Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Supreme Court Ruling Absolves President Arroyo

No wonder the Palace will not be filing a Motion for Reconsideration! In striking down the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (North Cotabato versus Republic) the Supreme Court found no wrong doing by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, blaming instead the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP), for grave abuse of discretion, not conducting adequate public consultations, and disobeying the President's wise executive orders!. Until recently this was none other than the current Press Secretary Jess Dureza, who was only earlier this year replaced by the former Chief of Staff of the AFP, the hapless, clueless and now scape goat of the MOA-AD fiasco, Hermogenes Esperon.

Although the Supreme Court speaks in transcendental tenor about the importance and gravity of the issue at hand, the President and Commander in Chief (who claimed not to have even read the fateful MOA-AD about to be signed with the international community as witness), receives not even a dainty slap on the wrist! GEE, Whatever happened to COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY?

Note well how the final paragraphs of the Majority Decision dispose of the case as one of disobeying the Wise Orders of the President
IN SUM, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation process, as mandated by E.O. No. 3, Republic Act No. 7160, and Republic Act No. 8371. The furtive process by which the MOA-AD was designed and crafted runs contrary to and in excess of the legal authority, and amounts to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise thereof. It illustrates a gross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined.

The MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws. Not only its specific provisions but the very concept underlying them, namely, the associative relationship envisioned between the GRP and the BJE, are unconstitutional, for the concept presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.

While there is a clause in the MOA-AD stating that the provisions thereof inconsistent with the present legal framework will not be effective until that framework is amended, the same does not cure its defect. The inclusion of provisions in the MOA-AD establishing an associative relationship between the BJE and the Central Government is, itself, a violation of the Memorandum of Instructions From The President dated March 1, 2001, addressed to the government peace panel. Moreover, as the clause is worded, 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.

While the MOA-AD would not amount to an international agreement or unilateral declaration binding on the Philippines under international law, respondents’ act of guaranteeing amendments is, by itself, already a constitutional violation that renders the MOA-AD fatally defective.

WHEREFORE, respondents’ motion to dismiss is DENIED. The main and intervening petitions are GIVEN DUE COURSE and hereby GRANTED.

The Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 is declared contrary to law and the Constitution.

It's important to understand WHY the Supreme Court decided to rule on the SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES raised by a controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which the Court itself had prevented the scheduled signing of--in Malaysia on August 5, 2008.

First of all, the Supreme Court ruling North Cotabato v. Republic of the Philippines rejects the Government's claim that the petitions and issues raised by the case became moot and academic after the Palace declared it would no longer sign the MOA on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) and even disbanded its Peace Panel.
Contrary to the assertion of respondents that the non-signing of the MOA-AD and the eventual dissolution of the GRP Peace Panel mooted the present petitions, the Court finds that the present petitions provide an exception to the “moot and academic” principle in view of:
(a) the grave violation of the Constitution involved;
(b) the exceptional character of the situation and paramount public interest;
(c) the need to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; and
(d) the fact that the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.

The MOA-AD is a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace signed by the government and the MILF back in June 2001. Hence, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the original.

In short, the issues are not moot and academic because the PEACE PROCESS is ongoing between the Parties, the MOA-AD addressed the "ancestral domain strand" of the 2001 Tripoli Agreement. Thus the Court feels obliged "to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, the public and, most especially, the government in negotiating with the MILF regarding Ancestral Domain."

Ultimately, the Supreme Court struck down the MOA-AD -- from root to limb, as it declared:
The MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws. Not only its specific provisions but the very concept underlying them, namely, the associative relationship envisioned between the GRP and the BJE, are unconstitutional, for the concept presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.

North Cotabato v. Republic makes a very big deal about this ASSOCIATIVE relationship between the GRP and MILF, which it characterizes as preparatory to independence and incongruous to the UNITARY nature of the Republic.

The Supreme Court notes that the MOA-AD violates the Indigenous People's Rights Act:
Notably, the IPRA does not grant the Executive Department or any government agency the power to delineate and recognize an ancestral domain claim by mere agreement or compromise. The recognition of the ancestral domain is the raison d’etre of the MOA-AD, without which all other stipulations or “consensus points” necessarily must fail. In proceeding to make a sweeping declaration on ancestral domain, without complying with the IPRA, which is cited as one of the TOR of the MOA-AD, respondents clearly transcended the boundaries of their authority.

Here the High Court is clearly saying that the President cannot make a sweeping declaration on ancestral domain without complying with IPRA. Signing the MOA-AD would have been ultra vires and therefore void ab initio.

2 comments:

ricelander said...

Then by all means let's go after the scapegoats, don't you think so? After all, they offered themselves willingly, didn't they?

Jan Robert Ramos Go said...

I think the Court ruled on the case on two grounds (but I'm yet to read the entire decision of the Court):

1. Transcendental importance - The issue of the memorandum of agreement has transcendental importance because it concerns the country, its sovereignty, and its citizens.

2. Paramount Public Interest - The issue is of paramount public interest. The MOA-AD, if effected, would entail parting of certain portions of the country. It will also create a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity that will include citizens who may not want to be included in it.