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Petitions before Supreme Court challenge legality of 2 Bangsamoro agreements

/ 05:06 PM June 19, 2015

Petitions challenging the legality of the framework and comprehensive agreements on the Bangsamoro issue have been filed at the Supreme Court.

The petitions were filed by former Negros Oriental First District Rep. Jacinto Paras, the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), former senator Francisco Tatad, former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Archbishops Ramon C. Arguelles, Fernando Capalla and Romulo dela Cruz.

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In the 30-page petition filed by Philconsa, Tatad, Gonzales and the Archbishops, they claimed that the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreements on the Bangsamoro (CAB) ‘‘are flawed.’’

The CAB is a five-page 12-point text document representing the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It provides, among others, the turnover of firearms to a third party which would be selected by the government and the MILF. It reiterates the commitment of the two parties to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, among others.

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The group said the respondents, who include former chief government negotiator and current Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who negotiated the FAB, and Miriam Coronel Ferrer who negotiated the CAB, gave the MILF “unimaginable benefits” which the government may not legally grant without a yes from Congress.

Some of the benefits given include the creation of the Bangsamoro government which shall have its own Shariah Justice System, auditing body, civil service and Commission on Elections. It shall have its own “expandable” territory, and shall have an asymmetric relationship with the Central government. It shall also have its own military and police force.

The petitioners claimed that with such commitments, Leonen and Ferrer “acted without or in excess of jurisdiction and/or with grave abuse of discretion.”

“The provisions of the FAB and the CAB are all repugnant to the 1987 Constitution and existing laws. The Constitution is supreme. Any exercise of power beyond what is circumscribed by the Constitution is ultra vires (beyond the power) and a nullity,” the petitioners said.

Petitioners added that Executive Order 125 recognizes three rebel groups which the government must negotiate with. While there was no mention what groups, they said there was no indication that prior to the FAB, CAB and the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the government negotiated with two other rebel groups like the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“The exclusion of the two other rebel groups referred under EO 125, the other Muslim groups, Christians and Lumads in Muslim Mindanao is a fundamental fatal infirmity. The peace process should be defined by all Filipinos as one community and not by the government and MILF panels only.”

“There can be no peace, until and unless the great majority, if not indeed all, of the stakeholders participate in building the peace,” they added.

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Paras, in his petition, argued that the agreements are “attempts on the part of [the government peace panel] to virtually sell out the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines to the MILF.”

Paras added that the agreements, specifically the FAB, failed to comply with Executive Order No. 3, series of 2001 which requires continuing consultations on both national and local levels to build consensus for a peace agenda and process.

The purpose of the public consultation, he said, is to “further enhance the contribution of civil society to the comprehensive peace process by institutionalizing the people’s participation.”

On this case, Paras said the FAB was signed without any public consultation and following a Supreme Court ruling, it means “that herein respondents acted in a whimsical, capricious, oppressive arbitrary and despotic manner when they negotiated and caused the signing of the CAB particularly its FAB.”

Paras also sought the voluntary inhibition of Justice Leonen who signed the FAB.

Tatad and his group, on the other hand, asked the high court to stop the government from releasing funds for the use in implementing the CAB and FAB.

“Until and unless a TRO or preliminary injunction is issued, grave undue irreparable injury to the Republic and the Filipino people will ensue since unlawful disbursements or uses of public funds to implement/pursue the illegal/unconstitutional FAB and CAB will escalate into continuing violations, if not a flaunting disregard or defiance of the Constitution and the laws, further prejudicing public interest and welfare,” they added. AU

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