Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Monday, February 2, 2009

EO 777 is not a pre-emptive strike -- Palace

A recently issued Executive Order seeking to amend the law that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was not intended to preempt whatever future peace agreement is concluded with Muslim separatist rebels, MalacaƱang said on Saturday.

Any amendment to the ARMM law can only be made after an agreement has been forged with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said Undersecretary Nabil Tan of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Executive Order 777 “is not in any manner intended to preempt the ongoing peace process’’ between the government and the MILF for the revival of the stalled peace talks, said Tan.

President Macapagal-Arroyo issued EO 777 on Jan. 19 creating a preparatory committee to amend Republic Act No. 9054, the law that expanded the ARMM into a five-province region.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita explained that the idea was to amend the law’s provisions on territory, among other things, and to use this in the terms of reference in the talks with the MILF.

Tan said EO 777 would serve as a mechanism for collating the results of an ongoing review of the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the main Muslim insurgency.

If an agreement is forged with the MILF, a breakaway faction of the MNLF, it will also go through the same process of proposing amendments to RA 9054 to make way for the implementation of the agreement, Tan explained.

The government aims to restart peace negotiations with the MILF after they collapsed last August when a provisional agreement on an expanded autonomous Muslim region was aborted amid claims of its unconstitutionality.

Malaysia has agreed to again act as facilitator of the informal talks, said Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who chairs the government panel of negotiators.

Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, the outgoing presidential adviser on the peace process, said he believes the talks should be in full swing next month and a final agreement signed by 2010.

“When we talk about authentic consultations with the people, we are not only talking to the MILF level, but we are talking to the entire stakeholders of Mindanao. We are also talking to the lumad, to the Christians and all the peoples who have a stake in peace,” said Esperon, who is to head the Presidential Management Staff.

The MILF on Saturday said the President’s order creating a preparatory committee to amend RA 9054 was a “misdirected effort.”

Khaled Musa, the MILF deputy information chief, warned that amending the organic act that created the region incorporating the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, would only “prolong the agony and suffering in Mindanao.”

He said that even if MalacaƱang was serious about amending the ARMM charter, the MILF still would not accept it as the basis for returning to the negotiating table.

“[We] will not settle for it because it is not negotiated, it is imposed,” he said.

The peace talks hit a snag over the issue of territory when the MILF insisted that the negotiations should focus only on a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), the provisional agreement that the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional.

The MOA-AD proposed an expanded Muslim region under the control of the MILF to be called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

Last week, Ermita said amending the ARMM charter was more feasible than insisting on the MOA-AD. (By Jeoffrey Maitem)

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