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  Press Statement, August 26, 2008  

Former Senate President and Liberal Party (LP) National Chairman Frank Drilon today said the prospect of dismembering the Philippine Republic has become "a real, actual threat" should government be compelled to grant Mindanao lumads the same concessions it was willing to give the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

"Our bungling peace negotiators have succeeded in opening the 'Pandora's Box' that will dismember the republic," Drilon said. "The ghastly possibility of having as many independent states as there are indigenous peoples in the Philippines will happen if we follow this alleged peace process strategy of this government."

Drilon was reacting to reports that 13 indigenous peoples' communities in Mindanao and Palawan are now also calling for the creation of an Autonomous Region for the Lumad of Mindanao following the natiowide uproar against the creation of the BJE under the proposed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between government and the MILF.

Drilon recalled that during the first Supreme Court oral argument hearing on the proposed GRP-MILF MOA last Aug. 15, government chief negotiator Rodolfo Garcia informed him that the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) can also be given the same powers and privileges that government was considering for the MILF.

"This is significant because the prospect of dismembering the republic is now a real, actual threat," he added.

"The Bangsamoros want a separate, independent state. The Lumads are now asking for autonomy. The Cordillera indigenous people are entitled to the same concessions. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow, the communists’ New People's Army would want an independent state of their own," Drilon added.

But Drilon said he was not opposed to the granting of autonomy to the Lumads of Mindanao provided that the process will be undertaken within the framework of the Constitution.

He pointed out that the 1987 Constitution provides that "the State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development."

"I agree with the proposition that we give Lumads autonomy because of their distinct culture and traditions," Drilon said. "But we should not commit the same mistake as the government negotiators did in the GRP-MILF MOA. This blunder will go down as one of the biggest screw-ups in contemporary Philippine history."

Earlier, Drilon warned that the signing of the MOA would “give rise to a 'chop-chop republic' as the creation of the Bangsamoro homeland, with its own people, territory and form of government, will dismember the Philippines,” Drilon said. "This is a gross violation of the 1987 Constitution."

He said the MOA would grant the proposed Bangsamoro BJE a status of belligerency, or an international recognition as a separate and independent state. He also noted that by mere "executive action" to implement certain provisions in the agreement, and without constitutional amendments, the BJE could become a separate and independent state.

Drilon and United Opposition Spokesperson Adel Tamano petitioned the SC seeking to nullify the GRP-MILF agreement on grounds that it violated several provisions of the Constitution.  The MOA was supposed to have been signed last Aug. 5 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but was stopped by a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the SC

Drilon hits “internationalization” of the Mindanao peace process

August 24, 2008 - Former Senate President and Liberal Party (LP) National Chairman Frank Drilon today deplored the "internationalization" of the Mindanao peace process, saying that the "unwarranted intervention" of certain foreign countries was making it more difficult for the national government to resolve its "internal problem" with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Drilon said he has been receiving persistent reports that the intervention of some countries, including Malaysia and the United States, was putting "undue pressure" on government negotiators to grant concessions to the MILF that clearly violate the Philippine Constitution, such as the giving away of certain territories of the republic. "We certainly don't want to happen to Mindanao what happened to Kosovo," Drilon said.

Drilon was also alarmed by the appeal of MILF Chairman Ebrahim Murad to the Malaysian government to revive the Mindanao peace talks that was stalled when MILF forces attacked unarmed civilians in Central Mindanao last week. Murad also asked that the military be stopped from pursuing the MILF forces involved in the atrocities.

The MILF commanders reportedly attacked the civilians because the Supreme Court stopped the signing of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain last Aug. 5. "I hope Malacanang will find the moral courage to send a diplomatic note to Malaysia, saying in no uncertain terms that that the Philippine government will implement its laws against criminals who attack and murder unarmed civilians," Drilon said.

"I am sure that the Malaysian government will understand and will not give the impression that it condones the unlawful acts of the MILF, especially the unprovoked killing of innocent civilians," he added.

"We urge our leaders to resolve this Mindanao conflict as an internal matter. The equitable solution to the Mindanao problem can be achieved only through honest and sincere consultations with the people of Mindanao, and not with foreign countries that obviously have other selfish interests to pursue in Mindanao," Drilon further said.

"The internationalization of the Mindanao peace process is against our national interests," Drilon, who served as labor, justice and executive secretary under previous administrations, said.

At the same time, Drilon frowned on the offer of British Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Beckingham who said his office was willing to bring politicians and officials from the United Kingdom (UK) to share with the Philippine government and the MILF how the Northern Ireland peace process had moved forward.

"While we appreciate the generosity of the British ambassador, we regret to inform him that the case of Northern Ireland is the wrong model for the Mindanao Peace Process," Drilon said.

The former Senate President noted that during the UK-Ireland peace negotiations, it was established that the Irish Kingdom was already a strong independent monarchy for centuries before it was forcibly annexed
by the English Kings.

"Ireland was already a state with strong ties with papal states until 150 years ago," Drilon pointed out. "Mindanao has always been part of the Republic of the Philippines ever since it was established. We must find our own model," Drilon said.

In lamenting the disadvantages of "internationalizing" the Mindanao conflict, Drilon pointed to the recent move of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro who said the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) should investigate reports that foreign development assistance funds to the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) were being diverted to the MILF to build a strong army.

Teodoro said since 2003, the MILF has reportedly been diverting for other purposes millions of dollars in foreign development aid intended for depressed Muslim communities in Mindanao. He said there were also reports that MILF rebels were enjoying outside financial support from foreign donors.

  Copyright 2011 Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication