by Antonio E Sotelo Lt Gen AFP (Ret)

In whatever shape or form the BBL will become, Iqbal and company will accept it for where in the world can they get a deal to be awarded the right to rule with P70 billion pocket money, in lieu of a constitutionally elected body, simply because they have guns to threaten the Government. For this one reason (let alone the others), is it morally right for the President and the Congress to do this? I think the answer is NO and therefore the BBL should be junk forthwith.

There is no doubt that every sane Pilipino desires peace in Mindanao and believes in his heart the sincerity of the President to leave us that legacy. But my mind tells me that the BBL will only sow the seeds of a bigger and wider conflict in Mindanao in the future. The ARMM is already in place. Surely, it has many imperfections but it is easier to remedy the imperfections rather than venture to a new system born out of the barrel of the gun.

To be sure, if the BBL is disapproved there will be an explosion of terrorism in Mindanao and elsewhere, if only to make the point of the MILF. But be it approved or not, peace will not reign in Mindanao just yet. As former CJ Davide has said, the BBL is not the silver bullet that will bring peace in Mindanao.

For centuries, the enmity engendered by the diversity of religion and culture can not be cured overnight. As we know, from the Crusades to the present, the enmity persists in the world today.
I think that the solution to a more lasting peace in Mindanao is cultural assimilation and social integration.

Among many others, the following can contribute to cultural assimilation and social integration.

  1. Inter-marriages between Christians and Muslims. From personal knowledge, beginning 1972, a flight of PAF soldiers were deployed in Sanga-sanga to maintain the airstrip there. The soldiers married the local Muslim girls and there has never been a peace and order problem in that little piece of island in the Sulu archipelago since.
  2. Years ago I read the statement of one priest who spent a lifetime in Mindanao say that education is the solution to the insurgency in Mindanao.
  3. Recently, I heard someone on TV (a woman) who said that a railroad around Mindanao will solve the peace and order problem there. The railroad leads to economic development.
  4. Last night, one TV commentator said that peace (referring to Mindanao) can’t be bought and only good governance shall bring peace in Mindanao.
  5. One senator says that the free flow of information as a result of the FOI Bill will contribute to the peace and order.

If we combine these approaches (and several others) to the Mindanao problem, the more lasting solution towards cultural assimilation and social integration will take root.

But in the meantime, we need to build and deploy an overwhelming armed force in Mindanao to keep the peace. The armed force must be large enough to command awe from all sectors so that no one will dare challenge it, not the MILF, not the MNLF, not the BIFF and any other armed group in Mindanao. For truth to tell, an overwhelming force is the only entity that the armed groups in Mindanao respect.

To constitute this force, I am looking at 5 Army divisions, with corresponding Air and Naval support to be stationed in strategic areas in Mindanao. The expense to maintain the troops will provide the economic stimulus to the local economy. The soldiers will eventually marry the local girls that will further enhance the cultural assimilation and integration of the Christian and Muslim cultures.

Can we support this big enterprise? Of course, we can if we do the following:

  1. Phase out the CCT as we phase in the 5 Divisions and supporting Air and Naval components.
  2. Don’t give the P70 billion to Iqbal and Murad.
  3. Reduce the appropriations for the Congress, the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President. They get too much money for the little they do.
  4. Make the budget lean so as to eliminate frivolous expenses, the things we can do without.
  5. Stop buying big ticket items for the AFP that is good only for showing off and parades.
  6. Let us be serious about our self- reliance defense program. We must know that the local manufacturers have no money to wine and dine the procurers.
  7. Modernize the AFP by first creating the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy. We must enlist the best minds to manage the AFP so that their equipment will not end up like the MRT.

Further, the 5 Divisions will lay the foundation for the preparedness of the AFP to back-up our claims in the Kalayaan. We should not rush our actions in the West Philippine Sea. We are unprepared to do anything more than what we are doing now. Let us wait until China flexes its muscles to rule the world, then we will have the United States and the whole Aryan race together with India, Japan and Australia to confront the Chinese.

Above all, as we navigate our way in the maze of problems that beset us, the LEADERSHIP must create the spark for our people and especially our soldiers to rally to the flag. Look at Putin. He made a move in the Ukraine and despite all the sanctions from the West, he is the most admired man in Russia with the peoples’ morale high.

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