Sold to Bangsamoro

is my Trade Tripper column in this weekend issue of BusinessWorld:

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed on March 27 was simply a sell-out. In terms of negotiations, the Bangsamoro got something that international law itself declares them to be not entitled to and no other country would concede. For purposes of acquiring a temporary peace, the Philippines will eventually find that the price it unwittingly agreed to would be too high to pay.

In essence, the Philippines agreed to create a new State for the Bangsamoro. Contrary to what the government legal apologists will say, and despite the nonsensical presence of the word “asymmetric,” all the elements of a State are present in the CAB and its related agreements.

That it has the elements of “people” and “government” are seen from the provisions of Arts. 1.1, I.2 and 1.5 of the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (which forms an integral part of the CAB). Thus, the “Bangsamoro shall be established to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).” Also, the “government of the Bangsamoro shall have a ministerial form. The Parties agree to entrench an electoral system suitable to a ministerial form of government. The electoral system shall allow democratic participation, ensure accountability of public officers primarily to their constituents and encourage formation of genuinely principled political parties.”

That it has the element of “territory” are seen from the provisions of Article I above, as well as Article V, particularly Article V.1: “The core territory of the Bangsamoro shall be composed of: (a) the present geographical area of the ARMM; (b) the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; (c) the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and (d) all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10% of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Finally, contrary again to what the government’s legal apologists will claim, “sovereignty” is not a requirement in order for an entity to become a State. As provided for under the 1933 Montevideo Convention, the elements of a State are only the following: people, territory, government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other States. That the Bangsamoro has the first three can be seen above. That the fourth and final element is also already acquired by the Bangsamoro can be seen from the provisions of the Framework Agreement (Article III.2.c) and reiterated in the Power Sharing Agreement, whereby the Bangsamoro has “the power to enter into economic agreements.”

Thus, as of March 27, all the Bangsamoro needs to do is declare that they are a new State. No recognition is required from other States (as recognition is not an element for Statehood). And even then, at least for political reasons, it is not farfetched to believe that the countries thanked in the “Acknowledgement” portion of the CAB would readily give that recognition.

And, as I mentioned above, the fact that the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government has an “asymmetric” relationship means nothing. All four elements of a State have been granted to the Bangsamoro with the complicity of our government. It notably has all the powers of a State: police powers, taxation, and eminent domain. It even has its own executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. At this point, for the Philippines to refuse “recognition” is inutile.

That the Bangsamoro is geared towards Statehood independent of the Philippines is obvious. And just in case our government negotiators still couldn’t get it, the Bangsamoro team felt free to mention in Article I.5 of the Framework Agreement the Bangsamoro’s continued insistence of the quite discredited (under international law) “First Nation” argument: “The Parties recognize Bangsamoro identity. Those who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants whether of mixed or of full blood shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription.”

And it doesn’t stop there: our government felt nothing in including in the CAB and related agreement words like “armed conflict,” “self-governance,” and the mention of or even direct participation of foreigners. All this elevated a matter purely between Filipinos into an international one.

And the clincher why we know the Bangsamoro is a State is because not once under the subject agreements do we see the Bangsamoro subject to the Constitution.

It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In the Philippines, it’s not only paved, our government even volunteered to furnish, light, and gild it.