Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the October 21, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.
Last weekend Leslie Bassett, the US Embassy’s charge d’ affaires, met with the top officials of the MILF(Moro Islamic Liberation Front). The meeting raises several questions.
Did the American Embassy ask the Arroyo government for permission to meet with the MILF leadership?
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacañang have not said anything. Military commanders in the area did not know that a meeting would take place.
Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the Americans simply requested him to provide security for their “routine familiarization visit”.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, spokesman for the Sixth Infantry Division that provided escorts for the Americans, was also clueless.
“We learned afterwards from intelligence reports about the meeting. We learned that they discussed development projects and probably also the peace process.”
Now I don’t know about you but I think the US Embassy and, for that matter, all embassies, have an obligation to ask the host government for permission before sitting down with secessionists.
If the meeting was secret and held without the Arroyo administration’s permission then the US Embassy not only breached diplomatic protocol— it also committed a subversive act.
Who initiated the meeting?
It’s not clear. The MILF was not forthcoming and the US Embassy downplayed it.
“Ms Bassett met with various leaders and officials in Cotabato as part of a routine familiarization visit.”
What did the Americans and the secessionists discuss during their “warm and forthright” two-hour meeting?
Neither party provided details, but general statements coming from the US Embassy and the MILF makes one wonder if indeed the US is taking the side of the secessionists.
The MILF website posted Bassett’s statement and the profuse response of the MILF chieftain.
“The United States government greatly respects and supports the people’s struggle and aspiration to achieve peace in the region. Helping attain and sustain peace, security and development in Mindanao is a priority concern of our government,” said Bassett.
The MILF chief Haji Murad responded, “We convey the utmost gratitude and felicitations of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people to the United States of America and His Excellency President Barack Obama for the unfaltering commitment to support the peace process and the peaceful conflict resolution between the government and MILF.”
Now would Murad feel that way if he didn’t believe that Bassett’s statement is a message of support for the MILF’s goal of eventually seceding from the Republic?
The MILF is so confident of US support the vice chairman for MILF political affairs appealed for US intervention.
“The US government knows very well the background of the conflict both historically and legally, and we believe that the US can greatly help toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” said Ghazali Jaafar.
Jaafar’s statement seems innocuous enough until one sees where it’s coming from.
The MILF website says,
“Murad (the MILF chieftain) recalled that our Bangsamoro forefathers officially asked the United Sates as early as 1921 and followed up in 1924 and in 1935 to separate Bangsamoro homeland from the Filipinos of Luzon and Visayas once independence will be granted to the latter. The Moros wanted to remain under US rule rather than being annexed to the Philippine Republic.”
Is the US sleeping with the enemy?
Yes, but the US is not the only one in bed with the MILF.
Last year, the Supreme Court had to step in to prevent the Arroyo administration from giving away Philippine territory to the MILF.