Ret. Chief Justice Puno: Mindanao peace should be in charter change agenda

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY  (MindaNews/15 June) — The elusive peace in the land of promise, Mindanao should be on top of the charter change discussions, retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, said.

“I hope that we can have Charter Change that already integrates Mindanao peace concerns before a final peace pact between the GPH (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) is forged,” Puno told a forum on decentralization and political reforms organized by the Centrist Democratic Movement last Saturday.

Without this, he said, there might be a repeat of the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD),  he said.

The MOA-AD was already initialed by the government and MILF peace panels in late July 2008 and was scheduled for formal signing on August 5, 2008 in Kuala Lumpur. But its signing was stopped by a temporary restraining order issued by the Puno-led court afternoon of August 4.  The court in mid-October declared the MOA-AD as unconstitutional by a vote of 8-7.

Puno acknowledged there are several schools of thought on the Constitution as the framework of the peace process. “Some argue that it should go beyond the Constitution, but the question on how far beyond the Constitution will continue to beg an answer,” he said.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said that he supports the call for the inclusion of substantial issues of the Mindanao peace process to be included in the Charter Change discussions.

Puno also stressed the need for more inclusive and exhaustive consultations with all sectors in the Mindanao peace process.

Lack of consultation was among the reasons why the Supreme Court declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional.

The Court also said the MOA-AD was “fatally defective” as it cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws.

The associative relationship envisioned between the government and the then proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), the High Court said, is unconstitutional, for the concept presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.

“Moreover, it virtually guarantees that the necessary amendments to the Constitution and the laws will eventually be put in place. Neither the GRP Peace Panel nor the President herself is authorized to make such a guarantee. Upholding such an act would amount to authorizing a usurpation of the constituent powers vested only in Congress, a Constitutional Convention, or the people themselves through the process of initiative, for the only way that the Executive can ensure the outcome of the amendment process is through an undue influence or interference with that process,” the Court ruled.

But the Court also ruled that MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar of significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the original, the Court held.

Both the GPH and the MILF peace panels are on a road show consulting various sectors of society across the country.

The two panels met on April 27 to 28 in Kuala Lumpur and will meet again on June 27 to 28 with  government handing over its counterproposal to the MILF’s proposed Bangsamoro sub-state. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)