino’s advisers would have realized the folly in giving Malaysia a key role in the so-called peace process in Mindanao.
Contemporary history teaches that Malaysia should not be trusted by the Philippines in the resolution of Manila’s political and social problems. Malaysia never was and will never be a true friend of the Philippines. The sooner the Philippine government resigns itself to this truth, the better it will be for Filipino interests.
A recollection of those history lessons is in order.
The real name of the territory called Sabah currently under the illegal jurisdiction of Malaysia is North Borneo. This territory belongs to the Philippines by historic right and legal title. Back in 1878, a British company leased North Borneo from the Sultan of Sulu. In 1906 and in 1920, the United States, which was at that time the colonial authority in the Philippine Islands, reminded London that North Borneo belongs to the Sultan of Sulu. This advisory was ignored. In 1946, London annexed North Borneo. When Malaysia obtained its independence from the British in September 1963, London gave North Borneo to its former colony. Thereafter, the deceitful government in Kuala Lumpur gave North Borneo a new name – Sabah. When the Philippine government under President Diosdado Macapagal and later, President Ferdinand Marcos, invited international attention to the Sabah claim, Malaysian media pilloried Macapagal and Marcos as land grabbers.
Today, Malaysia continues to insist that Sabah is Malaysian territory, and refuses to have the issue settled before the United Nations. Despite this assertion, Malaysia continues to pay rent to the Sultanate of Sulu – an implicit acknowledgment that Sabah does not belong to Malaysia.
Residents of Sabah who are of Filipino ancestry are treated by the Malaysian government as second class individuals and are maltreated. Only those with Malaysian heritage are entitled to state subsidies such as free education.
As early as 1969, Malaysia embarked on a policy of destabilizing the Philippine government by funding and arming Muslim separatist guerillas in Mindanao which later became known as the Moro National Liberation Front. Kuala Lumpur believes that by keeping the Armed Forces of the Philippines occupied in Mindanao, Manila will lay off Sabah.
In 2013, attempts by the family of the Sultan of Sulu to make President Aquino take steps to recover North Borneo from Malaysia proved futile. Left with no other recourse, relatives and friends of the Sultan of Sulu launched an incursion in Sabah. The Malaysians retaliated with brute, savage, barbarous force. Instead of protesting the manner by which the Malaysian authorities treated the Filipinos who were fighting for the Sultanate of Sulu, the Aquino administration filed criminal charges against the fighters. It was bad enough that Aquino refused to help his countrymen. What was worse was that Aquino sided with the Malaysians.
Last year, a Malaysian company launched an advertising campaign to discredit the Philippines as an investment haven and urged investors to consider Malaysia instead. It was only after concerned Filipinos protested the insult that the Malaysian company retracted.
With all that put forth, the role of Malaysia in the so-called peace process must be subjected to scrutiny, particularly now that the controversial BBL stands a very good chance of getting disapproved in Congress, thanks mainly to the mounting public opinion against it, and the increasing revelations about its wholesale unconstitutional provisions.
Now is the time to make additional revelations.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a break-away Muslim separatist guerilla group which has killed many Filipino soldiers in Mindanao in its quest to create an Islamic state in this part of the world. This rebel group was largely involved in the massacre of the 44 special action force policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January. So far, the MILF refuses to acknowledge its fault in the massacre.
Malaysia is the principal financier and supplier of the MILF. This is manifested by the special role a Malaysian was given in the peace panel, and by the presence of the Malaysian prime minister himself when the Bangsamoro framework agreement was signed in Malacañang.
Likewise, the Malaysian interest in the BBL was recently confirmed when the MILF said that it would submit its official findings on the Mamasapano massacre to the Malaysian government, and to the Malaysian government alone.
The MILF’s refusal to submit its report to the Philippine government is an insult to the Filipino people. Unfortunately, President Aquino and his advisers in the peace process seem too afraid to protest this slap on the face. It appears that Aquino and his advisers are not only incompetent; they are spineless as well. Be that as it may, suffice it to say that in the BBL controversy, the MILF has clearly demonstrated that it is a mere puppet of the Malaysian government, and that the Philippine officials involved in the peace process are agents of Kuala Lumpur. Filipinos suspect it, and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano confirmed the people’s suspicion when he asked these officials whose side they are on in the peace negotiations.
Having established that the BBL is a proposed law characterized by obvious Malaysian interests, it is incumbent on Congress to reject the BBL outright. The Philippines can do without the interference of Kuala Lumpur in its internal concerns.
Rejecting the BBL does not necessarily mean that war is the inevitable result. If President Aquino correctly stated that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is “a failed experiment,” then Congress should consider appropriate legislation to make the ARMM a continuing catalyst for peace in Mindanao. That way, constitutional objections and other legal impediments can be properly and openly addressed by the law-making branch of the Philippine government. This will likewise prevent Malaysia and its minions in the MILF from imposing their will on the Filipino people.