Monday, August 4, 2008

ARMM Issue Brings Nocumment Back To Life

I used to write a column for the defunct ``The Morning Times” newspaper which was published by Rene Fernandez, Zamboanga’s most brilliant and credible editor and newspaper owner.
I stopped writing the column when I left for Manila to write for the Philippine Daily Inquirer more than 16 years ago (gosh! I’m old!).
But this issue relative to the ARMM has somehow forced me out of self-imposed retirement in news-writing after leaving PDI two years ago. So, here’s an electronic copy of my first banner headline for today’s edition of the Zamboanga Today newspaper edited by my friend Frenci Carreon.
Happy reading amigos y amigas.


By Armand Dean N. Nocum

Manila – Heeding the growing voice of protest in Mindanao, the Supreme Court yesterday restrained the government from pushing through with today's signing of the "Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Voting unanimously, the high court granted the temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by local officials of North Cotabato and Zamboanga City challenging the constitutionality of the MOA-AD.
Explaining the high court's actions, SC spokesman Atty. Jose Midas Marquez said the court handed down the TRO since "rights may be violated" and so the court decided to step in to maintain status quo until such time it rules on the merit of the petitions filed by Mindanao officials.
Although the High Court was originally scheduled to have its en banc meeting today, the SC moved the meeting one day in advance in order to make a timely ruling on the controversial MOA.

``We have to act fast because this issue may affect basic and constitutional rights. We are also concerned about possible violence resulting from this highly controversial constitutional issue,'' an SC source told this Zamboanga Today contributor.
The SC also directed the government through Office of the Solicitor General to officially furnish the Court and the petitioners copies of the final MOA not later than August 8.
The SC also ordered the parties to present their case in an oral argument on August 15, at 9 pm.
Under court rules a restraining order by the SC is valid until subsequently lifted by the tribunal.
Zamboanga City yesterday joined Cotabato officials who last week sought to stop the government from inking a deal with the MILF today..

In a 22-page petition, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso L. Lobregat, Districit 1 Rep. Ma. Isabelle G. Climaco, (1st District) and Rep. Erico Basilio A. Fabian (2nd District) sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction enjoining the government from signing the MOA on ancestral domain with the MILF.

It also asked the Court to issue a writ of mandamus to compel the negotiating peace panel of the government to provide them the final draft of the MOA on ancestral domain.

The officials also prayed to exclude Zamboanga City from being part of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and to declare null and void the MOA in case its signing pushes through.

The petitioners said the non-disclosure of the provisions of the MOA on ancestral domain has deprived the people of Zamboanga City their right to information and to participate in the decision-making process.

"To hide behind the mantle of national security so that the people would remain in the dark on matters of affecting their lives and properties is a travesty of justice and of the constitutional rights of the people," the petitioner claimed.

Since the issue of ancestral domain refers to the claiming of ownership over a particular portion of the Philippine territory, the petitioners insisted, that they along with the residents of Zamboanga City have the right to be informed of the contents of the MOA.

The petitioners are opposing the supposed inclusion of the province in the ancestral domain being claimed by the MILF.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Zamboanga even issued a resolution dated November 24, 2005 requesting the government peace negotiating panel then headed by Secretary Silvestre Afable to conduct public consultations on the issue.

On February 13, 2006, Lobregat wrote a letter to Secretary Jesus Dureza, then presidential adviser on the peace process, reiterating the need for the government peace panel to conduct consultations with the local government the people of Zamboanga City and other who would be affected by any agreement it may sign with the MILF panel.

"Since the issue of ancestral domain refers to the claiming of ownership over a particular portion of the Philippine territory, which may include private properties, petitioners and the residents of Zamboanga City, have the right to be informed over the matter and participate in the decision-making process as they will surely be affected thereby, since their properties are located in the claimed dominion," the petitioners added.

Named respondents in the case were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon and the GRP peace negotiating panel headed by Rodolfo Garcia and Leah Armamento, Sedfrey Candelaria, Mark Ryan Sullivan, as members.

Earlier, North Cotabato officials led by Gov. Jesus Sacdalan and Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piñol filed a similar petition seeking full disclosure of the contents of the MOA.

They also sought the issuance of a TRO enjoining the singing of the agreement.


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