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NOT TOO FAST. Supreme Court Spokesman Jose Midas Marquez announces the high tribunal’s ruling stopping the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front from signing an agreement expanding the Moro homeland. Video taken by INQUIRER.net reporter Tetch Torres.

INTEGRITY AT STAKE. Supreme Court Spokesman Jose Midas Marquez announces the high tribunal’s creation of a panel of its retired justices to investigate the bribery allegations at the Court of Appeals. Video taken by INQUIRER.net reporter Tetch Torres.




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(UPDATE 4) SC stops MOA signing

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:30:00 08/04/2008

Filed Under: Mindanao peace process, Judiciary (system of justice), RP peace process, Agreement (general)

MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Court has stopped the signing of the memorandum of Agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front over ancestral domain and set the hearing on August 15, its spokesman said.

The high tribunal also ordered the executive to provide the court and the parties that petitioned concerned a copy of the MOA not later than August 8, said lawyer Midas Marquez, information chief of the Supreme Court, Monday.

?The court issued a TRO [temporary restraining order] restraining the respondents from signing the MOA,? Marquez told reporters, hours after the high tribunal met in an en banc session to deliberate on the petition filed by officials of North Cotabato who asked for a full disclosure of the contents of the MOA ahead of its signing.

The court also discussed the allegations of bribery at the Court of Appeals involving the settlement of the dispute between the Manila Electric Co. and the Government Service Insurance System.

Shortly after the high court started its session, government, through Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, sent its comment to the North Cotabato petition, Marquez said.

The government had tried to invoke executive privilege in its 26-page comment, saying while negotiations with the MILF did not involve any foreign power, there were military and national concerns that were raised.

?This being so, the entire process, the negotiations involving the said MOA and the drafts, documents thereof resulting from said negotiations is covered by the doctrine of executive privilege, which prevents the disclosure of information that could subvert military or diplomatic objectives,? the solicitor general said.

The government lawyers said while it recognizes the right of the petitioners to information, "they do not have an unfettered access to everything as these rights are subject to certain limitations."

"Notably, there are matters which, despite their being of public interest and concern, are considered privileged in nature," Devanadera said.

The high court also consolidated a petition filed Monday by officials of Zamboanga City with that filed by the North Cotabato executives

The petitioners from North Cotabato are Governor Jesus Sacdalan and Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piñol. Those from Zamboanga are city Mayor Celso Lobregat, and Representatives Isabelle Climaco and Erico Basilio Fabian.

The petitioners asked the high court to prevent the signing of the MoA until they are given copies of the documents.

With a report from Agence France Presse


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