from the “rushed” signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro Political Region.
The signing of the same, while a source of hope to all Filipinos that peace would finally be realized in battle infested Mindanao, may have been intended all along to benefit foreigners: Prime Minister Najib Razak and his moribund UMNO political party.
My source in Kuala Lampur related how they were all surprised that the Agreement, which Philippine authorities, including Justice Leonen, expected to be signed only in December of this month, was signed two months earlier last October.
Initially, I thought it was Justice Leonen who wanted it signed in time for his interview with the Judicial Bar Council. But apparently, it was Prime Minister Razak who had more at stake in signing the agreement as early as possible. This is because anytime now, parliament in Malaysia will be dissolved to pave the way for the holding of general elections. In fact, the elections should be called no later than March of next year. The actual elections would take place within two months from when it was called.
How could the signing of the Agreement favor Prime Minister Razak and his UMNO party?
Immediately after the agreement was signed, Razak’s communication group spared no time in extolling the Prime Minister as the acknowledged peacemaker of the region. Apparently, and a Web scan of Malaysian newspapers confirmed this, the signing was banner story in Malaysia. Not only was Najib praised as a peace maker, he is now being promoted as a regional leader. I understand that he is now being considered to mediate a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Southern Thailand, as well. But this appears to be mere icing on the cake. The real value of the agreement for Razak and his party lies in Sabah. In the first place, the premier’s predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, merely obtained a simple majority in the last general elections in Malaysia. I understand that UMNO lost to Anwar Ibrahim’s party in the Malay Peninsula. Their tenuous grasp to a parliamentary majority was courtesy of UMNO having clinched a majority of the 24 parliamentary
seats in Sabah. The story of how they managed to win in this crucial state of Sabah is stuff that are regular occurrences here in the Philippines: vote buying and patronage.
What made it worse, however, was that UMNO distributed residency cards to illegal Filipinos in exchange for their votes. This is now the subject of a Royal Inquiry. A Wikileaks entry summarized the role of Filipinos in Sabah in the last elections: “Mahathir also facilitated illegal immigration from Indonesia and the Philippines in order to better balance the state’s ethnic and religious equation as a measure to ward off any future
separatist sentiments in Sabah, in addition to attracting UMNO votes needed to control the state. A Royal Commission, operated properly, would likely expose the depth of UMNO x x x political corruption and vote manipulation, further inciting Sabahans.”
Razak will now go beyond vote buying in this upcoming election. My source in Kuala Lumpur told me that he rushed the signing of the
Agreement particularly to appeal to the Filipino voters in Sabah.
Worse, another source has informed me that he has even asked MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim to intervene and campaign for UMNO in Sabah.
With the Filipino vote likely to determine who between Najib and Anwar would be the next Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Agreement was apparently signed in a rush to ensure the premier’s hold on the crucial Filipino vote in Sabah. The betting now is: would Chairman Murad do as Najib has asked him to do?
I have already expressed the view that much as we desire peace in Mindanao. this Framework Agreement, precisely because it was rushed,
may not stand the test of judicial scrutiny. I am joined in this view by noted constitutionalists Raul Pangalangan and Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza. Even Ateneo College of Law Dean Emeritus Fr Joaquin Bernas has expressed similar, albeit less pessimistic concerns. Even Anwar Ibraham, while hopeful that the agreement would lead to peace, expressed concern that the Agreement was not inclusive since the Mindanao politicians, among others, were excluded from the peace negotiations.
Worse, no less than the current head of Notre Dame University’s’ Institute for Autonomy and Governance fears the many mine fields that lie in Congress and in the Supreme Court: “This arena is a big minefield that scares me to no end. There are many things that can go wrong in this arena.”
But with this confirmation that the Agreement did not just benefit Leonen and was, on the contrary, intended primarily to be Razak’s electoral fete in Sabah, it would appear that the Framework Agreement, contrary to our best hopes and expectations, is indeed doomed.