Thursday, October 16, 2008

Philippines: Supreme Court rules on future MILF agreement

There must be consultation and the agreement must be constitutional. Arroyo had been trying to negotiate more or less in secret and with no consultation. The MILF will no doubt be very upset and feel that Arroyo has been negotiating in bad faith. No doubt she was with respect to the rest of the Philippine people. With respect to the MILF it is less clear. She should have known that the agreement would be unconstitutional but maybe she thought the supreme court would go along with her. It was close. Unfortunately the end result will be as the editorial claims: renewed armed conflict.


A welcome ruling
Editorial

‘The guidelines are prescriptive. The ruling, thus, has the effect of setting the ground rules for a possible resumption of negotiations. Now, the question: Is the executive prepared to go back to the negotiating table based on these clear-cut instructions?’
The Supreme Court has struck down the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain which was drawn up by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in what both sides said was a big step toward ending the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.
The vote was a tight 8-7. It could have gone the other way, with the minority’s position anchored on MalacaƱang’s stand that the issue was moot and academic because Gloria Arroyo had already given the assurance that her administration would not sign the agreement in its present or any other form.
The majority’s ruling should be welcome. It lays down the parameters for any negotiations that the Executive department may pursue in the future. There must be public consultation and any and all concessions granted to the MILF must be within the bounds of the Constitution.
Negotiating in furtive secrecy amounts to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise of legal authority, the court said. The Executive also cannot enter into an agreement which commits itself to seek changes in the charter to accommodate the terms of that very agreement, for the power to propose amendments resides exclusively on Congress.
(Beyond the specific issues, the ruling was also welcome in that it dispels suspicion that the highest court is now in the pocket of MalacaƱang following the upholding of the claim of executive privilege on the Neri case.)
The guidelines are prescriptive. The ruling, thus, has the effect of setting the ground rules for a possible resumption of negotiations. Now, the question: Is the executive prepared to go back to the negotiating table based on these clear-cut instructions? And corollary to that, is the MILF agreeable to entering into negotiations in the full knowledge of such instructions upon the other party?
As we see it, the Supreme Court ruling has nil effect on the position already adopted by the Executive. Arroyo has already said her new peace tack calls for disarmament, demobilization and re-integration. DDR or by any other name demands the surrender of the arms and disbandment of the armed units of the MILF.
We also already know what the MILF response to Arroyo’s position is. What the government cannot win in the battlefield, it cannot gain on the negotiating table.
Both sides are already headed for a collision course. The Supreme Court ruling merely firms up the trajectory already adopted and announced by Arroyo. Even if the minority opinion had prevailed, the effect would have been the same.
It’s war then. We can only pray it does not consume us all.


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