My classmate, Digs Dilangalen says, let us approach this issue calmly. That is easy to do for one who stands to gain an entirely new country. It is harder to do for a citizen of the country at whose expense that gain shall be made.

TOMORROW the Government of the Republic of the Philippines will sign with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of the country that was funding the secessionist struggle in the South, a peace agreement. It is styled as an innocuous “MOA” (memorandum of agreement), supposedly on just the subject of ancestral domain. In truth, it shall be part of a comprehensive peace agreement whose details are, however, also spelled out in the MOA, which, for all intents and purposes, gives away the very vitals of a sovereign country, a republic and a democracy to boot.

In fact, the MOA also styles itself as “a treaty,” which can only be between sovereign countries.

The MOA “promises” or rather already concedes on the part of the GRP

  1. 1. A virtually new state with a new name, Bangsa Moro Homeland (a designation it can substitute for, say, the Bangsa Moro Republic, once it assumes the full status of sovereign state which the GRP effectively grants it.) True, the agreement uses the seemingly neutral phrase “juridical entity” but the terms of the agreement flesh out this abstract concept with all the attributes of a sovereign entity.
  2. This new state shall have new-minted citizens called Bangsa Moros, not Filipinos.
  3. It shall have a defined land territory such as the bold sea-faring Muslims in the Philippines never had in their entire history.
  4. It shall have the right—no, the power, for right assumes the GRP will continue to play the sovereign part in its affairs that it thereby effectively surrenders—yes, it shall have the power to choose any form of government even theocracy, though more likely anarchy as in Afghanistan.
  5. It shall have its own police force, civil bureaucracy, financial system, personal and family, commercial and political laws, and an educational system teaching even undemocratic political values along with intolerant religious ideas.
  6. As such, it shall exercise absolute political powers, without  any of the civilized limitations in the Bill of Rights, such as equal protection of the laws, due process, and the prohibition against such cruel and unusual punishments as stoning to death a woman taken in adultery or just suspected. Indeed, it shall possess absolute powers without any prohibition against the discrimination, abuse and enslavement of women, which happens in some Muslim states. Never mind, to borrow Lincoln’s famous words, that “a house divided cannot stand,” a democracy cannot be half slave and half free. And no free country can willingly consign any part of itself to autocracy, even a divinely sanctioned one.
  7. It shall posses not the right—for again the GRP shall have lost all legal control over it—but the power to conduct foreign relations for its own account. This power is timidly limited only by the faint hope that the Bangsa Moro Homeland shall not enter into a treaty of war with a foreign country against the Philippines; a useless collatilla because no country has entered into a treaty to wage war since World War I, like that between Russia, France and Serbia. The usual treaty is a nonaggression pact or a mutual defense pact, which, the Bangsa Moro Homeland may enter into with a foreign state, like Malaysia, against any attempt by its former sovereign, the Philippines, to regain in a subsequent administration what it lost of the country in this one.
  8. It shall have the power to exploit, with just the smallest expectation that it will share with the Philippines 25 percent, all the wealth the Bangsa Moro Homeland is able to extract by itself or with foreign countries while recognizing its right to terminate at will any and all existing property rights or contractual relations in the area.
  9. It shall do all these things regardless of what our Constitution may require because the agreement nowhere spells out that the Philippine Constitution shall govern, let alone hinder, the full implementation of any part of the agreement. Under the Parol Evidence Rule, no evidence of past or contemporaneous agreements or negotiations is admissible to change or interpret the terms of any agreement other than the words of the agreement itself, exclusively. Indeed, I was told that the Malaysians insisted that the phrases Philippine Constitution, Bill of Rights, or Philippine law be firmly excluded from the language of the agreement. So how can they limit or govern an agreement that firmly denies them any role.

In fact, the agreement nowhere mentions a requirement for charter change—as presumed by opposition leaders. And if I recall rightly, the agreement shall be binding on the parties upon the  signing of the same by the same, without need for any other act, such as charter change or enabling legislation.

The MOA that will be signed tomorrow is a self-executing agreement to which the Malaysian observers will hold the Philippines before international tribunals and bodies, first and foremost the Organization of Islamic Conference and, probably, too, the United States which has long wanted to give with one hand what it firmly withholds in another part of the world: an independent though malleable state for Muslims in the Philippines but never for Palestinians in Palestine.

In fact, there is in that agreement a good faith clause that is deemed violated when further negotiations veer in any degree from its strict terms.

We were told that giving due course to the bill postponing the ARRM election was a confidence building measure to keep the MILF at the negotiating table until the agreement tomorrow is signed. Well, let us wait to see if it will be signed. So let us wait until tomorrow to vote on the postponement.

Now we are told that the fate of the agreement is not in any way contingent on the fate of the postponement of the ARMM election. Especially since the there is only the smallest hope that the bill on the floor will pass in the Senate, or that even if it is a law, it will be heeded by the COMELEC unless the Supreme Court issues an injunction against it—all of which may be too late.

We are told now that just passing this bill in the House with scant regard to its certain defeat in the Senate will be more in the manner of a political statement by a political body, the House of Representatives, which is the House of the People, that it agrees with the first steps taken by the GRP in the peace talks, the postponement of the ARMM elections which are no part of the agreement, and including the Memorandum of Agreement which creates a Bangsa Moro Homeland as I have described.

That is why we are here speaking for or against that agreement because this vote today will be taken to mean our tacit consent or outright rejection of an agreement that gives away part of our country, to an armed movement that may treat its inhabitants with the brutality that has long characterized its actions—regardless of race or creed.

For we stand here today, not for Christians nor for Muslims, but for all law-abiding Filipinos who do not wish to be put under the iron rule of those who have not only lived by the gun but, by the craven posture of the GRP panel, triumphed with the gun in this agreement.

Had this been a bill merely to accommodate the political needs of our Muslim colleagues in the House, I would vote for it as I pushed through both House and Senate an earlier measure to postpone the ARMM elections.

But this is a bill tied to a larger issue, an issue about which all the members of this House, except for Ronnie Zamora and me, have been treated like mushrooms; which is to say, kept in the dark and fed manure.

Even Muslim mayors voiced as the main concern of their constituents the pushing through, rather than delay, of the ARMM polls. Not least because it will put in place democratically elected officials who will truly reflect the real Muslim consensus in Mindanao about a peace agreement that may end up favoring the reckless, the bold and the brutal rather than the peaceful and law-abiding.

Charter change, which is not provided for in the agreement, may, after all, be the real motivation. But this government is so mistrusted, not to say disliked, that even a successful shift in the form of government will not perpetuate it beyond 2010.

Perhaps the lure are the rich financial prizes awaiting those who pave the way for foreign business and foreign governments to strike deals over natural resources in an independent Bangsa Moro Homeland, without the usual hassles from a rambunctious Philippine democracy and free press.

We are told by the leadership of the House that this vote is no longer just about the forlorn hope of postponing the ARMM elections but about tacitly ratifying an agreement none of you has seen and which actually does not need your approval to go into effect. Join me then in voting NO top what you do not know.

Friendship, of course, is of the greatest importance to me and the rest of us; without friendship what is life; but country, country cannot be compromised, for without country, what are we? Thank you.