Of late, media has been replete with coverage of the murder of 44 members of the Special Action Force in Maguindanao, and rightly so. After all, the SAF members were law enforcement officers sworn to uphold the laws of the Republic and preserve the national territory, and who were murdered while performing their duty.
The word in vogue in this incident is “coordination,” and the supposed lack of the same between the government and MILF to ensure that the SAF could operate in the area unhampered, as well as the purported absence of coordination between the military and police.
All of the chatter makes it easy to lose focus of the basics of the entire matter-the area where the SAF operated and were butchered was part of the territory of the Republic of the Philippines.
After all, the Constitution explicitly states that the national territory is composed of the Philippine archipelago (which includes the entire island of Mindanao), as well as all territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction.
Since Maguindanao is part of Philippine territory, and the government exercises sovereignty and jurisdiction over the province, the government had no obligation to coordinate with the MILF in order to perform a sovereign function, namely the enforcement of a court process (a warrant of arrest), regardless of however the peace discussions and agreements arrived at therein may be interpreted.
To diminish the magnitude of the crime by ascribing fault in the lack of coordination with the MILF is not only to desecrate the memory of the murdered police officers, but to acquiesce to-if not encourage-the dismemberment of the Republic.
After all, to claim that a government must seek permission from anybody in order to assert its sovereignty within its territory is to say that that the territory in question is not really party of the state.
In other words, the MILF had no right to fire upon the SAF, not only because the latter were law enforcement officers performing their mandate, but also because the MIFL has no right to demand that the area of Mindanao it physically occupies enjoy any kind of immunity from the processes of the State, or any other kind of special treatment, such as prior “coordination,” insofar as enforcement of the law is concerned.
This is especially true considering that in harboring the terrorist Marwan within its camp, the MILF might be held liable at the very least for obstruction of justice for coddling a fugitive, or even violation of the provisions of the Human Security Act punishing acts of terrorism.
A citizen does not need to perform any special act to affirm his patriotism and to uphold the Republic; he needs only to remember the basic rule that within the territory of the Philippines, the State reigns supreme, and need not ask anybody for permission to carry out its mandate.
Atty. Rodrigo G. Moreno earned his Juris Doctor Degree from the Ateneo De Manila University School of Law, and is the Founding Partner of Moreno and Associates, a Law Firm that specializes in Litigation and Labor and Employment Disputes. He is also the Vice Chairman and General Counsel of Gun Owners in Action, or Go Act, a Non-Stock, Non-Profit organization that advocates for the right of all responsible citizens to arm themselves, and in a broader sense espouses personal security and safety in the community.
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