Palace will not appeal High Court ruling on MOA

THE government will not appeal the Supreme Court decision declaring unconstitutional the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain it drafted with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday.

He said the government, through the Solicitor General, will instead file a manifestation explaining that the government is already addressing some of the “observations” made by the tribunal in Tuesday’s decision, like the conduct of public consultations.

“A new paradigm shift had been issued and the two important things about the paradigm shift in negotiations with the MILF are focus of the negotiations on dialogue with communities and not only with the armed groups. The negotiation should be undertaken in the context of disarmament, disbandment and reintegration of forces,” he said.

The government announced the new shift in policy in dealing with armed rebel groups late in August after deciding to abandon the MOA.

Ermita shrugged off the statements of MILF officials that they would bring the issue before international bodies.

He said President Arroyo has informed the international community, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Countries, of her government’s decision on the MOA and the shift in paradigm.

The Supreme Court, voting 8-7 Tuesday, said the government peace negotiating panel that crafted the MOA with the MILF violated the Constitution when it initialed the agreement that would have ceded a portion of the country’s territory to the secessionist group.

The agreement proposes the creation of a Muslim homeland in the South to be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity which can enter into economic agreements and trade relations with other countries.

President Arroyo said the high court’s ruling did not change her government’s decision not to sign the agreement.

She expressed hope no one would take “undue advantage of the verdict that would lead to the deterioration of the situation.”

After the oathtaking of the new officers of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines in Malacañang, Arroyo thanked Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz and Vice Mayor Henry Lim.

Iligan City questioned the agreement before the Supreme Court together with North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Zamboanga del Norte provinces and Zamboanga and Isabela (Basilan) cities.

Parts of these areas, and other areas outside the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, were proposed to be included in the Bangsamoro homeland.

Hermogenes Esperon, presidential adviser on the peace process, belied the Supreme Court’s finding that he committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the consultation process, as mandated by law, in areas that would be directly affected by the creation of the Muslim homeland.

“I must say that in our record at the office of the presidential adviser on the peace process from 2005 to 2007, there were 140 consultations with various sectors and organizations, including, if I may add, one that lasted for six hours in Zamboanga City. So there were indeed consultations. But it is different from saying that what the people would air or suggest should be taken hook-line-and-sinker by the panel itself,” he said.

He added: “If ever we could be faulted, it is only because we wanted to achieve, attain for us concrete results which could lead to lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Esperon, along with Rodolfo Garcia, chair of the now disbanded government panel, was supposed to sign the agreement August 5 in Kuala Lumpur.

Esperon said they agreed to the inclusion of at least 700 barangays in the Muslim homeland because the MILF was willing to subject the issue to a plebiscite.

“Processes that would go in the plebiscite itself would call for consultations. First, Congress would be coming out with an enabling law to authorize the plebiscite itself, there would be consultations. In the end when we conduct the plebiscite itself, then that is another form of consultation,” he said.

Secretary Ronaldo Puno said he was “happy” with the tribunal’s ruling “because its central message was on the necessity of consulting local government units, or something which the DILG had already been doing in Mindanao upon the instruction of President Arroyo herself.”

He also said the government was not worried about the MILF’s plan to bring the issue before international bodies because the group has no “legal leg to stand on.”

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon called for the immediate resumption of peace talks but said no foreign country should be allowed to broker the negotiations.

Biazon said choosing or allowing Malaysia to broker the peace talks was a mistake.

“We cannot disregard that there are conflicts of interest between Malaysia and the Philippines in the form of the unresolved Sabah question and the conflict of claims in the Spratlys. If Malaysia continues to be the broker of the peace process, the Philippines will be at a disadvantage on both counts,” he said.

Senate majority leader Francis Pangilinan said Malacañang should declare a ceasefire in Mindanao to ease the tension created by the Supreme Court ruling.

“The government needs to own up to its mistake in entering into that unconstitutional agreement, and to do this, it needs to spare the people in Mindanao from possible repercussions of the SC decision with the MILF. It needs to declare a ceasefire right away,” he said.

Sen. Loren Legarda said the government and all parties in strife-torn Mindanao must continue the search for lasting peace based on social justice by pushing for another round of peace negotiations.

“Just because the Supreme Court had declared the MILF-GRP memorandum of agreement to be unconstitutional doesn’t mean that we now have to close the door on peace initiatives,” she said. – Jocelyn Montemayor, Victor Reyes and Dennis Gadil(Malaya)

2 Responses to “Palace will not appeal High Court ruling on MOA”

  1. wilma g. manzanillo Says:

    the government must give MILF their rights over ancestral domain. the writer has great respect on Nur Misuari being a professor of UP

  2. wilma g. manzanillo Says:

    In relation to Guerrero case, if the DENR allows their claim, many will follow through like Cadelinas, castillo, alipio, and others. Good for the manzanillo because the land is agricultural at san manuel and tenants are not disturbed through the care of able men.

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