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The MILF’s empty threat; P’Noy is not PNP CIC

Leaders of the pro-Malaysia Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and misguided supporters of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) insist that the only alternative to the BBL is an all-out war in Mindanao.  That threat is devoid of legal and factual bases.

The organic act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) may have been subjected to numerous amendments but it remains a valid law because Congress has not repealed it.  With the demise of the BBL a virtual certainty owing to the ever-increasing public opposition to it, Congress should focus its attention instead to the ARMM organic act and how it may be improved without violating the Constitution.  This is the only win-win option outside of war.

If the leaders of the MILF and the proponents of the BBL expect the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to get intimidated by the threat of war, they should take another look at their strategy.  Since the Filipino soldier is the first to lay down his life in the defense of the nation, he is the last person to want a war.  Nonetheless, when war breaks out, he will not renege on his sworn duty to defend the country.  The historical record shows that the insurgency in Mindanao has been around since the early 1970s, and that the AFP has continuously and repeatedly disrupted past secessionist overtures of the MILF and its forebear, the Moro National Liberation Front led by Nur Misuari.  Even the Abu Sayaff, the notorious kidnap-for-ransom bandit organization, fears the AFP.  Moreover, the AFP intelligence center knows where the troublemakers are.

Look what happened to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) group which helped the MILF butcher the 44 Special Action Force policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January.  After AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr. declared an all-out offensive against the BIFF, and after AFP troops stormed known BIFF hideouts, the so-called “freedom fighters” went scampering in different directions.  

 Perhaps its fear of the AFP is the unexplained reason why the MILF did not include a representative from the AFP in the peace panel which drafted the ill-fated BBL.

Another important consideration is that the United States has branded the terrorist organizations Al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria enemies of America.  Since these terrorist organizations conduct covert operations in the jungles of Muslim Mindanao, it is certain that American military leaders will take steps to annihilate these organizations, even if it means by-passing the AFP in the process.  Look what happened to Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.  By the time the Pakistani authorities learned about the lightning American raid at Bin Laden’s hideout in their country, the architect of the 911 disaster in New York City had been buried at sea from an American vessel.     

In fine, the MILF threat is hardly intimidating.  It may cause some inconvenience and annoyance, but it will not intimidate the AFP.  Once the MILF and its masters in Malaysia realize this fact, they will have to change their approach in dealing with the Philippines at the bargaining table.   

  * * * * *

Although the Constitution provides that President Benigno Aquino III is the Commander-in-Chief of the AFP, it does not vest in him the same title as regards the Philippine National Police (PNP).  The President cannot be considered the commander-in-chief of the PNP because the latter is not part of the AFP; it is a civilian unit of the national government.  Police officials may be in uniform but their uniforms are different from those worn by military officials. 

The PNP is under the Department of the Interior and Local Government which, in turn, is under President Aquino.  This means that Aquino has ultimately authority over the PNP as chief executive.     

Any marked difference between being the commander-in-chief and being the chief executive is largely titular, as demonstrated by the conspicuous presence of the President in the commencement ceremonies of the Philippine Military Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy. 

Is there really a big difference between being commander-in-chief and being chief executive in figuring out if the president is competent or otherwise to lead the nation?  Both the soldier and the policeman will have to salute President Aquino whenever they encounter him, anyway.  Inevitably, whether or not Aquino is the “commander-in-chief” of the PNP is immaterial for the purpose of ascertaining if he bungled his duties and responsibilities as the president of the country.    

Since he is the public official vested by the Constitution and by law with the ultimate authority over the PNP, President Aquino cannot avoid the blame for the Mamasapano Massacre in Maguindanao on the lame excuse that he is not the commander-in-chief of the PNP. 

 * * * * *

The official result of the Senate probe on the Mamasapano Massacre should add to the legal worries of ex-PNP chief Alan Purisima.  According to the Senate report, Purisima usurped the powers of the PNP chief while he was suspended from office by the Office of the Ombudsman.  In particular, Purisima convinced President Aquino about “Operation Exodus” and he was directly involved in the operation.  Just recently, Aquino lamented that Purisima deceived him about the operation.    

Purisima’s participation in Operation Exodus was anchored on his being the top, albeit suspended, policeman in the country.  By involving himself in the operation, Purisima violated the suspension order issued against him. 

 Raps for usurpation of authority should be filed against Purisima immediately.  If Purisima is allowed to go free with just a slap on the wrist, suspension orders issued by the Office of the Ombudsman will become meaningless.  When that happens, the provisions of the Constitution and the laws governing the accountability of public officers will be rendered inutile.  Lawlessness will ultimately prevail, and that will be the beginning of the end of honest government in this country.

The Ombudsman should do something about this affront to the law by a law enforcer.      

 

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