Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror August 22, 2007 edition, p. A10.

In an April 2, 2001 press conference at Heroes Hall, Malacañang, Mrs. Gloria Arroyo told the nation’s soldiers:

“Hindi natin maaring malimutan at talikuran ang inyong sakripisyo at mga ipinaglaban. Hangad ko rin na magkaroon ng katuparan ang inyong mga ipinaglaban sa Mindanao: kaunlaran at integridad ng teritoryo ng Pilipinas…Wala tayong isinasauling kampo sa MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front.) Hindi po ito mangyayari kailanman.”

That was then.

This is now:

“If it would not adversely affect the Philippine negotiating position and provoke alarm among Christians, a pilot implementation of the envisioned Muslim ancestral domain regime shall be undertaken, to demonstrate our sincerity to achieve peace. We have declared many ancestral domains among indigenous peoples, I really don’t see why anybody should be scared if there is an ancestral domain declared for the Muslim people.”

Things have changed since those halcyon days of 2001. Mrs. Arroyo’s life changed forever when she got caught saying hello to Garci and “goodbye Malacanang” appeared in her horizon daily.

Mrs. Arroyo can’t do “visions” anymore. Today, she does whatever will get her through the day, including bifurcating the country in order to buy any kind of peace from the MILF.

Creating  “an ancestral domain declared for the Muslim people” will definitely “not adversely affect the peace talks.” It will facilitate it.

But, it will leave a lot of unhappy campers among the infidels and non-MILF Muslims who will have to live within the boundaries of a domain negotiated exclusively between Mrs. Arroyo and the MILF.

Violent disputes will likely break out between Lumads, indigenous people (IP) of Mindanao who have chosen to hold on to their religious beliefs and customs, and the MILF.

Last year, Muhammad Ameen, Secretary of the MILF Central Committee, expressed concern that some Lumads were “spearheading moves to delineate IP ancestral domain from those of the Moros even before the proposed comprehensive compact is signed.”

He wanted Lumads to wait for a peace agreement “after which the two communities will adopt their traditional method of delineating their territories…”

That sounds reasonable, if you’ve never read Ameen’s interview with Luwaran, the official website of the MILF, where he  “recalled that the history of the Moros and IPs is one and inseparable, but noted that the former were always the ‘bigger brother’ while the latter, the ‘younger brother’” because Moros “have developed a higher plane of political existence.”

Can you guess who will be holding the pencil that will delineate the boundaries between the two communities and who will be looking for a gun after those lines are drawn?

Christians, the other group of infidels caught in the Arroyo-MILF juggernaut, smell trouble too. South Cotabato governor, Daisy Fuentes, asked, “What are the areas? Are these Muslim-populated? If there are non-Muslims, what will happen to them?”

The MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), through their spokesman, Almarim Tillah, threatened to renew hostilities when they heard Mrs. Arroyo was giving territory to the MILF, something never offered to them.

He said, “I want to say it very clearly here in no unmistakable terms: The Muslims (read MNLF) in this country are prepared to go independent if this government, if this political administration, and those before and even in the forthcoming administration in 2010 will not give us justice. We will now go for independence.”

Even Mrs. Arroyo’s most dependable Yes-man, her personal justice secretary Raul Gonzalez, almost uttered a “No Ma’m.”

He said, “It’s not that easy, it’s a very difficult problem… The issue will have to be reckoned with the provisions of the Constitution and then it will entail not only a Constitutional plebiscite but also the very determination whether the Republic can give part of its land to them (MILF).”

There’s no question Mrs. Arroyo is sincere about pursuing peace in Mindanao. The question is, “what price peace?”

Mrs. Arroyo is paying for peace by giving away parts of the country to a secessionist group.

What the heck, I have two peace plans that won’t bifurcate the country.  I guarantee the Philippines will remain one nation under one flag with one government and one armed forces.

Peace plan A:  Mrs. Arroyo abandons the Sabah claim in favor of the MILF.  She then offers to mediate peace talks between Malaysia and the MILF as soon as war breaks out.

If the Sabah switcheroo doesn’t work, there’s Plan B: Declare the Philippines an Islamic republic.

It’s easy. Just add Islamic to Republic of the Philippines, change Mrs. Arroyo’s title from Queen to Ayatollah, make Gaudencio Rosales Grand Imam as soon as he trades his miter for a towel, and rename Manila as   Rajah Soliman City.

My plans follow the Palace philosophy of war: “If you can’t beat ‘em, beat yourself. That way you’re still doing the beating.”

But seriously, there is no religious persecution in this country. All religions here are free to proselytize as much as they want. So why is there a need to carve out territory for a Muslim ancestral domain under the Moro Islamic Liberation Front?  Besides, isn’t mixing politics and religion prohibited by the Constitution?