Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This article came out on page A6 of the Business Mirror on October 21, 2008.

“…he not busy being born is busy dying.”
– Bob Dylan

Your Majesty,

You listened to operators and you ended up humiliated by Supreme Court justices. I won’t repeat their painful words, but I’ll say you made the mistake of assuming operators are capable of giving sound advice.

The official reaction to the Court’s decision, “We respect the Supreme Court decision even as we, with all due respect, maintain that… blah… blah…blah” proved your trusted aides haven’t learned a thing. Saving face is defensive and backward-looking. You should be moving forward.

Your operator-advisers call “focusing on authentic dialogues with affected communities and sectors and qualifying that further negotiations with the  Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be on the basis of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR),” a new paradigm. It is not. It is only a tactical shift because it does not challenge the MILF narrative that says Moros are not Filipinos.

A true paradigm shift involves changing the game itself.  Going from “the sun revolves around the earth” to “the earth revolves around the sun” is a true paradigm shift.  So is the Magna Carta because it made law, not a monarch’s caprice, supreme.

Challenge the MILF narrative. You do it by being physically present in Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Establish temporary headquarters right in the heartland of the MILF. Raise the flag, remind Moros that they are Filipinos.

Govern the country from ARMM until real progress towards peace and reconciliation is made. You don’t need to be based in Manila anyway. If you can manage disaster relief from hotel suites in San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York, you can certainly run the country from ARMM, at least for the time being.

As chief executive on site, you can see to it that the funds you allocate for development and relief reach their final destination intact. You can monitor infrastructure projects personally.  In addition, you will be the one to conduct those “authentic dialogues with affected communities.” You don’t want to delegate those consultations to the same operator-advisers who told you that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) was the way to go, do you?

As commander-in-chief on site you will lift the morale of your soldiers. They will not run out of supplies because you will be there to make sure they don’t. They won’t have to die from loss of blood while waiting for helicopter rescue because your entire presidential helicopter fleet will be around to augment the Air Force’s lone Huey. Furthermore, there will be more troops available to pursue bandits because the well-equipped presidential security command and all those elite perimeter forces guarding Malacañang will be with you in ARMM.

When things start getting done, when local warlordism wanes because you are around for extended periods and not just for occasional lightning visits, Moros will see that the MILF narrative is both self-serving and untrue.

The shift to direct consultation and DDR is good but it won’t work unless it’s done under a new narrative, one that begins with “Moros are citizens of the Republic of the Philippines…”

Your loyal subject,