Archive for the ‘ChaCha’ Category

Editorial Cartoon: The MOA-AD

August 18, 2008

Blasted them all

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Arroyo: ‘Defend every inch of Philippine territory’

August 18, 2008

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:52:00 08/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the police and military to “defend every inch of Philippine territory” against forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Arroyo issued the directive Monday following reports of more than a dozen casualties as Moro rebel forces overran several towns in Lanao del Norte.

The President also ordered troops to “restore peace in affected areas” in the province as she condemned the “sneaky and treacherous attacks” as a “violation of the peace agreement and a challenge to progress in Mindanao.”

“Because of these sneaky attacks, as commander-in-chief, I have ordered the AFP and PNP to defend every inch of Philippine territory against MILF forces and immediately restore peace in affected areas in Lanao del Norte,” Arroyo said in a statement she delivered at the new executive building briefing room.

Arroyo said the government would “not tolerate and would not crush any attempt to disturb the peace and development in Mindanao.”

Arroyo also announced that she was calling an emergency meeting of the National Security Council “to assess the situation in Lanao and other areas in Mindanao and come up with concrete, firm, and decisive action” to defend the people in the region.

“I assure our people that the government will defend them at all cost from any move that will disrupt the aspiration for genuine and lasting peace,” Arroyo said.

With a report from Christine Avendaño, Inquirer

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My Take:

This is now a declaration of war.

Just what I declared in my previous posts(My Take comments and rants), this war is the government’s way out of the MOA-AD mess.

This is a shock and awe tactic.  They want to shock us of the Mindanao situation and awe us of the seemingly “patriotic” act of protecting our country from the MILF.

And yet, they are baring our natural resources to the US who are silently positioning itself in the very heart of Mindanao.

26 killed as MILF flee Lanao Norte towns–military

August 18, 2008

Lieutenant colonel slain in fighting

By Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:22:00 08/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 4) An Army lieutenant colonel was among 26 persons — 23 civilians and three soldiers — killed in fighting triggered by attacks by fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Lanao del Norte province on Monday, officials said.

Two other soldiers were wounded.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said some 7,000 individuals in the province were displaced and are now in various evacuation centers.

Lieutenant Colonel Angel Benitez was shot in the head when his convoy was ambushed by MILF fighters in front of an elementary school in Kolambugan town at 5:45 a.m., said Lieutenant Colonel Agane Adriatico, spokesman of the 1st Infantry Division.

He is the highest-ranked Army official to die in combat with Moro rebels in recent years, said Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr.

“We grieve the loss of a very good officer. I know him personally. He is very competent. Nakakapanghinayang [It is a pity] for somebody to die at such an early age,” Army chief Lieutenant General Victor Ibrado said in a phone interview.

Ibrado said there have been no reported skirmishes since the rebels pulled out of Kolambugan town at around noon Monday.

“We can’t say that [the fighting] is over. Our troops are there, ready to secure the towns, and the coastal areas. We have instructions to pursue them,” he said.

The civilian casualties, mostly in Kolambugan town, were shot by the rebels as they retreated, said Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, chief of the counterterrorism unit Task Force Tabak operating in Central Mindanao.

“They [MILF] were using them [civilians] as human shields. They killed them on their way out. The description was they were killed like chickens. That’s the report from the civilians,” Atendido said in a phone interview.

The rebels suffered an undetermined number of casualties, he said.

The MILF has since retreated.

Earlier, Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman, said 21 people — 11 of them unidentified civilians, seven of them farmers, two more civilians identified as Ricardo Gil and Ricky Salidad, the rest either soldiers or government militiamen — had been killed in MILF raids in Lanao del Norte and in Saranggani province.

The Moro rebels, under the leadership of Commanders Bravo and Pangalian of the 102nd and 103rd brigade commands respectively, staged ambuscades in several towns in the two provinces, a week after the military flushed out their comrades under the command of Umbra Kato in North Cotabato province.

The MILF attacked five towns in Lanao del Norte province before dawn Monday, and occupied one of the five, Kolambugan.

“As early as 1 a.m. today [Monday], Maasim, Saranggani was attacked by armed elements of MILF followed by ambuscades in Lanao Norte municipalities,” Bartolome said in a press conference at Camp Crame national police headquarters.

The attacks prompted the military to launch offensives to drive back the rebels.

The rebels also killed two bus passengers and Police Officer 1 Dexter Salvacion.

In Kolambugan, the rebels burned a police patrol car and attacked the municipal police station and other government offices there, but were later flushed out during military operations, prompting the rebels to take 25 civilians and use them as human shields.

But Bartolome said that as of posting time, only 10 MILF hostages remained.

“The PNP [and] Armed Forces are doing our best to secure other areas in Lanao as well as other provinces affected by these movements by MILF personnel,” he said.

He said the Moro rebels left Kolambugan about noon, taking with them male hostages.

The rebels released their women and children hostages as they left, said Atendido.

“They left the area, that is the report from our ground troops,” Atendido said in a phone interview.

Asked what prompted the pullout, Atendido said: “They can’t stay there too long. They also felt the pressure from the military.”

Asked if all towns that were attacked by the MILF have been cleared, Atendido said: “As of now wala na [As of now, there’s no more].”

“But clearing operations are still ongoing in Kolambugan because we have received reports that some rebels have disguised themselves as civilians,” he said.

Earlier in the day, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the leadership has ordered its men to pull out from areas that they have occupied in Lanao del Norte, as the military launched offensives against the Muslim rebels, a spokesman for the MILF said.

“The MILF leadership ordered them to pullout, get out of the area,” MILF civil military affairs chief Eid Kabalu said in a phone interview Monday.

“We did not sanction this,” Kabalu said, referring to what he described as an “occupation” of Kolambugan and Kauswagan towns.

The military said the rebels attacked Kolambugan, Kauswagan, Maigo, Linamon, and portions of Iligan City.

Data from the PNP National Operations Center showed some 400 families evacuated to the Kauswagan Central Elementary School; around 1,300 individuals at the Iligan City National High School; at least 1,350 persons at Iligan City Central school; 750 persons in Buroo High School; another 700 people at Fuentes Gym, and 587 at Tunod Central Elementary School, Director Leopoldo Bataoil, PNP director for police community relations, said.

Bataoil said they are coordinating with local governments on caring for the evacuees.

Bartolome said all regional police offices and the Special Action Force in Mindanao will remain on full alert until the situation in the Lanao provinces has stabilized.

The PNP will also asses whether they need upgrade the alert status in other parts of the country.

Kabalu said the attack on the Lanao towns showed the rebels’ frustration over the pace of the peace negotiations.(PDI)

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My Take:

How many more civilians are to be killed before this government realizes that their political games are deadly to us ordinary Filipinos.

The people are getting killed and they stay in power.  They get richer.  They live longer.

Editorial Cartoon: On the MOA-AD

August 18, 2008

Screwing Mindanao

Jihad At Bangsamoro

August 17, 2008

Rogelio L. Ordoñez

BATAY sa maniobra ng mga basalyos ni Presidente Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, maliwanag na ginagamit lamang na instrumento ng Reyna ng Malakanyang ang usapin ng Bangsamoro upang makapanatili siya sa poder matapos man ang kanyang termino ng panunungkulan sa 2010. Alam na alam nila na kung hindi pansamantalang ipinatigil ng Korte Suprema at natuloy agad ang pirmahan ng kasunduan sa Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia kamakailan sa pagitan ng mga kinatawan ng MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) at ng Republika ng Pilipinas na magpapalawig sa teritoryong bumubuo ngayon sa ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) na magiging isang nagsasariling Bangsamoro, hindi naman agad maipatutupad ang mga nilalaman ng naturang kasunduan. Kailangan pang lumikha ng isang batas ang Kongreso, magdaos ng isang plebisito at susugan o baguhin ang Konstitusyon ng bansa upang maisakatuparan ang pagkakaroon ng isang Bangsamoro na may sariling lehislatura, hukuman at pulisya, at karapatang makinabang sa likas na mga kayamanan sa katutubong lupain (ancestral land) ng mga Muslim doon.

Katunayan, binigyang-diin ni Sekretaryo Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., tagapayong pangkapayapaan ni La Gloria, na “hindi sakop ng kasalukuyang Konstitusyon ang pagkakaloob ng kapangyarihan sa BJE (Bangsamoro Juridical Entity) na mangulekta ng lokal na buwis, magkaroon ng administratibong hurisdiksiyon, at kontrolin ang mga minahan at iba pang likas na yaman sa sakop ng lupain nilang katutubo.” Samakatuwid, ayon na rin sa kanya, kailangang susugan o baguhin ng Kongreso ang kasalukuyang Konstitusyon at ganito rin ang opinyon ni Rodolfo Garcia, punong negosyador ng gobyerno hinggil sa kapayapaan. Idinagdag pa nga ni Esperon na “hindi kasarinlan” ang ipagkakaloob ng gobyerno sa Bangsamoro kundi gagawin lamang itong “isang estado sa loob ng isang estado” na tinatawag na pederalismo.

Sapagkat, noon pa man, isinusulong na ng kasalukuyang rehimen ang Cha-Cha (Charter Change) o pagbabago sa Konstitusyon at gawing parlamentaryo/pederal/may isang kapulungan — hindi na presidensiyal — ang sistema ng gobyerno at, kung maaari, magawa ito bago matapos ang termino ni La Gloria, hindi tuloy maiwasang hinalain ngayon na talagang hindi ang paglutas sa problema ng mga Muslim sa Mindanaw ang layunin ng kasalukuyang rehimen kundi, sa kabilang banda, ang minimithing Cha-Cha sa udyok na rin ng makasarili’t gahamang interes sa kapangyarihan. Kung parlamentaryo na nga ang sistema ng gobyerno, kuwalipikado pang muling maging presidente o punong ministro si La Gloria. Puwede ring palawigin ng bastardong mga pulitiko ang termino ng kanilang panunungkulan. Higit sa lahat, sa dikta ng imperyalismong Amerikano, aalisin sa bagong Konstitusyon ang mga limitasyon upang makapagmay-ari na ng mga lupain dito ang dayuhang mga kapitalista, 100% makontrol ang mga korporasyon at pasukin maging ang pambayang mga utilidades — tubig at kuryente, telekomunikasyon at transportasyon, at maging “mass media,” mga ospital, mga kolehiyo at unibersidad na, kung tutuusin, talagang dapat na hawak o kontrolado lamang ng mga Pilipino alang-alang, unang-una, sa pambansang seguridad at makabayang ekonomiya.

Dahil nilalaro lamang sa dulo ng mga daliri ng pambansang liderato ang usapin ng Bangsamoro, at tinitingnan pa ng maraming pulitiko sa apektadong mga lugar sa Mindanaw na tunggalian ito sa pagitan ng mga Muslim at mga Kristiyano — halimbawa sa Hilagang Kotabato , Zamboanga at Iligan, lalo’t susuriin ang mga pahayag at hakbang ng lokal na mga opisyal doon – maaari tuloy mauwi sa armadong mga karahasan o sagupaan ang bagay na ito. Maliwanag naman na tutol lamang sila sa pagkakaroon ng isang Bangsamoro dahil mababawasan ang kanilang pampulitikang teritoryo at limpak-limpak na pakinabang sa puwesto tulad din ng pagtutol ng dayuhang mga kapitalistang namumunini sa likas na mga kayamanan ng Mindanaw at, ipinagdaralita naman, sa kabilang banda, ng libu-libong pamilyang Muslim doon.

Bakit nga ba nagrebelde, at patuloy na nagrerebelde, ang kapatid nating mga Muslim sa Mindanaw? Kung uugatin, hindi ito kuwestiyon lamang ng usapin sa teritoryo o kultura o paniniwalang panrelihiyon kundi, higit sa lahat, malubhang usapin ito ng labis na kapabayaan at kainutilan ng gobyerno — ngayon at noon pa mang nagdaang mga rehimen — na paunlarin ang Mindanaw kaya atrasado at alipin ng karalitaan at inhustisya ang maraming lugar doon. Hindi maikakaila, ilang grupo lamang ng maimpluwensiya’t makapangyarihang mga tao, kasama na ang mapandambong na dayuhang mga kapitalista, ang lubos na nakikinabang sa likas na mga kayamanan ng lugar sa kapinsalaan, unang-una, ng libu-libong pamilyang Muslim. Masisisi ba, kung gayon, na mithiin ng mga Muslim na magkaroon sila ng isang nagsasariling Bangsamoro upang pangalagaan ang kanilang kapakanan at kinabukasan?

Dahil sa ipinamamalas na armadong tunggalian ngayon ng mga puwersa ng gobyerno at ng MILF — na ginagatungan pa nga ang apoy ng iresponsableng mga pahayag ng lokal na mga opisyal doon upang tingnan ang lahat bilang labanan ng mga Muslim at Kristiyano – hindi tuloy malayong mauwi sa banal na pakikidigma o jihad ang pakikibaka ng kapatid nating mga Muslim tungo sa kanilang mithiing pamahalaan ang kanilang sarili sa pamamaraang angkop sa kanilang mga pangangailangan at kultura at pangalagaan at pakinabangan, higit sa lahat, ang likas na yaman ng lupain nilang katutubo na pinagpapasasaan lamang ng mapandambong na interes ng iilang piling grupo ng mga tao.

Sa maikling salita, hindi dapat laruin lamang — at guluhin — ng pambansang liderato ang usapin ng Bangsamoro o gawin lamang itong instrumento ng kanilang makasarili’t gahamang interes sa kapangyarihan. Kapag nagkataon, higit na magiging masalimuot ang lahat — at hindi kayang lutasin maging ng susunod na rehimen — kung mauwi sa jihad ang lahat. Kung dahas pa rin ang itutugon ng pamahalaan sa lehitimong mithiin ng mga Muslim sa Mindanaw, panahon na marahil na maunawaan ng pambansang liderato ang napakahaba nang kasaysayan ng kanilang banal na pakikidigma o tinatawag na jihad.

Sa simula pa ng kasaysayan ng Islam, kakambal na nito ang pakikidigma. Sinakop ng propetang si Mohammed ang Mecca sa pamamagitan ng dahas. Nakipaglaban siya sa siyam na pakikidigma at iniutos ang marami pang ibang mga pakikipaglaban. Nang idikta niya ang mga nilalaman ng Koran, malinaw na inilahad na makatuwiran ang armadong jihad bilang kasangkapan ng ebanghelismo, bagaman ipinahihintulot din ang di-marahas na jihad sa pamamagitan ng puso, dila at kamay.

Pinagkaisa noon ng bagong pananampalatayang ito — na tinatayang halos milyon na ngayon ang mga tagasunod — ang marahas na mga tribong Bedou ng peninsulang Arabiano, at sila ang naging panagupang tropa sa mga pakikidigma para sa Islam. Matapos mamatay si Mohammed noong taong 632, naglunsad ng sunud-sunod at waring walang katapusang mga jihad ang mga kalipang humalili sa kanya, una laban sa mga tribong tumalikod sa Islam at pagkatapos ay laban sa mga kanugnog-bansa. Mabilis na nasakop ng hukbong Bedou ang Syria, Iraq, Palestina, Ehipto at Persia (Iran ngayon). Isinulong ang jihad hanggang Hilagang Aprika at Espanya at nasugpo ang paglaganap noong 732 sa napabantog na labanan sa Tours, Pransiya.

Noong mga unang taon ng 1900, sa pamamagitan ng madugong mga jihad, nanalasa ang hukbong Wahhabi Bedou, minasaker ang mga kalaban ng Islam, hanggang maitayo nila ang makabago ngayong kaharian ng Saudi Arabia. Bago ito, sa ibang panig ng mundo, dumanak din ng dugo dahil sa mga jihad.

Noong mga 1880, sa rehiyong Nile ng Sudan, ipinoroklama ni Muhammad Ahmad ang sarili bilang Mahdi o pinapatnubayan ng banal na espiritu at nagdeklara siya ng jihad laban sa mga “hindi nananampalataya” at dinurog ng kanyang puwersa ang 10,000 sundalo ng hukbo ng Ehipto, nilipol pagkatapos ang mga nagtanggol sa Khartoum, kabilang ang Ingles na heneral na tinawag na “Chinese” Gordon. Pagkamatay ni Ahmad, itinuloy ng pumalit sa kanya ang banal na pakikidigma hanggang talunin ng magkasanib na hukbong Ingles-Ehipto ang puwersa nito. Sa loob lamang ng isang araw, 20,000 Mahdista ang napatay ng isang pangkat ng naturang hukbo na nasa ilalim ni Sir Herbert Kitchener at ng isang batambatang opisyal na si Winston Churchill dahil sa kanilang mga baril na Maxim o “machine gun” ngayon.

Batay sa nabanggit na kasaysayan ng mga jihad, dahas pa rin ba ang itutugon ng pamahalaan sa lumulubhang usapin ng Bangsamoro? Lubhang napapanahon na nga na matapat na harapin ng pambansang liderato — hindi laruin at gawing tuntungan ng makasariling mga interes — ang pakikipagnegosasyon sa MILF upang malutas ang deka-dekada na ring rebelyon ng mga Muslim sa Mindanaw. Higit sa lahat, hindi dapat ipinta sa mata ng sambayanan ng ambisyoso’t bastardong mga pulitiko na tunggalian ito ng Muslim at Kristiyano upang hindi mauwi sa jihad ang lahat. Panahon nang aminin, at lunasan ng mga kinauukulan, na nag-ugat ang lahat-lahat sa kapabayaan at kainutilan ng pamahalaan na isulong ang kaunlaran ng Mindanaw noon pa man. Mananatiling nakabalandra ang mukha ng rebelyon doon hanggang biktima ng karalitaan at inhustisya ang kapatid nating mga Muslim sa naturang rehiyon.(PinoyWeekly)

Konteksto: Anomalya sa estruktura

August 17, 2008

Danilo Araña Arao

IBA ang intensiyon sa nakasulat sa teksto. Kabaligtaran ng opisyal na pahayag ang aktuwal na adyenda.

Hindi man lubusang nauunawaan ang mga partikular na probisyon ng MOA (memorandum of agreement) sa pagitan ng gobyerno at MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), madaling makita ng ordinaryong mamamayan ang iregularidad hindi lang sa aktuwal na proseso kundi sa kasalukuyang estruktura ng pamamahala.

Unang una, bakit tila napakaikling panahon at minadali pa ang pagbubuo ng nasabing MOA? Kung noon ay napakahabang diskusyon ang nangyari bago bigyan ng awtonomiya ang mga probinsiyang bahagi ng Cordillera at ng Muslim Mindanao, bakit ngayon ay basta na lang bumulaga ang balita tungkol sa pagbibigay ng hiwalay na estado sa ilang bahagi ng Mindanao?

Kung pagbabatayan ang pahayag ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, ang MOA ay isang malaking tagumpay sa prosesong pangkapayapaan. Pero hindi natin masisisi ang mamamayan kung duda pa rin sila sa adyenda ng mga nasa kapangyarihan.

Hindi na kailangang maging dalubhasa sa agham pampulitika para malamang ang sistema ng gobyerno sa kasalukuyan ay hindi akma para magbigay ng isang hiwalay na estado sa isang rehiyon o anumang bahagi ng bansa. Kung tutuusin nga, masasabing problemado ang ibinigay na awtonomiya sa dalawang rehiyon dahil hindi dapat na nangyayari ito sa ilalim ng isang presidential system.

Sa konteksto ng pagbibigay ng anumang porma ng awtonomiya, alam nating lahat na hindi lang magkakaroon ng estruktural na anomalya kung magkakaroon ng sistemang pederal (federal system) sa ating bansa.

Pero hindi tulad ng isyung MOA na basta na lang nabalita ang nakatakdang pirmahan sa Malaysia at kinailangan ang mabilisang desisyon ng Korte Suprema para pansamantalang itigil ito, matagal nang debate ang pagbabago sa sistema ng pamahalaan. May nagnanais na baguhin ito para magkaroon ng sistemang parlamento sa Pilipinas at may naninindigan naman para sa sistemang pederal.

Sa kabila ng mga pahayag ng mga nagtataguyod ng pagbabago sa sistema ng gobyerno na walang intensiyong palawigin ang termino ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, hindi pa rin maiwasang mag-isip nang ganito ang mga mamamayan. Dahil sa napakaraming isyu ng korupsiyon at iba pang katiwalian laban sa kanya, siguradong hinihintay ng napakaraming grupo ang kanyang pagbaba sa puwesto para sampahan siya ng kaso.

Matatapos ang kanyang termino sa taong 2010 at maraming nagsasabing ginagawa niya ang lahat para palawigin pa ang kanyang termino. Ang pagbibigay ng hiwalay na estado sa Muslim Mindanao ay tinitingnan tuloy bilang isang paraan para isulong ang pagbabago sa Saligang Batas para magkaroon ng isang sistemang pederal. At kung magkakaroon ng pagbabago sa sistema ng gobyerno, malamang na hindi na magkakaroon ng legal na balakid para mapatagal pa sa puwesto hindi lang si Macapagal-Arroyo kundi ang mga tauhan niya.

Kailangang tandaang noong panahon ng Batas Militar, binago rin ni dating Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos ang sistema ng gobyerno para maging parlamento. Pero nakakatawa ang ibinunga nito dahil ang Pilipinas ay nagkaroon ng Presidente (Marcos) at Punong Ministro (Cesar Virata). May anomalya man sa estruktura noon, nagpatuloy pa rin ang kalakaran dahil ang malinaw na adyenda naman ng administrasyon noon ay bigyan ng legal na batayan ang diktadura.

Sa kasalukuyang panahon, ang mga anomalya sa estruktura ay repleksiyon ng pagsusulong ng pansariling interes ng mga nasa kapangyarihan. Hindi tuloy masisisi ang mga mamamayan kung sa bawat plano ng pamahalaan ay may pagdududa sila.

Para makipag-ugnayan sa awtor, pumunta sa http://www.dannyarao.com.(PinoyWeekly)

Dureza confirms ‘some phrases’ were inserted in MOA

August 16, 2008

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:53:00 08/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The changing of the guard at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) preceded “breakthrough” changes made in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said Friday.

Dureza said “some phrases” were inserted into the document after he left the OPAPP in the hands of Hermogenes Esperon Jr., then newly retired as chief of staff of the Armed Forces, on June 16.

“When I left the OPAPP, we were still at that particular stage,” Dureza said at a press conference, referring to the yearlong stalemate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over the issue of the expanded Bangsamoro homeland.

As per Dureza’s account, negotiations bogged down when he was still OPAPP chief because of the MILF’s insistence that any agreement signed by the two panels on the issue of ancestral domain should be “implementable.”

He said the government had been insisting that the peace talks should be done within the confines of the Constitution.

When Esperon took over, “it was ripe for a breakthrough,” Dureza said.

“Some phrases were put in, some paragraphs that would clearly state that those changes that will bring about peace in Mindanao will have to go through our internal processes,” he said.

Mutually acceptable

Asked to elaborate on the “new phrases,” Dureza said these had been put across the negotiating table a long time ago.

Asked which side had relented, he said: “Well, you know, when you say ‘relented,’ that is unfair. It’s not an accurate description. In a negotiation, you consider each other’s position and come up with something mutually acceptable.

“From the very beginning, both shared the same context of attaining peace together. So there’s no question that both the MILF and the government were committed to find a real solution to the problems in Mindanao.”

MOA ‘patently illegal’

August 16, 2008

By Leila Salaverria, Edson C. Tandoc Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:25:00 08/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Two Supreme Court justices have noted unconstitutional provisions in the proposed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

During oral arguments Friday on the controversial document, Justice Antonio Carpio said several provisions clashed with the Philippine Constitution and that implementing them would require amendments to the Charter.

Justice Adolf Azcuna said the MOA-AD, “on its face, is patently illegal under our present laws.”

Carpio also said the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) to be formed under the document would in effect govern all of Mindanao and Palawan, as well as the “lumad” [indigenous peoples] in Mindanao and their ancestral lands.

But Justice Renato Corona said the parties questioning the agreement appeared to be afraid of nothing because, he pointed out, without the signatures, the document did not legally exist.

The MOA-AD is being questioned for various reasons by the province of North Cotabato, the cities of Zamboanga and Iligan, Senator Manuel Roxas II, former senator Franklin Drilon and opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano. The Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order on the signing of the document, scheduled for Aug. 5 in Malaysia, by the Philippine government and MILF peace panels.

5 hours

It took Lourdes Sereno, counsel of Drilon and Tamano, nearly five hours to argue her case before the high court.

The government panel said the hearing only proved that the MOA-AD was constitutional.

“Nothing was proven to be unconstitutional. We were compliant with the instructions of the President to follow the Constitution,” Hermogenes Esperon Jr., President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s peace adviser, told reporters after the hearing.

Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera also said the hearing showed that the MOA-AD was “not self-executory,” as Sereno had claimed, and was actually “a work in progress, preparatory to further actions within the legal framework of laws in the country and the Constitution.”

Sereno argued that some provisions in the MOA-AD skipped constitutional processes, such as congressional action and a plebiscite.

She cited numerous purported violations of constitutional provisions, prompting Chief Justice Reynato Puno to joke that to save time she should just have enumerated those provisions that were not violated.

Sought for comment after the hearing, Drilon maintained that Sereno was able to argue the case of the petitioners.

Dismemberment

“It is the duty of the President to uphold and protect the Constitution. It is contrary to public policy and public order to advocate a dismemberment of the republic through the MOA,” Drilon said.

The justices raised many points when they questioned Sereno, including the unconstitutionality of the MOA-AD provisions putting the supervision of natural resources under the BJE and allowing it to have its own police force, internal security and judicial system.

Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro also said the MOA-AD was different from federalism because the BJE could be allowed to enter into agreements with foreign nations.

Puno also pointed out to Sereno that on the signature page of the MOA-AD, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo was designated as a witness and not as an endorser—an argument, Puno said, that the MOA-AD was “not a done agreement” yet.

The Chief Justice also said that nothing in the document said it was final.

Sereno was only the first of six lawyers scheduled to argue the case for the petitioners.

Before he adjourned the proceedings, Puno announced that more petitions against the MOA-AD were still being filed, the latest being that from the province of Zamboanga del Norte.

The oral arguments will resume on Aug. 22.

‘BJE is not the state’

During his questioning of Sereno, Carpio said “there are obviously several provisions of the MOA that contradict the Constitution.”

“BJE is not the state, correct?” Carpio said, to which Sereno agreed.

Carpio also said that with the MOA-AD defining the “Bangsamoro people” as all indigenous people of Mindanao, without reference to religion, it would encompass even the Christians and the lumad.

“If the MOA pushes through, the ancestral domain of all lumad in Mindanao are now part of the BJE. If they want to leave, they can but they have to leave behind their ancestral domain,” he said.

Carpio said the MOA-AD refered to land and natural resources possessed by the Bangsamoro people from time immemorial to the present. He said that if the lumad were included, then “you’re talking of the entire Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. In short, ancestral domain will now be the entire Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan.”

Carpio also asked if the lumad could be included in the Bangsamoro people without consultation.

Sereno said this could not be done. She said an act of Congress was also required.

Fear of the unknown

Corona observed that many concerns were being raised even if the document itself had yet to be signed.

“You’re giving me the impression this is mere fear of the unknown. How can you fear something that does not exist?” he told Sereno.

In response, Sereno said the document existed and would become effective when signed.

Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago also asked if the petitions were premature, considering that the MOA-AD had yet to be signed.

Sereno said there were “self-executing provisions” that could lead other countries to proceed with the execution of the agreement once signed.

Justice Conchita Carpio Morales asked about the MILF statement that the MOA-AD was a done deal because it was already initialed.

Sereno said she considered the statement an insult to the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Malaysian government and the ambassadors invited to witness the signing.

Azcuna asked if negotiating parties could agree to change existing laws.

Sereno said this could be done but should be subjected to proper procedures.

Azcuna wondered what was wrong about parties agreeing to change existing laws later.

Sereno said it would be tantamount to committing an act against a principal, but the act would be validated later. “The accountability of government officials to uphold the Constitution would be rendered nugatory,” she added.

Executive privilege

The Office of the Solicitor General, representing the government peace panel, had earlier invoked executive privilege in keeping the negotiations with the MILF and the draft MOA-AD secret, saying the talks were similar in nature to diplomatic negotiations.

Earlier Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute plea by Devanadera—her second this week—to postpone the oral arguments.

Devanadera refused to disclose the reasons for it in open court. “I would like to request that the motion be heard in chambers in view of some very sensitive issues that led us to file this postponement,” she said.

The lawyers for Roxas, Drilon, North Cotabato, Zamboanga and Iligan objected to the postponement but agreed to the closed-door hearing, which lasted about two hours.

At around 11:30 a.m., Clerk of Court Luisa Villarama announced that the hearing would resume at 1 p.m.

Roxas commented: “They are hiding what they tried to sneak through, which is the partition of the country. The question-and-answer by the justices in the oral arguments revealed this outrageous sellout.”

Pro and anti

Several groups trooped to the Supreme Court to express support for or disapproval of the MOA-AD.

Lawyer Elly Pamatong and 20 members of Bangon Pilipinas group arrived at 7:30 a.m., saying the MOA-AD had turned over the sovereignty of a part of Mindanao to “state enemy” Malaysia.

About 200 members of the Bangsamoro People Solidarity for Peace led by Rep. Mujiv Hataman of the Anak Mindanao party-list group marched in two hours later from Manila’s Quiapo district, demanding “Peace, not war in Mindanao.”

They merged with some 30 demonstrators from the People’s Coalition for Bangsamoro Land led by Sultan Mohammad Buno, who had earlier gathered on Taft Avenue.

The Manila Police District, which provided security near the high court, said the demonstrators peacefully dispersed at 12:30 p.m. With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. and Allison W. Lopez; with editing by INQUIRER.net

Militants stage rally at Edsa Shrine

August 16, 2008

By Non Alquitran
Saturday, August 16, 2008

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At least 100 militant groups staged a lightning rally yesterday at the Edsa Shrine in what appeared to be the first wave of daily protest actions aimed to stop the Arroyo government’s plan to push for a Charter change.

The group headed by Bayan Muna said Cha-cha is being pushed by the government to allow President Arroyo to stay in power beyond 2010 for her to elude numerous cases intended to be filed against her and her immediate family once she steps down.

But since the EDSA Shrine is a no rally zone, Senior Superintendent Carlos de Sagun, Mandaluyong City police chief convinced the protesters to occupy only the center island to prevent a traffic gridlock. Carrying placards denouncing Cha-cha, the militant groups’ speakers also took turns in lambasting the Arroyo government especially on the spiraling prices of basic goods. The protesters also called for a stop in the fighting between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Central Mindanao.

Elements of the local police Civil Disturbance Management personnel guarded the Edsa Shrine while the protesters were airing their grievances against the government.

De Sagun admitted he rushed his CDM contingent to secure the Edsa Shrine after noticing several television news crews standing by the area.

The CDM unit strictly enforced the wishes of the Catholic Church to ban rallies at the Edsa Shrine as it desecrates the place.

The lightning rally came amid warnings aired by opposition senators to Malacañang against linking the ongoing fighting with the MILF to push their Cha-cha agenda. The heads of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), former President Corazon Aquino and former speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. are also against Cha-cha.

When he was still closely allied with the Arroyo administration, De Venecia has been pushing for Cha-cha thereby getting the flak in the process. But at present, De Venecia is on the other side of the fence.

On the other hand, Malacañang said it wanted Charter change as a step toward federalism and expressed support for a Senate resolution calling for the convening of Congress into a constituent assembly in preparation for talks on federalism.(PhilippineStar)

Kenney: US wants term limits on officials

August 16, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

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Amid fears that President Arroyo’s term might be extended beyond 2010, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said yesterday the US government prefers term limits for public officials.

“Election term limits are important because term limits make democracy vibrant,” Kenney said.

Kenney was a guest at the 45th homecoming and convention of the National Defense College of the Philippines Alumni Association Inc., held yesterday at the Club Filipino.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the president is limited to a single six-year term.

Speculation that President Arroyo wanted to remain in power beyond 2010 has been triggered by fresh attempts to amend the Constitution and shift to a federal system of government.

Malacañang has expressed support for the renewed drive for Charter change, saying it was needed for a peace pact with separatist Muslim rebels.

Palace officials also said they preferred to have Charter change before the end of the President’s term.(PhilippineStar)

Business groups oppose MOA-AD

August 16, 2008

By Elisa Osorio
Saturday, August 16, 2008

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Four business groups criticized the government’s Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“It is a mistake to have the MOA-AD signed in Malaysia before bringing it to Congress because a signing would signify that it is already a done deal,” said Jesus Arranza, president of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI).

Arranza said the government should have conducted a public hearing before agreeing to sign the MOA-AD.

“The first step after deliberations should have been a public consultation. They should not have sprang this on us,” Arranza explained.

He said the idea of separating Mindanao from the rest of the country might have a negative effect on investors. Arranza explained that this might pose a challenge to businessmen operating in both Luzon and Mindanao.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said the MOA was made without adequate consultation.

PCCI president Edgardo Lacson said the group will leave the legality aspect to the courts but he stressed the need to keep the country intact.

“We are one nation and one people,” Lacson stressed.

When asked if this would have any effect on the investment appetite of businessmen, Lacson said people would have different perceptions. “Some may be scared while others may welcome this.”

The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) expressed support for the peace talks with the MILF, but the group assailed the MOA-AD that has sown confusion and raised tensions in Mindanao and the rest of the country, to the point of endangering the whole peace process.

In a statement, MAP said the situation is the direct consequence of a totally insufficient consultation with the people and the lack of transparency in the deliberation of the provisions of the agreement.

MAP said any peace accord should respect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Philippines.

“We oppose any attempt to dismember our country by laying the foundation for the creation of an independent and sovereign Bangsamoro state, which will be given exclusive ownership of the areas delineated as their homeland,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the Makati Business Club (MBC), one of the most influential business groups in the country, also opposed the MOA that paves the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“It is flawed in the process just as it is flawed in its provisions. What was lost in the process was any appreciation for legitimacy in a democracy that stems from winning consensus, including the consent of the governed. Many, if not all, of its provisions violate the Constitution, which strangely enough the Memorandum never mentions by name,” the group said in a statement.(PStar)

Congressmen to seek their own term extension

August 16, 2008

By Jess Diaz
Saturday, August 16, 2008

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Congressmen are eyeing their own version of term extension in case the Constitution is opened up for amendments through a constituent assembly (con-ass).

Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez told The STAR yesterday that if Congress convenes itself into a con-ass to amend the Charter, he would renew his push for a term extension for House members from three years to five years.

“I would definitely push for it. This has been my proposal since the last Congress, when we attempted to introduce Charter changes,” he said.

He said his proposal is now pending with the committee on constitutional amendments, chaired by La Union Rep. Victor Ortega.

“I hope the committee will endorse it,” Suarez said.

On Wednesday, Ortega revealed that a survey his panel conducted among congressmen showed that 94 percent of his colleagues favor Charter change (Cha-cha) through a constituent assembly.

He said once Congress convenes as a constituent assembly, no one can dictate its agenda, and it can approve any amendment, including one extending the term of office of President Arroyo or other officials.

Mrs. Arroyo wants to use Cha-cha as a springboard to push for a federal form of government and eventually for achieving lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao where separatists are demanding recognition of their “homeland” and “ancestral domain.”

Senators believe the President and her House allies want Cha-cha so they can lengthen their stay in power.

But Palace spokesmen Jesus Dureza said Cha-cha for a federal system is not Mrs. Arroyo’s idea but an opposition senator’s. He said the move is the brainchild of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and supported by a majority of senators, including Senate President Manuel Villar.

House members enjoy a term of three years, but are limited to a maximum of three consecutive terms or nine years. They can aspire for congressional seats again after a break of one term or three years.

On the other hand, the president, vice president and senators have a term of six years. The president is limited to one term, while senators are restricted to two terms. There is no reelection limit for the vice president.

Half of the 24 senators are elected with the president, while the other half are elected with congressmen. Thus, there is a synchronization of elections every three years.

Asked how he would synchronize elections if House members would have a term of five years, Suarez said, “Well, then the president, vice president and members of Congress should all have a term of five years.

“In that case, they will all be elected at the same time, and elections will be held only every five years, instead of every three years. It will be less expensive for taxpayers,” he said.

He cited a recent survey in which the people favored a shorter term of five years for the president, vice president and senators.

He was referring to last month’s special Social Weather Stations survey, which he himself commissioned and for which he said he paid P2 million.

Based on the survey, 55 percent to 56 percent of Filipinos favor a five-year term for the president, vice president and senators, while 62 percent to 63 percent want the present three-year tenure for congressmen and local officials.

Suarez said he included the question on the tenure of elected officials in the survey since he noticed that in past years, revenue collections always fell whenever there was a national election.

He said this is probably because revenue collectors raised campaign funds for politicians who helped in their appointment or promotion, and big taxpayers contributed to their favored candidates instead of paying the money to the government in taxes.

In Suarez’s SWS survey conducted on July 13-17, respondents were asked about this belief and 46 percent said it was “definitely true,” while 32 percent said it was “probably true.” Fourteen percent thought it was “probably not true,” and seven percent said it was “definitely not true.”

In 2006 and in the early part of 2007 when the administration-backed Cha-cha failed, there were proposals in the House to lengthen the tenure of its members from three years to five years without limit to their reelection.

There were also suggestions to extend the term of Mrs. Arroyo.

The two-pronged Cha-cha effort then failed when the Supreme Court struck down the Sigaw ng Bayan people’s initiative, calling it a “grand deception” and a “gigantic fraud,” and the Senate refused to cooperate with the House in the latter’s plan to convene Congress into a con-ass.

A spurned House voted to go it alone on Cha-cha but later backtracked in the face of strong opposition not only from senators but also from businessmen, civil society groups and Catholic bishops.

SC battleground

Senate President Villar said senators are prepared to resist the convening of a constituent assembly even if it means going to the Supreme Court for help.

“We will really block all efforts to convene a constituent assembly even if it would reach the Supreme Court, which really is the only way should the Lower House vote for it,” Villar said. “The senators will contest it before the High Tribunal,” he said in Davao City where he launched a billiards tournament.

Sen. Manuel Roxas, for his part, warned of the dangers of con-ass.

“Con-ass is very dangerous. Before we know it, it would already be pushing for the extension of the term of the President because it can already have its own agenda and discuss anything it chooses,” Roxas said.

Villar also chided Dureza for claiming that Mrs. Arroyo only took a cue from Senate Joint Resolution No. 10 in pushing for federalism.

“Secretary Dureza is all wrong in using Resolution No. 10 for Cha-cha because it is just a proposed resolution and it is not final yet,” Villar said.

Roxas said the 16 senators actually signed the proposed resolution with reservation.

“All the senators who signed Resolution No. 10 expressed their reservations especially as to the timing and who is pushing for federalism,” Roxas added.

“We signed it supporting the move for federalism of Senate Minority Leader Pimentel. But we signed it for purposes of discussions only,” Villar said.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, vowed to look into Pimentel’s resolution in the coming weeks. Gordon earlier said he’s not in favor of Cha-cha during Mrs. Arroyo’s term.

Sen. Loren Legarda, for her part, reiterated her opposition to Cha-cha and said federalism could be dangerous, adding, “In the end, I don’t believe Malacañang’s move is to empower our Muslim brothers,”

Lawyers’ group vs con-ass

The National Union of People’s Lawyers warned a con-ass would have the power not only to extend President Arroyo’s term but even abolish Congress or the very institution that created it.

In a statement, NUPL said assurances that the body will not be authorized to extend anyone’s term of office “are not only misleading but a barefaced lie.”

“The Constituent Assembly, because it has the power to amend the Constitution, can even abolish Congress and is, therefore, not subservient to it,” NUPL spokesperson Neri Colmenares said.

“Secondly, there will be a powerful bicameral committee that will decide on the said resolution and insert provisions that will allow President Arroyo to run in the 2010 election,” he said.

“The overwhelming number of (President Arroyo’s allies) in the House will ensure that such an ‘insertion’ will be approved in the same manner that bicameral committees in the past have inserted alien provisions in bills approved by both Houses of Congress,” he added.

“It is foolhardy, therefore, even for opposition members, to support moves to amend the Charter now. The minority will never have the numbers to resist the juggernaut that President Arroyo will unleash just to stay in power beyond 2010,” Colmenares said.

“Charter change that will perpetuate President Arroyo’s power and eliminate the protectionist economic policies in the Constitution could result in a violent upheaval in the country,” the NUPL spokesman said.

“The House committee on constitutional amendments and Congress should, instead of rushing the process, conduct consultations with the people especially in the light of the known and admitted resistance of the people to Charter change,” he said.

“To ram Charter change down the throats of the people is to invite violent reactions that will only further exacerbate the political and economic crisis plaguing the country today,” he pointed out. – With Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado, Eva Visperas, Michael Punongbayan

Gov’t eyes new deal with MILF

August 16, 2008

By Paolo Romero
Saturday, August 16, 2008

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Malacañang is eyeing a renegotiation of the agreement on ancestral domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but it remains firm on amending the Constitution to convert the Philippines into a federal state to give greater autonomy to Muslims.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and presidential adviser on political affairs Gabriel Claudio said negotiations with the MILF would be “retooled” if the Supreme Court declares unconstitutional the agreement on ancestral domain and the Senate junks a resolution calling for a shift to a federal system of government.

The administration will continue to push for Charter change before President Arroyo’s term ends in 2010, the two officials said.

At the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said yesterday several provisions of the agreement on ancestral domain are unconstitutional.

Carpio spoke during oral arguments at the SC on two petitions seeking to stop the government from signing the agreement with the MILF.

Carpio raised questions on whether the Lumads and other indigenous peoples are part of the “Bangsamoro people.”

He also wanted to know if the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) would have control over natural resources in the area, create its own police force, establish its own central bank, and hold its own elections without the aid of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“This is unconstitutional because all natural resources belong to the state and BJE is not a state,” he said.

Carpio said the Comelec is authorized to supervise all elections in the country, while the police are under a police commissioner.

“Can government create a separate police force?” he asked.

Carpio said the BJE could not also have its own central bank.

“We can only have one central bank,” he said. “We cannot have two monetary authorities.”

On the judiciary, there must be a united judicial system, and that the SC reviews the performances of all the courts in the country and dismisses judges, Carpio said.

During the oral arguments, Chief Justice Reynato Puno said all the country’s presidents have taken an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution.

The province of Zamboanga del Norte also filed a petition questioning the agreement with the MILF, Puno said during the proceedings.

The next hearing was scheduled on Aug. 22 at 9 a.m.

Dureza said the government has no other recourse but to have the Constitution amended to put in place a federal state.

“Negotiation is not simple,” he said.

“You have to look at dynamics… how it moves forward. It will be a little complicated in due time when things settle down… at this point in time it’s hard to discuss this because nothing has been signed yet.”

Dureza said when he was presidential adviser on the peace process, the MILF refused to recognize the Philippine Constitution and wanted the agreement on ancestral domain to be immediately executory.

The MILF later agreed to recognize the “existing legal framework, and the deadlock was broken,” he added.

Dureza said Mrs. Arroyo is determined to push peace despite adverse developments in the Senate and indications that the SC would declare the agreement on ancestral domain unconstitutional.

“Search for peace is constant so resolve is always there… the alternative to a situation of not getting peace settlement is unimaginable,” he said.

“The alternative is war. From the beginning of her term, she is hoping and working for building blocks of peace for Mindanao not just for Muslims, but for Lumads and Christians and for the whole country.”

The administration is reviving Charter change to attain “lasting peace” in Mindanao, Dureza said.

Claudio said the government will never run out of avenues for peace.

“If a path is closed, we will go to another,” he said.

“Let’s wait for the final word of the Senate and there might be something in the decision of the SC that will guide us on how to proceed with legal processes to give life to the intent of the MOA.”

Claudio said Malacañang will push the peace process to satisfy the aspirations of the Bangsamoro for greater autonomy through a federal system of government.

“I think it behooves the government, the peace panel and everybody concerned to have a backup plan if we are really determined to pursue the peace plan,” he said.

“I’m not just talking about Charter change… we won’t die without Charter change. We will not stop. You know no setback is big enough to stop us from pursuing this.”

‘Renegotiate agreement’

Two senators urged Malacañang yesterday to renegotiate the agreement on ancestral domain ahead of the SC ruling to save itself from embarrassment.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II and Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said the agreement was obviously unconstitutional.

“We have learned over the past several weeks how unaware the affected local governments and their people were to what the government peace panel was doing behind their backs,” Roxas said.

“By creating a separate Bangsamoro Juridical Entity within the country, the government would have only succeeded in increasing hostilities in the south, under the guise of a ‘peace agreement.’”

The government peace panel had mishandled negotiations with the MILF, leading to an unconstitutional agreement, Roxas said.

On the other hand, Pangilinan said it would be better for Malacañang to renegotiate the agreement because its provisions are unconstitutional.

“Only peace negotiations and aggressive efforts at effective governance with concrete results will bring about lasting peace and prosperity,” he said.

Pangilinan said there was no way the agreement could be forced down the people’s throats.

“The credibility of the peace pact is now highly suspect with Malacañang pressing for Cha-cha along with it, and the flawed, exclusive process undertaken to have the agreement,” he said.

Residents rally vs Bangsamoro entity

In Tacurong City, some 10,000 residents rallied yesterday to dramatize their opposition to the agreement on ancestral domain with the MILF.

Tacurong City Mayor Lino Montilla said the rally was aimed at urging the government to make public the contents of the agreement.

“It is imperative for them to take a stand and sympathize with those opposing the inclusion of Mindanao communities in the planned Bangsamoro Juridical Entity,” he added.

Montilla said the Tacurong City Council has passed a strongly-worded resolution asking the Supreme Court to void the agreement on ancestral domain.

“Our local leaders and the people in the so-called villages covered by the BJE were not consulted before the document was laid down for finalization by both panels,” he said. — With Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez, John Unson, Katherine Adraneda, Artemio Dumlao

MOA on ancestral domain meant to fail–communist leader

August 15, 2008

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 11:19:00 08/15/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison said the unsigned Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was meant to fail because it was “too good and too generous to be true.”

Upon reading the document, which was to have been signed in Malaysia, Sison said: “I thought immediately that the contents which appeared to recognize and concretize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination and ancestral domain were too good and too generous to be true.”

“The MOA was so contrary to the greedy and brutal character of the GRP [government of the Republic of the Philippines], whose presumptions and actuations I have long known in the course of revolutionary struggle and the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” said Sison, who now carries the title chief political consultant of the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines, in an e-mail sent to media Friday.

Sison called for a united action and cooperation between the MILF and the NDFP.

“The pretense at generosity is full of malice. It is calculated to outwit and outflank the MILF and the Bangsamoro and to facilitate frontal military attacks against them. They are being left no choice but to wage revolutionary struggle in order to advance their cause of national self-determination. There is a heightened need for the unity, cooperation of the MILF and the NDFP in their distinct and common concerns and causes against the same adversaries,” he said.

Sison accused the government of insincerity in getting the MOA-AD signed. He said that if the government were sincere about granting Moros the right to self-determination, it would have released the document to the public way before the signing for more discussions on the issues contained in the MOA.

“It was almost predictable that the signing of the MOA would be aborted. The public release of the draft only a few days before the date of signing was clearly meant to stir up a controversy big enough to cause the abortion,” he said.

The communist in exile echoed the concerns of the opposition that the MOA-AD was a “sneaky” way for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to effect Charter change so that she could extend her term beyond 2010.

At the same time, Sison accused the United States, together with Japan and Australia, of trying to ingratiate itself to the MILF so that it could exploit its human and natural resources if and when a peace agreement has been finalized.

“It is obvious that the US has been out to sidle up to and ingratiate itself with the MILF and the Bangsamoro in order to further strengthen its position in exploiting the human and natural resources of the Bangsamoro and deploying US military forces in Mindanao,” he said.

Sison said that under the direction of the US State Department, the US Institute of Peace has been busy in carrying out the Philippine Facilitation Project since 2003 in order to help produce a document like the MOA.

To the MILF, Sison said, the MOA could be used as a standard or minimum for negotiating with the government. To the government, it can be used to put off the formal peace talks which would have followed immediately after the signing of the agreement.

“Unilaterally or in cahoots with the GRP, the US can use the high expectations raised by the MOA among the MILF and Bangsamoros to justify US military presence and advance US hegemony in Mindanao,” he said.

He warned that the document would be used “as a device of pretended generosity” to advance the government and the United States’ public standing.

This in turn will “prolong GRP-MILF informal talks and ceasefire and to deploy larger US and Philippine military forces against the MILF and the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Negros top officials support Cha-Cha

August 15, 2008

BACOLOD City – Local chief executives of Bacolod City and Negros Occidental have expressed their support to amend the Constitution and transform the government into a federal system.

Governor Isidro Zayco said he is supporting the charter change for it is high time that the present system of government will be changed to make the provinces and other cities in the country not to be subjected under the control of “Imperial Manila.”

Once the federal system is pushed through, Zayco would suggest the two provinces of Negros to be included in one region or federal state.

According to Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia, there is an immediate need for changing the Constitution.

He said he has been consistent with his stand on the issue since it was introduced several months ago.

Leonardia said the term of three years for a locally elected official is too short and should be extended to four years.

However, he stressed that the provisions of the Constitution that would be amended should be explained to the people first for transparency. It would erase doubts that the move was for the interest of those politicians who want to keep in power after 2010, he said.

Meanwhile, Vice Governor Emilio Yulo III said changing the 1987 charter should not be allowed.

“I am very consistent with my stand since I was a board member. I am against any moves of changing the charter,” he said.

Yulo said there should be a massive consultation with different local government units in the country to determine if they support the move to change the present system of government./PN

Biazon backed out Chacha stalled anew

August 15, 2008

BarangayRP News

Senator Rodolfo Biazon, one of the 15 senators who signed Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr’s resolution proposing for a shift to a federal form of government, withdrew his signature yesterday.

“Because of the expressed support by Malacañang and the statements coming out from the proponents in the House of Representatives, a lot of slippery and winding roads loom ahead that pose danger to the charter change move,” he said.

Biazon said that “the previous negative reception to the idea of Charter change” is now resurrected because of the support of Malacañan and its House allies to Pimentel’s relosution.

Malacañang, which has expressed full support to the Pimentel resolution, is being accused of using it to let President Arroyo stay in power beyond 2010.

Biazon added that he is not going to be surprised if many of his colleagues will follow suit.

According to him, many of his colleague who signed the resolution were not necessarily pro-federal system but would just want to “put the issue to extensive public consultation and debate so that the public may be informed on the nature of this (latest) move to amend the Charter.”

He added that said amendments to the Constitution should be made only after 2010.

On Wednesday, Senate President pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said they would withdraw if it becomes clear Arroyo would use it to extend her term.

Reacting to these, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza called the senators’ plans a setback to President Arroyo’s renewed push for Charter change (Cha-cha).

“With some senators, who are authors of Resolution No. 10 seemingly, for reasons of their own, no longer interested to push for constitutional reforms for federalism especially for Mindanao, our expectation that Charter change towards federalism in Mindanao will not take off soon,” he said.

Pimentel has said his resolution does not omit the constitutional provision on the president’s term limit and that it clearly provides that said term limit will continue to be enforced under a federal system.

He strongly stressed that he would never allow his resolution be used by Malacañang to extend the president’s term.

Editorial Cartoon: Ang MOA-AD at Cha-cha

August 14, 2008

Hasty Mistake

No stopping term extension

August 14, 2008

Con-ass may extend Arroyo stay, says solon

By Norman Bordadora, Christian V. Esguerra, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:17:00 08/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Nothing can stop President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s allies in Congress in proposing measures that will extend her term beyond 2010 once a constituent assembly (Con-ass) is convened to adopt a federal system.

This was the position taken Wednesday by La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, although Speaker Prospero Nograles said no lawmaker had yet proposed any measure to prolong Ms Arroyo’s tenure.

“Nothing. It can be proposed in the committee, in the plenary,” Ortega told reporters when asked if there was anything that can stop proposals for extending the term of incumbent elected officials, including Ms Arroyo.

“The House is in agreement to sit down with the Senate to discuss Charter change. We will listen to them … They should also listen if House members bring up other matters such as the parliamentary form,” Ortega said.

A House resolution for convening a Con-ass for a federal shift has been filed by Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco and is one of the measures being considered by Ortega’s committee.

Once the House passes Cuenco’s Resolution No. 14 and the Senate approves Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel’s Resolution No. 10, the bicameral Congress may already convene a Con-ass.

“We (in the committee) have agreed that in the next meeting we will vote on whether to push through or not … Hopefully, we can also come up with a decision on what mode to prefer,” Ortega said.

Lacson pulls out signature

Sen. Panfilo Lacson Wednesday said he was dropping his support for Pimentel’s resolution after Malacañang announced Ms Arroyo was backing the measure.

“I believe they have bad intentions in supporting Senate Resolution No. 10. But withdrawing my signature does not mean I am not in support of the concept of federalism. I am just worried that Malacañang is clearly riding on this to raise the term limits,” Lacson said, referring to the end of Ms Arroyo’s tenure in 2010.

“I think most of the senators who signed, if not all, will have to rethink their position. If this will open the floodgates to the extension of the President’s term limits, a lot of senators will change their positions,” he said.

Personal survey

Citing an updated version of his personal survey on House members’ preferences on Charter change, Ortega said that as of Wednesday, 64 House members wanted to change the Constitution via the Con-ass route.

He said that respondents to his survey had reached 129, of whom 118 were in favor of Charter change, including 73 who wanted this done before 2010.

Ortega, however, said the Con-ass mode remained problematic as the framers of the 1987 Constitution weren’t able to make clear whether the two chambers shall vote together or separately.

Cuenco said his resolution for a Con-ass was only for purposes of adopting a federal system. “There’s no term extension here,” Cuenco said.

Nograles denied that the House was trying to extend Ms Arroyo’s term. “[Term extension] is not in our radar. It is only the media and some people who dislike the President who are saying that,” he added.

‘Blinded with bias’

In Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita enumerated to reporters the number of times the President had said she would step aside in 2010 and read each one of them although he did not mention—and no reporter asked him—that Ms Arroyo also said she would not run in the 2004 presidential election but did anyway.

“The President will not turn her back on what she said that she will step down in 2010,” Ermita said. “Let’s just wait for the truth to happen. We are blinded with bias.”

Ermita also said that Ms Arroyo was not saying she would give a “vigorous” push to the Pimentel initiative. “All that she is saying is that there is a resolution, therefore let’s find out how things will be.”

So far, only Lacson has withdrawn his support for Senate Resolution No. 10 which was signed in April by Senate President Manuel Villar, Senators Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Pia Cayetano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Francis Pangilinan and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

News management

Sen. Joker Arroyo cheered Malacañang for veering public attention from the controversial memorandum of agreement (MoA) on ancestral domain to Charter change. “It’s all part of news management that Cha-cha has become more important than the MoA and to think that Cha-cha is doomed to fail anyway.”

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile likened Charter change to Pandora’s box. He said that while Pimentel had said that he would now allow Ms Arroyo to use his bill to stay in power, Pimentel had only one vote in a proposed constituent assembly of 23 senators and 214 congressmen.

Pimentel is unfazed by the warnings against his federalism bill. “I believe this proposition is right and I will support it even if an evil person endorses it,” he said.

Sen. Richard Gordon said that while his committee on constitutional amendments would take up Pimentel’s resolution in the next two to three weeks, he doubted whether it would be passed.

Talk of amending the Constitution emerged after the government secretly hammered out last month a MoA with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on ending four decades of fighting in Mindanao that has claimed more than 120,000 lives and displaced 2 million.

The Supreme Court put the brakes on the signing of the MoA in Malaysia on Aug. 5 after local executives got wind of the deal and protested the inclusion without consultations of their barangays (villages) in an expanded Bangsamoro homeland.

SC MoA hearing Friday

The high court scheduled Friday oral arguments on the MoA. Lawmakers have joined the court case, arguing that the accord means dismemberment of the Philippine republic and the creation of a separate state.

In her first statement on the subject since the Supreme Court knocked down in October 2006 as a “grand deception” a signature campaign for a “people’s initiative” as a mode of changing the Charter, Ms Arroyo said on Monday she was promoting federalism in a bid to resolve the Moro conflict.

Malacañang said that the statement was nothing new and that Ms Arroyo was simply supporting what Pimentel had envisioned in his resolution calling for the convening of the two Houses of Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution and adopt the federal system.

80 solons denounce MoA

Also in Congress Wednesday, more than 80 lawmakers crossed party lines to sign a resolution condemning the MoA.

The resolution said that a document “as important as the MoA … could only be drafted and agreed (upon) if the terms of the same are negotiated under the democratic requirements of absolute transparency and full consultation involving all stakeholders.”

Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a privilege speech that the planned revision of the Constitution should be “stopped by any means” if it was meant to accommodate the MoA.

“No amount of Charter change, however large the scale of public approval, will ever make it right,” he said.

“Heck, if all but one Filipino were to vote to give away a part of our country so that it becomes a separate country, they would all be wrong and a singular voice opposing it would be right,” Locsin said.

“God damn the bastards who want to give away part of our country just to keep a grip on what remains.”

Cha-Cha Revival Exposes Arroyo’s Resolve To Stay Beyond 2010

August 14, 2008

Written by IBON Media
Renewed moves to amend the 1987 Constitution through the proposal for federalism reveal that the Arroyo administration is clearly determined to perpetuate itself in power possibly even beyond 2010. In its midyear political assessment report, IBON noted that the administration’s maximum objective in the coming months is to maneuver to stay beyond 2010. Charter change (Cha-cha) for now appears to be the preferred mechanism for allowing Pres. Arroyo to retain power through a shift to a federal-parliamentary government. Cha-cha is also a means of gaining the continued support of various political and economic interest groups, including foreign governments and elite capital.

However, the moves towards Cha-cha would not be smooth given Arroyo’s immense unpopularity and the general perception that such moves only serve her self-interest.
This early, the public has detected that the present initiative is no different from past attempts to change the Constitution, driven by the President’s resolve to perpetuate herself in power. In IBON opinion surveys, the public has consistently rejected such moves.

IBON added that, similar to previous Cha-cha initiatives, the government’s renewed campaign will also likely recommend the removal of vital constitutional protections for the public good and weakening of economic sovereignty provisions in the charter. Lifting these provisions would surely intensify the people’s already dire economic situation. (end)

Archbishop hits Arroyo’s bid for federalism

August 14, 2008

MANILA, August 12, 2008— Outspoken Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz chided President Gloria Arroyo’s “obsession” in amending the Constitution.

This, according to Cruz, is for one simple and vivid reason— for Mrs. Arroyo’s continued stay in power even long after 2010.

“Now it can be said openly and loudly (that) the reigning Malacañang occupant avidly wants to continue wielding power and might,” Cruz said.

Mrs. Arroyo on Monday told Swiss President Pascal Couchepin that her government is advocating a federalist form of government as a way to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, for his part, explained that the President’s statement was only a move “to bring about” the memorandum of agreement over ancestral domain between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government.

What is more “condemnable”, Cruz added, is that the government itself has no remorse over the effects brought by the controversial pact.

“Never mind the thousands of people displaced and impoverished, hurt or killed, on condition only that someone’s tenure of power and might is extended… as long as possible,” Cruz said.

On Monday, some 130,000 civilians were displaced as armed encounter continue between the government soldiers and MILF in North Cotabato.

The fighting erupted few days after the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order against the signing of the MOA.

Cruz said it is clear that the government only “used” the deal with the Moro separatists group in her unrelenting bid to extend her term. (CBCPNews)

Prelate reiterates CBCP stand on Cha-cha

August 14, 2008

MANILA, August 13, 2008─Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has always been clear in its stand on charter change.

In an interview with Catholic-run Veritas 846, Pabillo said the CBCP believes any change in the constitution should be made by way of constitutional convention and not through constituent assembly as what has been proposed by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration in its desire to grant Filipino Muslims more autonomy.

“Our lawmakers have been elected to enact laws and not to alter or change the country’s constitution,” the prelate said.

Pabillo explained that with what’s happening today, it seems “unbelievable” they [lawmakers] could do their job well in so short a time.

“What kind of representation do we get should our congressmen and senators change our constitution?” the prelate asked.

He said the country and its people are simply waiting for the coming national elections in 2010.

Asked if the shift to federalism would bring peace to regions in southern Philippines, the auxiliary bishop said the Filipinos are still unaware of the merits and benefits of federalism.

He added the problems in Mindanao began when the government reported a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which was up for signing until the Supreme Court issued a restraining order.

“Now the government says there’s a need to amend the Philippine Constitution without appropriate consultations with the people,” the 53-year old prelate said.

He said this move to change the Constitution “may be a way to keep President Arroyo in power beyond 2010 because once you begin changing the Constitution anything can happen.”

He said the grinding poverty in the country is a serious matter “not even federalism could solve and we should be more careful in selecting our leaders because federal states will have its laws independent of each other.”

“We are not treated as matured citizens because we are never consulted,” Pabillo said.

He said the general public should benefit from the fruits of government programs if it pursues common good.

“[And] all of a sudden these issues will crop up and just be shoved into our throats,” the prelate said in Filipino. (Melo Acuna)(CBCPNews)

CBCP keeps eye on Cha-cha

August 14, 2008

MANILA, August 14, 2008— The leadership of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is keeping a close eye on the Arroyo government’s bid for Charter change.

The CBCP has no stand yet over the Arroyo’s sudden push for a federal form of government two years after the Supreme Court shot down a “people’s initiative” to amend the Constitution.

But Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez who once said “yes” to Constitutional amendments only after Arroyo’s term ends in 2010 called for vigilance anew amidst Arroyo’s abrupt support for a joint resolution at the Senate that called for the creation of 11 federal states in the country.

He said the Church would want to lead the flock in maintaining vigilance to ensure all things are rightly done for Cha-cha.

“That’s always the stand of the church (in knowing the truth). We will find out what’s really the motive behind all these, if it will bring good to the people or not,” said Iñiguez, who also chairs the CBCP’s Committee on Public Affairs.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza yesterday said it is all systems go for the move to amend the 1987 Constitution in a bid to bring lasting peace in Mindanao.

The announcement came at the heels of an earlier pronouncement by President Arroyo herself that her administration is very supportive of the possible shift to federalism.

It may be recalled that back in December 2006, the CBCP had actively campaign against the government’s “hasty moves” to amend the Charter.

Asked if there is a possibility that the CBCP will again call for a prayer rally much like they did in Luneta almost two years ago, Iñiguez refused to comment.

“The reason why the Church opposed Cha-cha before was because there were ulterior motives behind the moves. Now that it is being brought up again, we have to see the real motive behind it,” he said in Filipino.

Iñiguez, however, said the Catholic Church will not be a “stumbling block” for the government in its moves to change the Charter.

“There is no such thing as a perfect law. Let us see. If it is for the good of the people, why go against it? But if it is not, then that’s the time we have to speak out,” he added. (Roy Lagarde)(CBCPNews)

Sec. Garcia to Abp. Valles: ‘I’m sorry, it was a costly mistake.’

August 14, 2008

DAVAO CITY, August 14, 2008 –No less than the Government Peace Panel Negotiator Secretary Rodolfo Garcia who said sorry to Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles for what he termed as “ a very costly mistake” in the inclusion of Barangays Zone 3 and 4 in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“We did what we could. We have tried our best to come up with this sub-agreement on the third substantive aspect identified by the parties under the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001. I’m sorry if it felt short of your expectation, Bishop, and the expectations of your people in Zamboanga,” said Garcia.

Valles, during the open forum of the high level briefing on the Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made a strong comment on the government’s failure to consult the people on the areas to be placed under the self-governance system of BJE.

He questioned the GRP panel for inadequacy of dialogue and consultation especially the people of Zamboanga in the proposed MOA–AD which now contains the general principles concerning, among others, Bangsamoro identity and rights, the establishment of a genuine self-governance system appropriate for the Moro, the areas to be placed under this self-governance system, and the protection and utilization of resources found therein.

“For what you (GRP) have done, you (GRP) have lost the people of Zamboanga City. You missed to conduct consultation and dialogue which are very important,” Valles sturdily said in public during the forum.

Garcia admitted that the two barangays Zone 3 and 4 were never discussed to be part of those areas to be placed under the BJE.

“It was a very costly mistake that Barangays Zone 3 and 4 [were] included in the MOA –AD,” he told Valles.

In Zamboanga City, at least eight villages are included in the proposed BJE namely: Barangays (Villages) Zone 3, Zone 4, Landang Gua, Busay, Landang Laum, Manalipa, Pasilmanta and Tigtabon. Covered also are Lobregat’s ancestral home, the Fort Pilar Shrine, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the City Hall and the entire city center.

While Garcia recognized the need to consult the people, he was quick in saying, “it is not always at all times that we have to consult the people, otherwise, the process will become interminable.”

But, Valles who was so disgusted declared, “I have strong disagreements of what Garcia, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said.”

In a separate interview, Valles told CBCPNews that the MOA- AD was crafted with so much haste and lack of consultation.

“I will still stand by what I have said in public that I have strong disagreements with the statements of the GRP panel,” said Valles.

He also said the BJE would be divisive and only sow confusion among the people for lack of proper consultations.

“The BJE instead of gaining the trust of the people, breeds mistrust for the people of Zamboanga City,” added Valles.

“Had not the proposed MOA-AD between GRP-MILF made public, we would never have known that Barangays Zone 3 and 4 have been included in the BJE,” said Valles, adding:

“We have nothing against peace process. We don’t want to breed hatred and mistrust between Muslims and Christians. What we need are transparency, proper consultation and dialogue.” (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Quevedo appeals: Clarify US role, GMA intention in the MOA

August 14, 2008

DAVAO CITY, August 14, 2008 – Admitting that many things cannot be negotiated in public, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, however made a personal appeal to clarify the role of the United States of America (USA), the intention of President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo and other issues hounding the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MoA-AD).

Quevedo said the public should know what really is the genuine intention of Arroyo in pursuing the MoA-AD, to reflect whether there is participation by the US government in the drafting of the agreement, and the questionable gross inadequacy in the consensus.

“The need for consensus is as important as for the GRP. It is wisdom to consult, ask questions, and secure assistance regarding directions and goals from stakeholders. For the government, consult with the different branches of government and with the people directly affected by conflict,” said Quevedo.

“We have to clear first many things. It seems that the MoA- AD has many complexities. It fails to reach proper consultations, the language used in the agreement is vague and it was done in haste,” added Quevedo.

He also said that there is certainly a need to educate all the various constituencies and stakeholders as to the contents of the MoA-AD, their bases in history and in law, the steps to be taken, the recognition of mutual rights as well as the mutual sacrifices needed by both Bangsamoro and non-Bangsamoro people.

“The key to acceptability of the MoA–AD is consultation and dialogue, information and education, and building a constituency supportive of the general goals and specific objectives as well as the processes and contents of the peace negotiations,” said Quevedo.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said that the US government has no participation in the drafting of the MoA-AD.

Esperon added that the US government only extends help in the rehabilitation programs especially in the war-torn areas of Mindanao.

But, he said that in terms of fighting against terrorism it cannot be denied that the US government is helping the country.

“There is a global fight against terrorism and for that the US government is helping us in our thrust to end terroristic activities,” said Esperon.

Like Esperon, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza also said that the MoA-AD is intended by Mrs. Arroyo in order to solve the decades old problem in Mindanao.

“The president wants that rebellion in Mindanao should come to an end for after all we have already sacrificed a lot and many lives and properties have been wasted,” said Dureza. (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Surgical Amendment, Not Possible – Laywers

August 13, 2008

A group of lawyers slammed Preident Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s proposal for a ‘surgical amendment’ of the Constitution, saying that the proposed constituent assembly can overhaul the entire Constitution at its discretion.

In a statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said, “Arroyo’s deception is further exposed by the fact that federalism cannot be achieved by the mere amendment of one or two provisions.” The NUPL said that the change from a unitary system to a federal form of government requires amendments in at least eight articles of the Constitution.

The group maintained that Arroyo’s proposed mode of constituent assembly provides no constitutional restriction to revise, not merely amend one or two provisions in the Constitution. Should both Houses pass a joint resolution constituting itself as a ‘constituent assembly’ to amend a specific provision, there is no stopping the Constituent Assembly from enlarging its mandate and amending other provisions, said NUPL.

“Congress, as a Constituent Assembly, assumes a different constitutional entity and function and cannot, therefore, be bound by a legislative act (such as a joint resolution) since it is empowered by the Constitution to amend not a mere law but the Constitution itself,” it added.

The NUPL deemed that Arroyo does not actually aim for the shift to federalism but for the deletion of that portion in Article VII, Section 4 which states that “The president shall not be eligible for any reelection”.

The group said, “It is, therefore, clear that Arroyo is merely riding on the issues of federalism and peace in Mindanao to push for charter change which is ultimately aimed at prolonging her stay in power and eliminating the protectionist economic provisions in the Constitution. In fact, she can stay beyond 2010 via the ‘surgical amendment’ of deleting the term limit on the presidency in Article VII, Sec. 4.”

The NUPL urged senators who support federalism, especially Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, not to support the renewed call for charter change and allow their advocacy to be used as a stepping stone for the ‘perpetuation of one of the most brutal and corrupt administration in Philippine history.’ Bulatlat

Arroyo resurrects Charter change

August 12, 2008

Dureza: Federalism needs constitutional amendment

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:56:00 08/12/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The cat is out of the bag.

“We advocate federalism as a way to ensure long-lasting peace in Mindanao,” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Monday told visiting Swiss President Pascal Couchepin.

It was the first time Ms Arroyo talked about a shift to a federal form of government since the Supreme Court shot down a “people’s initiative” in October 2006 to amend the Constitution in a bid to introduce a parliamentary system.

Although Ms Arroyo did not talk about Charter change in her remarks during a state luncheon for Couchepin, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza told reporters that this was “the way forward” in carrying out a deal for an expanded Moro homeland to end four decades of a separatist war in Mindanao.

“She is calling for a constitutional amendment … in order to bring about the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity,” Dureza said, referring to the governing authority envisioned in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Aug. 5 signing of the MOA in Malaysia following protests over the inclusion of 700 barangays (villages) in the enlarged Moro domain. The court has scheduled a formal hearing on the case on Friday.

During Monday’s affair in Malacañang, Ms Arroyo thanked the Swiss government for “its willingness to share in its experience of federalism.”

She said that the Institute of Federalism in Fribourg in Switzerland was helping her administration “do our studies on this form of government.”

Ms Arroyo and Couchepin agreed that this initiative would continue between the Swiss institute and the Center for Local and Regional Governance of the University of the Philippines.

Critics of the MOA in the Senate and the House of Representatives have warned that the MOA was a vehicle to amend the Constitution and prolong the term of Ms Arroyo, which ends in two years.

‘Surgical amendment’

Last week, Malacañang officials told the Senate that what was needed to carry out the MOA was a “surgical amendment” and not a wholesale Charter change.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Dureza said then that government negotiators had sought the advice of noted constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas to implement the MOA.

But the two said much would depend on the results of a planned plebiscite to be conducted in 12 months, and on negotiations on governance and disarmament of the MILF, among other issues.

Under the plan, the Senate and the House of Representatives will pass a joint resolution adopting a one-item amendment of the Constitution.

The way forward

Monday, Dureza told reporters of the government’s plan to institute federalism.

“An opportunity should be given to the whole country to avail of the reform effects of federalism. The sentiment of many people there is to give local officials more authority in order to perform better. And the federal set-up is the way forward to this,” he said.

“The President has approved the way forward and there’s no question about it. If she has the political will to do it she has to muster political will in spite of all these noises.”

Dureza referred to opposition in Congress to moves to amend the Constitution at this time. Critics say that the introduction of the federal system will mean wholesale changes in the Constitution, not piecemeal.

Asked whether the Arroyo administration would be able to move the country toward a federal-parliamentary system over a short haul, Dureza acknowledged that the timetable had been set back because of the Supreme Court’s intervention last week.

Set up building blocks

“The timetable is come up with signing, go to Congress for enabling law, a plebiscite is held. When you discuss issue of governance, then a final compact, final peace agreement can be signed,” Dureza said.

“That is where after you sign the compact, you have to move toward amending portions of the charter to implement or carry out the terms of the MOA on AD and final peace agreement that will come,” he said.

Dureza said that the government would try its best to achieve the amendment but at least it had “set up the building blocks.”

Asked whether this bid for Charter change would create yet another political controversy, Dureza said this cannot be avoided in a country with a “lively democracy.”

MOA to be signed soon

During a meeting Monday at the House of Representatives, Esperon announced that the government was confident that the MOA would be signed before the end of the month, according to Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

More than 30 lawmakers, mostly from Mindanao, who attended the meeting demanded that the government scrap the MOA, citing the lack of transparency in the crafting of the document, said Rodriguez.

Also Monday, leaders of the Liberal Party and the United Opposition filed petitions urging the Supreme Court to scrap the controversial deal with the MILF.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II, LP president, echoed in his 22-page petition the concerns of the original petitioners in the case—North Cotabato and Zamboanga City executives—that the MOA was prepared and finalized without public consultations.

A product of deceit

Roxas said that the MOA was “traitorous” and was “a product of coercion and deceit.”

Former Sen. Franklin Drilon, LP national chair, and UNO spokesperson Adel Tamano warned the Supreme Court that to countenance the MOA would create a “dangerous precedent.”

In Puerto Princesa City, civil society groups announced they will join a rally on Tuesday at the capitol to oppose the inclusion of the towns of Baolabac and Bataraza in southern Palawan province in the expanded Moro homeland. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra, Jerome Aning and Redempto Anda, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Cha-cha for MOA sought

August 10, 2008

Cebu Daily News
First Posted 09:08:00 08/10/2008

DAVAO CITY — Presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said constitutional amendments to empower a governing mechanism for the Bangsamoro could take place within the term of President Macapagal-Arroyo.

During a roundtable discussion with the Inquirer Mindanao Bureau here Friday, Esperon said the term “legal frameworks” in the controversial memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “actually refers to the (Philippine) Constitution.”

Esperon said empowering the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) with local tax imposition and administrative jurisdiction and “control over mines and natural resources may be beyond our present Constitution.”

But he immediately said amendments to the Charter could only be initiated by an act of Congress.
Asked whether a Charter change was possible during Ms. Arroyo’s presidency, Esperon replied: “It can.”

Esperon also said the government was not granting independence to the MILF but only agreeing to the formation of “a state within a state,” which he said was just another term for federalism.

In her State of the Nation Address (Sona) before Congress on July 28, Ms Arroyo stressed the need for Congress’ legislative support “to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement within my term.”

In an earlier peace forum in Cotabato City, chief government peace negotiator Rodolfo Garcia openly admitted to participants that the government was seriously considering amending the Constitution “for a political settlement in addressing the Moro problem.”

Garcia also told the Inquirer that this was actually the position of the government in resolving the issue of ancestral domain, which was then the most contentious issue in the peace negotiations.

The chief negotiator, however, was quick to point out that this option had not been so popular and “it might be misconstrued as a ploy to extending the term of the President.”

“That is what we fear,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), a consortium of peace groups, said more consultations were needed so that the people will know what the MOA was all about.

“We definitely need more consultation, dialogues and information dissemination so that people can come up with well informed positions on the MOA …,” the MPC said in a statement issued Saturday. Inquirer

=================

My Take:

Kapal naman talaga ng pagmumukha ni Esperon.

Di pa nga nila inaamin ang tunay nilang agenda sa likod ng mapanlinlang nilang MOA e marami nang kumokontra, tapos, may bayag pa siyang sabihin ngayon ang chacha in the open.

Sabagay, utak-militar kasi ito. Obey first and never complain.  At least e yayaman siya sa ganyang pinaggagawa niya.

MILF agrees to pull out troops in North Cotabato

August 7, 2008

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 22:50:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Less than 12 hours before government’s 24-hour ultimatum expires, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has agreed to pull out its troops from nine villages it allegedly occupied in North Cotabato province, a rebel official said Thursday evening.

“Repositioning, this means that troops occupying a certain area will be moved,” MILF Vice Chairman for political affaird Ghadzali Jaafar said in a phone interview.

Asked if the “repositioning” meant a pullout from the villages identified by government security forces, Jaafar said: “I think that is the meaning of that.”

The decision was reached Thursday evening after a meeting of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), a ceasefire implementing body jointly chaired by the government and the MILF in Shariff Kabunsuan province.

Jaafar was evasive when asked if the MILF’s move was in response to the government’s 24-hour ultimatum, which expires at 10 a.m. Friday.

He said the MILF had planned to “reposition” troops there as early as two weeks ago, but “they had a hard time enforcing it because emotions were running high” in the areas.

“I think they decided that now is the right time to enforce their decision, and the decision is repositioning,” he said.

Asked if the rebels’ decision would avert possible fighting when the ultimatum lapses, Jaafar said: “Tingnan natin [Let’s see]. We hope.”

Security officials have warned the MILF that they would forcibly remove the rebels from the North Cotabato villages if they refuse to leave voluntarily. Three battalions of police commandos have been sent to the area.

The tension in North Cotabato rose as peace negotiations between the government and the largest Moro rebel group in the country hit a snag after the Supreme Court issued last Monday a temporary restraining order stopping the signing of a memorandum of agreement that would ultimately expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to include 712 more villages.

======================

My Take:

I think the MILF has come to its senses.  This move is really a repositioning of their forces, in anticipation to the possible armed confrontation, after the government-initiated deadline’s expiration tomorrow morning.

The war in some parts of Mindanao is about to start tomorrow.  It is inevitable.  Kung di man magsimula bukas, hindi ito nangangahulugan na wala nang digmaang magaganap.

AFP chief: ‘Armed conflict possible if deadline not met’

August 7, 2008

But situation ‘not that heated,’ says Yano

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:19:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the Armed Forces on Thursday said armed conflict is “possible” if Moro rebels ignore a 24-hour deadline to leave nine villages they have allegedly occupied in North Cotabato, even as he said local officials described the situation in the province as “not that heated and tense.”

General Alexander Yano hastily flew to North Cotabato to assess the situation Thursday morning, following a meeting of the National Security Council the evening before.

Asked if hostilities could break out if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ignore the deadline to leave the villages by 10 a.m. Friday, Yano said: “That could be possible. But we are still confident that these groups will understand that they are supposed to leave the area, and if they can leave peacefully, much the better.”

Earlier, the MILF denied making incursions into North Cotabato. While the rebels promised to withdraw any forces that have entered the province, they also said this was unlikely to be necessary.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said their forces in North Cotabato have been there before, they are local MILF.”

“It is a delicate situation [that] requires a delicate balance of judgment,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told a news conference in Camp Crame.

Asked if troops were positioned in the contested villages ahead of the deadline, Yano said: “We can’t discuss operational details like that. Rest assured [that] this will be spearheaded, as I’ve said, by the Philippine National Police because this is an enforcement of our laws.”

Yano was also evasive when asked when the military would step in, saying, “I’d rather not discuss operational details for the protection of our operating troops.”

“I made clear [to the troops] the mandate of our Armed Forces to defend the civilian communities against any atrocities,” Yano said in a phone interview from the 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Awang town, Shariff Kabunsuan province.

At the same time, Yano clarified, “This operation is not merely against the MILF as an organization, but those individuals or groups that violated our laws.”

The events in North Cotabato unfolded after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA) on ancestral domain between the government and the MILF that would expand the Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“Yun nga nakapagtataka, wala pa nga yung BJE, eto na umaarte na itong militant na MILF [I wonder why, even before the BJE is set up, here comes the militant MILF acting up],” North Cotabato Governor Jesus Sacdalan said in a phone interview, also from Awang, where he met with Yano.

Sacdalan said three women were killed and two other civilians were wounded, while 82 houses were burned over the last two weeks in the nine remote villages in five towns of his province.

He said contingencies have been put in place in view of the 24-hour deadline.

Yano will be in Mindanao until Friday, when he will visit the 4th Infantry Division headquarters in Cagayan de Oro City, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

SC unfazed by MILF threat to withdraw from peace talks

August 7, 2008

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:06:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court is unfazed by the threat of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to withdraw from peace negotiations from government if the high court does not lift its temporary restraining order (TRO) against the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA) on ancestral domain by Friday.

High court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the Supreme Court will not reverse itself because of pressure exerted by the rebels.

“We are a government of laws and not of men…The court has to look at the argument of the petitioners and the government before the court issues its ruling on the case,” Marquez said.

He explained there is a need to maintain the “status quo because, if the signing [of the MoA] pushes through, [the] rights [of the parties involved in the dispute] might be violated. To prevent [the] violation of certain rights of the people, the court decided to issue a TRO. Again this is not a decision on the merits [of the case], this is just a TRO to maintain status quo,” he said.

Marquez added that the high court will thoroughly study the arguments raised by both parties before coming up with a decision.

He urged the MILF to respect the position of the Supreme Court, which issued the TRO on Monday, a day before the scheduled signing of the MoA, which would pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, envisioned to expand on the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The high court has scheduled an oral argument on Aug. 15.

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My Take:

The SC is right.

Sadly the independence of the Court was used by the government to have an easy exit to the MOA-Drama they’ve created.  And they’re creating another door to exit.  Mindanao war.  And Piñol is one of its actors.  Piñol et al is now making noises down south to create an athmosphere of fear and make a big fuss out of some isolated cases, giving the government its needed alibi to issue the 24-hr deadline to the baffled MILF.

The MILF should see this.  Or start accepting the fact that this government is not sincere on attaining peace in Mindanao. Unfortunately, the feudal-lords in the MILF is too blinded by their “paper victory”.  And too dumb enough to believe what the GRP want them to see.

This is originally a SONA-drama designed to gain more applause to PGMA’s boring speech.  But the opportunists in the military and Malacañan, plus the die-hard US ass-lickers pushed the drama further, hoping to win more: defeat the MILF thru paper or by force, both thru deception.

And to whose expense?  To our innocent kababayans currently residing inside the so-called “Bangsmoro Juridical Entity”.

Editorial Cartoon: MILF-Deal is a Trick

August 7, 2008

Pity the MILF.

It’s a done deal, says MILF exec

August 6, 2008

But Esperon says gov’t can’t disregard judiciary

By Christine Avendaño, Alcuin Papa, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:35:00 08/06/2008

MANILA, Philippines—It’s a done deal.

That’s the position of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front a day after the Supreme Court stopped the MILF and the Philippine government from signing a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MoA-AD) in a bid to end four decades of the separatist war in Mindanao.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, told reporters by phone from his base in Mindanao that the MoA became binding when it was initialed by the two sides on July 27 and Tuesday’s aborted ceremony in Malaysia was merely a formality.

“Our official position is that the agreement on ancestral domain has been signed, so it’s a done deal,” Jaafar said.

He dismissed as “purely an internal problem of the government” the Supreme Court’s issuance on Monday of a temporary restraining order (TRO) following objections by officials in North Cotabato and Zamboanga City over their inclusion in a proposed Moro homeland without consultations.

Not bound by order

“We are not bound by that order,” Jaafar said. “It’s an internal process in the government. What was committed by the government cannot be taken back.”

The MILF’s chief peace negotiator, Mohaqher Iqbal, said: “The act of initialing the agreed text of MoA-AD by the parties constitutes a signature of the Philippine government and MILF. Initialing was in fact done with a credible third-party witness, the Malaysian government as facilitator of the talks since 2001.”

He said that the court action was not a setback to the MILF. “We are on the upper hand especially in the battle for moral ascendancy.”

Iqbal said the MILF would “still pursue the peace process to bring an end to the conflict without, however, losing sight of alternative means to achieve freedom and justice.”

Esperon disagrees

Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. disagreed with the MILF position, telling reporters that affixing initials to the draft accord was meant to preserve the document and to ensure that it would not be altered or changed.

Esperon said this was the reason there was “an elaborate program to make (the MoA) official” with the help of Malaysia. He described as “unnecessary” MILF statements that the Philippines had “discredited” itself.

“It’s simply that we have to observe the democratic process of doing things involving three coequal branches of government,” he said. Esperon said Malacañang cannot disregard the judicial branch.

Nobody is giving up on peace

“Nobody is giving up on peace, we have not given up on peace, we will never give up on peace,” said Esperon, who put off his planned departure Tuesday for 24 hours to meet with the MILF panel in an apparent bid to ease tension.

But Iqbal put a damper on Esperon’s initiative, telling reporters: “We came here to sign the MoA and not to meet, not to argue … It’s as simple as that.” He said that if the Philippines wanted to sit down and talk, it should be communicated to Malaysian facilitators.

The draft MoA expands the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao that would be governed by a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) with broad political and economic powers, which critics said amounted to an establishment of a separate state.

The proposed deal was meant to formally reopen negotiations to end a near 40-year conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and kept the country’s most resource-rich region dirt poor.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim, who held talks with his Philippine counterpart Alberto Romulo, called for peace in Mindanao.

“What should simmer in our minds is for peace and tranquility to exist. There ought not to be violence in any instance,” Rais told reporters in Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya.

‘Purely temporary impasse’

Expressing his disappointment over the halting of the landmark deal, Rais said he hoped that it was a “purely temporary impasse.”

“This is a setback which should be overcome soon,” he said.

Romulo, who was due to witness the signing but instead held talks with Rais, said the pact was “within the constitutional authority and within the legal authority.”

“We stand by that, that is why we are confident our Supreme Court will find this to be resolved,” the Philippine foreign secretary said.

Malaysia, which has hosted peace talks between the two sides, reversed its decision to withdraw troops in Mindanao, where they are monitoring the ceasefire between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Representatives of civil society groups who flew to Malaysia to witness the signing held a news conference to announce they would oppose in the Supreme Court attempts by local Mindanao executives to scuttle the peace accord.

“We allowed our myopia, our recklessness, our xenophobia to take the better of us,” they said in a statement.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza denied claims by local government units (LGUs) in Mindanao that they were not consulted. Protests against the accord have been held in Zamboanga City, Iligan City, and Kidapawan, North Cotabato.

“These LGUs are provoking the people’s anger by saying that the deal was done in haste. They were participants to many of these consultations. Why aren’t they telling the people that there were consultations done?” Dureza said.

‘We might as well separate’

Sen. Edgardo J. Angara Tuesday issued a statement saying that the MoA should undergo rigid screening at three levels at the very least—the Supreme Court, Congress and the plebiscite.

“It’s fortunate that the Supreme Court has already stepped in because they can very well determine the legal boundaries and legality of this agreement, whether we are now giving up our territory in exchange for a peace agreement,” Angara said.

The administration senator said the public will also have to scrutinize each and every word of the agreement.

“Giving our Muslim brothers the right to govern themselves and the right to utilize and exploit their wealth is perfectly legitimate. But I would not allow the emerging entity to be able to conduct diplomacy and foreign relations, to be able to issue their own currency and to allow them to carry arms and raise troops,” Angara stressed.

If these three conditions are safeguarded and preserved for the Republic of the Philippines, then he is willing to concede practically anything to them so they will enjoy the benefit of their freedom, according to Angara.

3 marks of independent state

“Those are the three earmarks of an independent state and it would be incongruous that within our territorial boundaries, another state will be created. There’s no country in the world who can still maintain its self-respect and dignity by allowing that, might as well agree to separate.”

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez in a press briefing dismissed talk of allowing secession.

“It’s not a state within a state that is being recognized here, rather it’s the Muslim nation. It’s the people who will decide, that’s why there is a plebiscite, and before that there must be an enabling law passed by Congress. So before there is an enabling law, there is nothing,” Gonzalez said. With reports from Jerome Aning, Jeffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez and Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao, Reuters, Agence France-Presse

Bishops stress transparency on controversial agreement

August 6, 2008

BACOLOD CITY, August 5, 2006─The controversial Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain between the government and Moro Liberation Front (MILF) the signing of which was deferred by the Supreme Court today drew remarks from some Catholic bishops.

CBCP President and Jaro (Iloilo) Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo said he would recommend to the CBCP Secretariat and its permanent council, composed of eleven bishops and archbishops to study the said agreement before making any statement.

Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, Jr. pointed out the failure of government to satisfactorily explain to the people the contents of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He said he also want to be clarified on the concept of autonomy because to make Mindanao “another country or nation is too controversial.”

Interviewed at Bacolod Port August 4, Bishop Iniguez said “the government should explain every detail of the agreement because it is something that concerns the Filipino people especially with this long-standing problem of relationship with the Muslims.”

“We owe it to the Filipino people to explain the (agreement’s) details,” the prelate further said.

Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios M. Pueblos said “politicians should be more considerate this time for peace in the whole Philippines and especially in Mindanao.” He said the government should reveal the contents of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain so “it could be properly discussed and probably a compromise could be made to prevent any trouble in the future. “ (Melo Acuna)(CBCPNews)

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My Take:

Bulag ang simbahan ngayon sa isyung ito.  Mukhang naging mas abala sila sa pagharap sa ploy ng Malakanyang: ang Reproductive Health Bill.  Hindi agad nabasa ng ating ka-Obispohan  ang posibilidad ng CHACHA sa likod nito dahil na rin sa katangian ng MOA: imposible, mapanlinlang, inililihim ang laman.

Editorial Cartoon: GRP-MILF MOA, Red Carpet for US

August 6, 2008

I think the US is behind this all.  They will benifit the most from this piece agreement.

Editorial Cartoon: On the SC’s TRO to the MILF-GRP MOA Signing

August 5, 2008

Temporary Spoiler

Federalism Will Entrench the Oligarchy

August 5, 2008

The proposal for a federal system will further entrench the power of the oligarchs and, being divisive, would leave the country more fragmented.

BY THE POLICY STUDY, PUBLICATION, AND ADVOCACY
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CENPEG)
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

More than a year after the move to have a new constitution was thumbed down by a high court ruling and mass protests the proposal for amending the charter has resurfaced. The latest proposal comes from Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. with his federal system that would replace the present unitary and presidential structure. Pimentel’s proposal comes very closely with Jose V. Abueva’s federalism concept which he championed in recent charter change movements that fell off course.

Last May, Pimentel filed Resolution No. 10 in the Senate seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution and establish a federal system. Fifteen senators backed the resolution with reservations along with some leaders in the House led by Speaker Prospero Nograles (Davao City). The target is to hold the referendum on a new charter simultaneously with the 2010 elections. If Pimentel’s move gains some ground, Abueva, who was involved in the drafting of two constitutions in 1971 and 1986, is expected to be once more a key figure in this new constitutional project.

The revival of constitutional reform has surfaced amid the country’s political crisis and creeping intra-elite rivalry now aggravated by an economy that is pulled down by the rice, fuel, and inflationary crisis. Advocates of charter reform point to the flaws of the political system and the institutional gridlock in government that, according to them, can be removed by changing the constitution.

Pimentel says that the establishment of the federal system will not only overhaul the political structure of government but will also lead to a dramatic change in the system of apportioning the nation’s wealth between the central government and the local government units (LGUs) or federal states. The senator believes that the over-centralization of presidential powers under a unitary system has made countries like the Philippines fragmented while those that have federalized have made “quantum leaps in economic development.” He is confident that federalism will put an end to the secessionist movement in Mindanao and, for that matter, all other insurgencies.

Federalism grabbed the headlines once more in late July in the light of claimed breakthroughs in the peace talks between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Charter change, the government panel said, would be inevitable in order to affirm a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) as an autonomous state under a new federal system. Critics see the fast-tracking of a peace accord with the Bangsamoro leaders as a ploy to justify charter change allowing Arroyo to remain in power in a federal system.

Presidential powers

The federal system proposals of Pimentel and Abueva converge on a set of objectives: To cut the powers of the chief executive, make accountability effective as well as public administration and the delivery of services in the regions workable, and to put to rest the centuries-old Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. The presidential system, according to them, is a deterrent to the country’s effective governance but in Pimentel’s own words, its “days are numbered.”

Abueva, in addition, decries that the 1987 Constitution “has not empowered citizens to check or mitigate our pervasive problems of mass poverty, unemployment, corruption, social inequality, injustice, rebellion, and the environment.” He also notes that the restored adversarial separation of powers “creates conflict and gridlock between the President and Congress,” an assertion which finds sympathy in another federalism advocate, ex-congressman and former Arroyo official Florencio Abad. Abueva again: The “outmoded form of government and dysfunctional political parties sustain our politics of personality, patronage, cronyism, and corruption and without transparency and public accountability.”

The antidote to these institutional drawbacks is replacing the presidential system with federalism. Under the Abueva proposal, federalism will redistribute powers by establishing self-rule among 11 constituent states or regional governments, with the federal republic responsible for national security and defense, foreign relations, currency and monetary policy, immigration, and the higher courts. National legislative and executive powers shall be exercised by a bicameral Parliament consisting of the House of the People with members elected in parliamentary districts and others by proportional representation; and the House of the States with members elected by the state assemblies. The Parliament elects as prime minister whoever is the head of the majority party or coalition as well as the President who shall serve as ceremonial head of state. The parliamentary set up will bring about a “party government” fusing both legislative and executive powers.

New revenue sharing

In Pimentel’s federal blueprint, the central government will be left with less powers under a modified revenue sharing that earmarks 80 percent for the federal states and 20 percent for the central or federal government. The Mindanao senator is confident that cutting the powers of the “imperial president” will deal a death blow to patronage politics, will restore public accountability, and make public governance efficient. The equitable sharing of funds and resources among the various states, he says, will speed up development and thus “reduce insurgency to irrelevance.”

Unlike Pimentel, Abueva is careful in qualifying that federalism is not a “panacea” or a “cure all” for the country’s myriad woes. “Federalism will not solve our problems,” the former UP president stresses, but “it will allow people to take greater control over their own lives and satisfy their preferences – what they really want.”

Meantime, the renewed attempt at tinkering with the constitution faces the daunting task of investing it with credibility considering that previous attempts – at least five over the past 15 years – were trounced by public resistance. In these attempts, political motives centering on keeping discredited regimes and their allies in power belied claims of being based on legitimate grounds.

Moreover, the present proposal for federalism cum parliamentary system suffers from a flawed empirical basis. The claim that parliamentary democracies have higher survival rate is refuted by the fact that the states often cited to prove this point have also broken down at some periods. Nor is it absolutely true that federalized countries show promise of economic growth: Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and many other states are such cases. That federalism is popular in the community of nations is a farce: only 24 out of 193 countries have federal political systems.

Caution should be taken in theorizing that institutional weaknesses that have deep historical, social, economic, and political roots can be remedied simply by adopting hook, line, and sinker other structural models. More to the point, it is simplistic to blame the country’s current economic and political woes on some constitutional infirmities inferring that every institutional loophole that arises can be plugged by simply drafting a new constitution.

The so-called “redistribution” of powers and resources from the central government to federal, self-ruling states will not dissolve but will in fact strengthen the power of the local oligarchs allowing them to lord over their respective fiefdoms at will. Except to say that LGUs or federal states – which will continue to be under the domain of the oligarchs anyway – will be benefited, the proposals for federalism are silent on whether power redistribution will in fact lead to grassroots democracy under which the people will have greater access to governance and public resources. This is why whatever support the federal system proposal has drawn comes mainly from oligarchs, including some senators and the League of Provinces in the Philippines (LPP). Real power redistribution is when power shifts hands from the oligarchs to the marginalized people.

Political transformation

More often than not, constitutional reform which is driven by a change of the political system and status quo is warranted or preceded by a major political transformation. In this respect, no constitutional change, whether landmark or infamous, has ever occurred without a nation undergoing some epochal change. The 1899 Malolos Constitution, for instance, was precipitated by the victorious revolution against Spain that was hijacked in another colonialist betrayal, the U.S. imperialist occupation of the Philippines. As a colony for the second time, the Philippines was placed under the U.S. Constitution. The 1973 constitution gave legitimacy to dictatorial rule imposed by the Marcos rightist coup of Sept. 21, 1972. In turn, this was replaced by Aquino’s 1987 Constitution that “restored democracy” following Marcos’ ouster by people’s uprising – which, by the way, also resurrected the political power of anti-Marcos oligarchs as well as martial law collaborators. A constitution, in short, is usually instituted by whoever takes power in a major political transition, revolution, social upheaval, or regime change. This is also the case in many countries of the world.

Even if it materializes, the proposal for a federal system only creates the illusion that it will bring fundamental change to the country’s problems whose roots are deep, systemic, and structural. Instead it will further entrench the power of the oligarchs and, being divisive, would leave the country more fragmented. Contrary to the claims of the proponents of charter change, it is the power equation borne out of a class system dominated by the oligarchs that brings about weak governance, corruption, and the economic quagmire that the people are now in. Will adopting a new template bring about a fundamental change in such elite-biased power relationship that easily?

What is needed is a people’s constitution that will truly give legitimacy to an empowered people under a genuine democracy. But that needs a fundamental political transformation that is yet to be realized. Posted by Bulatlat

Editorial Cartoon: On MILF Peace Talks

August 3, 2008

Unwitting Chacha Partner.

Now if all of us opposes again the admin-led chacha move, PGMA can easilly call us anti-Moro. Ang galing naman ng pamahalaang ito. Bwisit!

What I am afraid of is the religious war it my cause.  (Remember dude, the Catholic Church is anti-Chacha.)

Bangsomoro to get own state

August 3, 2008

Gov’t, MILF to sign ancestral domain pact Tuesday

By Fe Zamora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:43:00 08/02/2008

PRACTICALLY A NEW STATE WITH “A DEFINED TERRITORY” and “a system of governance suitable and acceptable to [the Bangsamoro] as a distinct dominant people” will be established in Mindanao under the proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Under the proposed agreement, which is scheduled to be signed on Tuesday, the planned Bangsamoro homeland will have its own “basic law,” its own police and internal security force, and its own system of banking and finance, civil service, education and legislative and electoral institutions, as well as full authority to develop and dispose of minerals and other natural resources within its territory.

Copies of the draft MOA were distributed to retired generals during a forum on July 24 in Camp Aguinaldo, where Hermogenes Esperon, President Macapagal-Arroyo’s adviser on the peace process, was the guest of honor. The Inquirer obtained a copy.

But Inquirer sources privy to the peace process said the proposed agreement with the MILF would require amending the Constitution.

They said its provisions on territory and governance would require amendments to the “existing legal framework” and a plebiscite in areas to be included as part of the Bangsamoro homeland.

The proposed homeland will be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which will have authority to send trade missions to and enter into economic cooperation agreements with other countries provided it does not include aggression against the Philippine government, and send representatives to the Association of Southeast Nations as well as agencies of the United Nations.

Described as a “landmark deal,” the proposed MOA will pave the way for the crafting of a “comprehensive compact” seen to finally end the 40-year, on-and-off Moro armed struggle in Mindanao.

The conflict has left 120,000 dead despite the signing of a peace agreement between the government and another separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front, in 1996.

Ultimate objective

According to the proposed MOA, the “ultimate objective of entrenching the Bangsamoro homeland as a territorial space” is to “secure [the Bangsamoro’s] identity and posterity, protect their property rights and resources, as well as establish a system of governance suitable and acceptable to them as a distinct dominant people.”

The proposed homeland will include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Marawi City); the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; and hundreds of barangays in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, which voted to become part of the ARMM in 2001.

The proposed MOA also provides for the inclusion of the Bangsamoro’s “ancestral domain” in Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu.

Definitions

“Ancestral domain” and “ancestral land” are defined in the proposed agreement as land “held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through the ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial continuously to the present, except when prevented by war, civil disturbance, force majeure or other forms of possible usurpation or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of a government project or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions.”

“The ‘Bangsamoro homeland’ and ‘historic territory’ refer to the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain, the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan region,” according to the proposed agreement.

It also states: “It is the birthright of all Moros and all indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as ’Bangsamoro.’ The ‘Bangsamoro people’ refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization of their descendants, whether mixed or of full native blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the indigenous people shall be respected.”

Shared authority

Per the proposed agreement, the government — referred to in the document as the “Central Government” — and the BJE are to exercise “shared authority and responsibility” over the Bangsamoro homeland.

The details of the structure of shared governance will be defined in the “comprehensive compact.”

A multinational third party will be jointly invited by the government and the BJE to observe and monitor the actual implementation of the “comprehensive compact.”

The other salient points of the proposed MOA are:

Internal waters extending to 15 kilometers from the coastline belong to the BJE. Waters beyond the 15-km limit belong to both the government and the BJE.

The government and the BJE will share all natural resources such as gas, hydrocarbon, petroleum, etc.

The BJE has the sole power to revoke or grant forest concessions and enact agrarian laws, and to explore or obtain minerals, oil, natural gas, petroleum, etc. within its territory.

Stalled peace talks

Peace negotiations between the government and the MILF have been stalled on the contentious issue of ancestral domain since December 2007.

Only on July 25, informal talks aimed at getting the peace negotiations back on track broke down in Kuala Lumpur, with the MILF panel accusing the other side of trying to “undo” provisions in the “breakthrough” agreement forged on July 16.

The MILF said the meeting had been intended to finalize the text of the draft agreement on ancestral domain, but that the government panel led by retired general Rodolfo Garcia wanted certain settled issues reopened.

Stumbling blocks hurdled

But both Garcia and Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, himself a peace negotiator with the separatist rebels for more than 10 years, expressed optimism that the stumbling blocks would be hurdled and the peace process would go forward.

Indeed, on July 27, the government and MILF panels led by Garcia and Mohagher Iqbal, respectively, initialed the final draft of the agreement on ancestral domain, according to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

“This will lead to the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain on Aug. 5,” Ermita said.

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My Take:

This is a brilliant move for the government, especially to those who’se sole ambition is to amend the constitution and extend their reign as warlords and political lords of this ailing country.

The Bangsamoro people are clearly being used by this government, to justify any planned means to get their juicy ends

The easy part of this show will be done by Tuesday (if a signing would indeed happen).  The hard part of the show will extend for many generations to come, because i have a strong feeling that after the signing, a series of problems will arise, that might lead to yet another armed conflict.