Nation



By Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato, Reporter


SC asked to junk peace deal with MILF




Posted on June 20, 2015


TWO SEPARATE petitions were filed on Friday before the Supreme Court challenging the legal standing of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Philippine Constitution Association and former Negros Oriental 1st District Rep. Jacinto V. Paras separately asked the high court to declare the 2012 Framework Agreeement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) unconstitutional.

The FAB and the CAB were the peace deals struck with the MILF paving the way for the replacement of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with the proposed Bangsamoro political entity, which has greater devolved governing powers and revenue share from the use of its resources.

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which enacts the agreements’ provisions, is itself currently mired in controversy as it faces constitutional questions during Congress deliberations.

PHILCONSA, ARCHBISHOPS: PEACE PANEL COMMITTED ABUSE OF DISCRETION

In its 30-page petition for certiorari, Philconsa also asked the high court to stop the Department of Budget and Management from releasing funds to implement FAB, CAB and related acts, including the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The group also asked that the Commission on Audit be ordered to disallow the expenses of the government peace panel.

They added that the peace panel should be admonished “to be more prudent and cautious in dealing with the amorphous, self-styled entity (referring to the MILF), exclusively to the exclusion of other Muslims, Christians and Lumads.”

Philconsa was led by its President, Leyte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, and former Senator Francisco S. Tatad. Joining the petition were former national security adviser Norberto B. Gonzales, and Archbishops Ramon C. Arguelles (Lipa), Fernando R. Capalla (Davao) and Romulo T. de la Cruz (Zamboanga).

The petitioners said that the “conduct of the peace process itself is flawed” because it violated the Executive Order No. 125 provision for the negotiators to be assisted by a panel of advisers.

The chief negotiators, now-Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen and his successor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, were also accused of “usurping a power they did not have” by committing to provisions that would cause amendments in the 1987 Constitution and in existing laws.

Apart from flagging several provisions violating the Constitution, the petition noted only the First Congress had the power to create the ARMM.

“In agreeing to replace the ARMM with the Bangsamoro, in violation of the Constitution and existing laws, without first amending the Constitution and pertinent laws, the FAB and the CAB have caused undue injury to the Government and inflicted a fatal wound upon the Constitution,” it added.

“Constitutionally, it is nothing but a band of amorphous rebels,” read the petition.

Since the FAB and CAB should be declared unconstitutional, all subsequent acts and issuance arising from them, like the draft BBL, are “odious and treacherous violations of the 1987 Constitution, the group said.

Mr. Romualdez, who leads Philconsa, is the cousin of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., who leads the Senate committee tackling its version of the BBL.

The petition impleaded the Philippine government peace panel, led by Mr. Leonen, who executed the FAB, and current chief negotiator Ms. Coronel-Ferrer, who executed the CAB.

Also named as respondents were: the MILF as represented by chief negotiator Mohagher Q. Iqbal, DBM Secretary Florencio B. Abad, and CoA.

FORMER LAWMAKER: AGREEMENTS INCLUDE PROVISIONS
PREVIOUSLY DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Mr. Paras, for his part, named only Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Q. Deles and the four government peace panel members -- Ms. Coronel-Ferrer, Senen C. Bacani, Yasmin Busran-Lao, and Mehol K. Sadain -- as respondents in his separate 35-page petition for certiorari.

Although he did not implead Mr. Leonen, he said the justice should voluntary inhibit from the case “considering that prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, [he] signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which is one of the official documents assailed in this case.”

Mr. Paras’ petition similarly argued the peace panel abused its discretion by usurping the “sole discretionary power” of the Congress to propose constitutional amendments.

He also said the negotiators failed to conduct consultations with the people affected by the agreement.

He argued that the agreements also contained provisions similar to that of the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was forged by the previous administration with the MILF but was junked by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Mr. Paras said the agreements should be ripe for judgment since the Supreme Court entertained numerous petitions against the MOA-AD in 2008 even if it was not yet signed.

‘BBL WON’T BE AFFECTED’

Asked if the bill’s progress will be hampered by the legal challenges, House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr., said: “Not at all, unless SC rules against it.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail F. Valte said the “government will be ready to answer once the Supreme Court directs us to do so.”

“It is interesting that these challenges to the FAB and CAB come at this time, more than a year after both were signed,” said Ms. Valte.

Apart from the two new petitions, the International Ministries for Perfect and Party Against Communism and Terrorism Inc. (Imppact) -- led by lawyer Elly V. Pamatong -- lodged a petition against FAB in December 2012, even as the government and the MILF had yet to come out with the annexes of the October 2012 framework agreement. -- Melissa Luz T. Lopez and Kathryn Mae P. Tubadeza