N. Cotabato officials seek to prevent the signing of GRP-MILF interim peace agreement

April 28, 2010 7:41 pm 

By Perfecto T. Raymundo Jr.

MANILA, April 28 — North Cotabato officials on Wednesday filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to prevent the government from signing an interim peace agreement (IPA) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), pending full disclosure of the details of the agreement.

North Cotabato officials, led by Vice Governor Emmanuel Pinol, filed the 32-page petition for mandamus and prohibition with application for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order (TRO) before the SC.

The petitioners said that the IPA was believed to be another version of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) that was already declared unconstitutional by the SC.

They urged the SC to issue a TRO enjoining the government peace panel from signing the IPA.

Named respondents are the members of the government peace panel to include Ambassador Rafael Seguis, Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Dr. Ronald Adamat, Dr. Grace Rebollos, lawyers Mariano Sarmiento, Ed Malaya and James Kho, Ryan Sullivan and lawyer Zoilo Velasco and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and its head Annabelle Abaya.

The petitioners said the act of respondents to supposedly withhold information on the IPA violates Article II, Sections 1 and 28 and Article II; Sections 1 and 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and pertinent laws, such as Executive Order No. 3, the Local Government Code, the Administrative Code of 1987, RA 6713 and the Indigenous People's Right Act.

The SC was also urged to compel the respondents "to make public an official copy of the draft IPA and temporarily stop negotiations with MILF regarding the pact."

"If the agreement was already signed by the government, the Court is asked to declare it null and void," the petitioners said.

They also said that there is no need for a writ of prohibition because the GRP peace panel has entered into negotiations regarding an "interim peace agreement" without discussing and disclosing the details of the agreement.

They said that the GRP also failed to consult the people who may be directly affected by the outcome of said agreement such as the petitioners herein, leaders of the province of North Cotabato.

The petitioners argued that public disclosure, conduct dialogues and consultation with peace advocates, peace partners and concerned sectors of society are required for matters regarding the peace agenda and process, such as the IPA.

They also said that they have no idea as to the actual terms of the draft IPA since their request for a copy of the draft last week has yet to be granted.

The petitioners said "Section 2 of the Local Government Code requires all national agencies and offices to conduct periodic consultations with appropriate local government units, non-governmental and people's organizations, and other concerned sectors of the community before any project or program is implemented in their respective jurisdictions."

They pointed out that if the IPA is allowed without proper consultation, it might lead to violence in Mindanao similar to what transpired following the failure of the government to implement the MOA-AD which was struck down by the SC on Oct. 14, 2009 for being "unconstitutional".

It can be recalled that MILF Commander Ameril Umbra Kato took over several municipalities in North Cotabato resulting in the death of 400 civilians and combatants and the displacement of almost 700,000 civilians to protest the non-implementation of the MOA-AD.

"As to how this so-called Interim Peace Agreement was negotiated or arrived at, details are sketchy as the process is shrouded in utmost secrecy," the petitioners said.

"Thus, a peace agreement (interim or otherwise) that resembles the MOA-AD would inevitably result in the same apprehension that broke the peace among the people of the province of North Cotabato," they added. (PNA)

DCT/PTR

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