Pinols go to SC for gov’t to reveal contents of draft pact and stop panel from signing

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 April) — North Cotabato Vice Governor and gubernatorial candidate Emmanuel F. Piñol and his younger brother, Rep. Bernardo F. Piñol, Jr. (LP-2nd District) today asked the Supreme Court to compel the national government to “divulge to the public the contents of a reported draft peace agreement” between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and to “stop government from signing any interim peace agreement unless the same is made public and consultations are properly conducted.”

The Pinols, through lawyer Israelito Torreon, filed a petition for Mandamus Prohibition with prayer for Preliminary Injunction.

In a press statement, the Pinols said they were prompted to go to the Supreme Court because of “reports of a possible signing of an interim peace agreement before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down on June 30.

Vice Governor Piño in 2008 initiated the filing of the petition for Temporary Restraining Order before the Supreme Court, to stop the government peace panel form signing the already initialled Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

On April 22, the Pinols and two board members of the province, wrote the Philippine government through the OPAPP, demanding a “copy of the draft of the Interim Peace Agreement with the MILF which Malacanang would like to sign before the end of the term of Presidential Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”

In a press statement prepared by the former journalist himself, Vice Governor Pinol said the draft agreement “must  be thoroughly reviewed and studied first before it is signed by the government and the MILF.”

In a press statement dated April 28, government peace panel chair Ambassador Rafael Seguis, said they welcome the petition filed by the Pinols, as “it will give us the opportunity to further show the strict adherence by the panel with the guidance given by the Supreme Court in an earlier case, in the conduct of its current peace talks with the MILF panel.”

“As required by the Supreme Court in the 2008 case ‘Province of North Cotabato v. GRP Peace Panel,’ the peace panel has conducted and continues to conduct regular consultations with concerned communities and stakeholders in Mindanao. We have also ensured that the required constitutional processes will be observed in the implementation of any agreement,“ Seguis said.

He said he was confident “the Supreme Court will reaffirm the national government’s prerogative to continue its search for peace in Mindanao.”

“The Government cannot simply abdicate its responsibility to continually search for a negotiated political settlement to the long-standing conflict in Mindanao. The current impasse has long imperilled the safety and security of local residents. It has also been a long-standing roadblock to the stability and economic development of the region,” he said.

But Seguis said the Pinols’ petition was “premature” in that the talks are “still ongoing and no interim agreement with the MILF has been reached at the moment.”

“In fact, as of this date, the Philippine Government Panel and the MILF has not even agreed on a negotiating draft,” he said, adding, “at the least, there is need to preserve the gains of 13 years of negotiations, and assure that the peace process will continue with a clear roadmap.”

The government and MILF peace panels on April 21 issued a two-page, ten-paragraph Joint Statement from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on what transpired during their 18th exploratory talks.

Only one paragraph focused on the proposed interim peace agreement. Paragraph 9 states that the parties “formally exchanged amended draft proposals and matrices, discussed their proposals and agreed on areas of common ground, subject to endorsement by the Panels to their respective principals. This would be the basis of crafting the interim document in early May 2010.”

By a vote of 8-7, the Supreme Court on October 14, 2008 ruled as unconstitutional the MOA-AD between the government and the MILF but noted that “surely, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one will be drawn up to carry out the Ancestral Domain aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001, in another or in any form, which could contain similar or significantly drastic provisions.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)