Monday, August 25, 2008

The War Gloria Has Been Waiting For

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

The ugly turn of events in Mindanao in the past several weeks makes me wonder if what happened was accidental or deliberate. It may seem accidental, but in politics events are sometimes programmed to make them look accidental but in reality were deliberately planned.

After drafting a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that seemed to be in violation of the constitution, Gloria -- to avoid embarrassment by a Supreme Court reversal -- canceled the MOA-AD. But any intelligent person -- and Gloria is a very intelligent woman -- would know that the MOA-AD violated the constitution. So, why did she push hard for the signing of the controversial treaty when she knew that it wouldn't pass the scrutiny of the Supreme Court and Congress. What did she really have in mind?

What I find intriguing was that Gloria preempted the Supreme Court by canceling the MOA-AD before the High Court could decide on whether the agreement was in order or not. Had she allowed the High Court to reject the MOA-AD, she could have washed her hands and blame the High Court for denying the Muslim Filipinos' right to a homeland or ancestral domain. She could then renegotiate the MOA-AD and make it more compliant with the constitution. That would have been a win-win situation. And she would have redeemed herself and at the same time demonstrate her statesmanship. And, the Muslims will have their Bangsamoro homeland and perhaps peace will finally reign in Mindanao. Who knows, Gloria might even be able to tweak the constitution and achieve her dream of an "Enchanted Kingdom" as the nation's Prime Minister for the next 20 years. That would have been the high road for her to take. But she chose to waddle in murky waters.

Gloria played a queen's gambit by sacrificing the MOA-AD to gain a strategic offensive position against the MILF. The MILF fell for it and declared that they will not renegotiate the MOA-AD claiming that the treaty is a "done deal." Immediately, elements of the MILF went on the offensive and struck at government forces as well as civilians. Civilian casualties were heavy and more than 200,000 were displaced.

On August 18, 2008, Gloria addressed the nation and said: "We will not tolerate and will crush any attempt to disrupt peace and development in Mindanao. I'm also calling for an emergency meeting of the National Security Council this afternoon. I'm with you in peace. We're all in this together." She then convened the NSC Cabinet cluster -- not the entire council which includes the past presidents and congressional leaders. Gloria then instructed the members -- many of whom are retired generals serving in her administration -- to come up with recommendations on how to deal with the Mindanao imbroglio. I wouldn't be surprised if the generals would recommend an "all-out war" against the MILF.

Of course we all know that an "all-out war" is not going to vanquish the MILF or, on broader scale, the Muslims of Mindanao. The Muslims in Mindanao have never been totally subjugated in the last 500 years. War between the government and the Muslims would only end in stalemate.

The Arroyo government has made its position: It will not sign the MOA-AD in its present form. The government also demanded that the MILF turn in the three "rogue" commanders who initiated the attacks in Mindanao. In addition, the government said it will only renegotiate with the MILF only if they surrendered their weapons. The MILF's position is: It is willing to go back to the negotiation table; however, it considered the MOA-AD a "done deal" and will never renegotiate it. In regard to surrendering the "rogue" commanders, MILF said, "No way." Unless the parties change their positions, the peace process is in the deep freeze. And for now, it's war

I often wonder what Gloria had in mind when she appointed her retired Chief of Staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, as Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process in Mindanao. It was like putting a wolf in sheep's skin. And true enough, the moment Esperon took charge of the "peace process," the whole thing went haywire. His predecessor, Jess Dureza, said that the draft of the MOA-AD had been changed drastically where he left off.

I am beginning to suspect that the real objective of Gloria was to create a "war," not the peace that she had been parroting for the past weeks. It's beginning to sound like a broken record. Indeed, this could be the war that Gloria has been waiting for to put in place a scenario that would ultimately end in a martial law. Indeed, all the signs are there for Gloria to replicate what Ferdinand Marcos did in 1972 and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan in 1999. They were both supported by the U.S. Marcos stayed in power for 14 years before Uncle Sam booted him out of the country and dumped him in Hawaii. Musharraf was in power for nine years until Uncle Sam forced him to resign last week. Can Gloria do 10?