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Prov of North Cotabato vs Republic Digest

Prov of North Cotabato vs Republic Digest

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EN BANCPromulgated: October 14, 2008THE PROVINCE OF NORTH COTABATO, duly represented byGOVERNOR JESUS SACDALAN and/or VICE-GOVERNOREMMANUEL PIÑOL, for and in his own behalf,Petitioners,- versus -THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINESPEACE PANEL ON ANCESTRAL DOMAIN (GRP), representedby SEC. RODOLFO GARCIA, ATTY. LEAH ARMAMENTO, ATTY.SEDFREY CANDELARIA, MARK RYAN SULLIVAN and/or GEN.HERMOGENES ESPERON, JR., the latter in his capacity as thepresent and duly-appointed Presidential Adviser on the PeaceProcess (OPAPP) or the so-called Office of the PresidentialAdviser on the Peace Process,Respondents.And many intervenors---------------------------D E C I S I O NCARPIO MORALES, J.:Subject of these consolidated cases is the extent of the powers of the President in pursuing the peace process. While the factssurrounding this controversy center on the armed conflict in
 
Mindanao between the government and the Moro IslamicLiberation Front (MILF), the legal issue involved has a bearing onall areas in the country where there has been a long-standingarmed conflict. Yet again, the Court is tasked to perform adelicate balancing act. It must uncompromisingly delineate thebounds within which the President may lawfully exercise her discretion, but it must do so in strict adherence to the Constitution,lest its ruling unduly restricts the freedom of action vested by thatsame Constitution in the Chief Executive precisely to enable her to pursue the peace process effectively.I. FACTUAL ANTECEDENTS OF THE PETITIONSOn August 5, 2008, the
 
Government of the Republic of thePhilippines (GRP) and the MILF, through the Chairpersons of their respective peace negotiating panels, were scheduled to sign a
Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain
(MOA-AD) Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.The MILF is a rebel group which was established in March 1984when, under the leadership of the late Salamat Hashim, itsplintered from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) thenheaded by Nur Misuari, on the ground, among others, of whatSalamat perceived to be the manipulation of the MNLF away froman Islamic basis towards Marxist-Maoist orientations.[1]
The signing of the MOA-AD between the GRP and the MILFwas not to materialize
, however, fo
upon motion of petitioners
, specifically those who filed their cases before thescheduled signing of the MOA-AD, this
Court issued aTemporary Restraining Order enjoining the GRP from signingthe same.
The MOA-AD was preceded by a long process of negotiation andthe concluding of several prior agreements between the twoparties beginning in 1996, when the GRP-MILF peacenegotiations began. On July 18, 1997, the GRP and MILF PeacePanels signed the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.The following year, they signed the General Framework of Agreement of Intent on August 27, 1998.The Solicitor General, who represents respondents, summarizesthe MOA-AD by stating that the same contained, among others,the commitment of the parties to pursue peace negotiations,protect and respect human rights, negotiate with sincerity in theresolution and pacific settlement of the conflict, and refrain fromthe use of threat or force to attain undue advantage while thepeace negotiations on the substantive agenda are on-going.[2]
 
The parties met in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, 2001, with thetalks being facilitated by the Malaysian government, the partiessigning on the same date the Agreement on the GeneralFramework for the Resumption of Peace Talks Between the GRPand the MILF. The MILF thereafter suspended all its militaryactions.[5]
Formal peace talks between the parties were held in Tripoli,Libya
from June 20-22, 2001,
the outcome
of which was
theGRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace
(Tripoli Agreement2001)
containing the basic principles and agenda on the
 
following aspects of the negotiation: Security Aspect,
 
Rehabilitation Aspect, and Ancestral Domain Aspect. 
 
Withregard to the Ancestral Domain Aspect, the parties in Tripoli
 
Agreement 2001 simply agreed “that the same be discussed
 
further by the Parties in their next meeting.”
 
A second round of peace talks was held in Cyberjaya, Malaysia onAugust 5-7, 2001 which ended with the signing of theImplementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the TripoliAgreement 2001 leading to a ceasefire status between theparties. This was followed by the Implementing Guidelines on the
 
Humanitarian Rehabilitation and Development Aspects of theTripoli Agreement 2001, which was signed on May 7, 2002 atPutrajaya, Malaysia. Nonetheless, there were many incidence of violence between government forces and the MILF from 2002 to2003.In
2005, several exploratory talks were held between the
 
parties in Kuala Lumpur, eventually leading to the crafting of 
 
the draft MOA-AD in its final form
, which, as mentioned, wasset to be signed last August 5, 2008.II. Statement of the proceedingsOn July 23, 2008, the Province of North Cotabato[8] and Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piñol filed a petition, docketed as G.R. No.183591, for Mandamus and Prohibition with Prayer for theIssuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction and TemporaryRestraining Order.[9] Invoking the right to information on mattersof public concern, petitioners seek to compel respondents todisclose and furnish them the complete and official copies of theMOA-AD including its attachments, and to prohibit the slatedsigning of the MOA-AD, pending the disclosure of the contents of the MOA-AD and the holding of a public consultation thereon.Supplementarily, petitioners pray that the MOA-AD be declaredunconstitutional.[10]This initial petition was followed by another one who likewise prayfor similar injunctive reliefs, in the alternative, that the MOA-AD bedeclared null and void.By Resolution of August 4, 2008, the Court issued a TemporaryRestraining Order commanding and directing public respondentsand their agents to cease and desist from formally signing theMOA-AD.[13] The Court also required the Solicitor General tosubmit to the Court and petitioners the official copy of the finaldraft of the MOA-AD,[14] to which she complied.[15]Meanwhile, the City of Iligan[16] filed a petition for Injunctionand/or Declaratory Relief, docketed as G.R. No. 183893, prayingthat respondents be enjoined from signing the MOA-AD or, if the
 
same had already been signed, from implementing the same, andthat the MOA-AD be declared unconstitutional. Petitioners hereinadditionally implead Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita asrespondent.The Province of Zamboanga del Norte,[17] Governor RolandoYebes, Vice-Governor Francis Olvis, Rep. Cecilia Jalosjos-Carreon, Rep. Cesar Jalosjos, and the members[18] of theSangguniang Panlalawigan of Zamboanga del Norte filed onAugust 15, 2008 a petition for Certiorari, Mandamus andProhibition,[19] docketed as G.R. No. 183951. They pray, inter alia, that the MOA-AD be declared null and void and withoutoperative effect, and that respondents be enjoined from executingthe MOA-AD.On August 19, 2008, Ernesto Maceda, Jejomar Binay, andAquilino Pimentel III filed a petition for Prohibition,[20] docketed asG.R. No. 183962, praying for a judgment prohibiting and
 
permanently enjoining respondents from formally signing andexecuting the MOA-AD and or any other agreement derivedtherefrom or similar thereto, and nullifying the MOA-AD for beingunconstitutional and illegal. Petitioners herein additionallyimplead as respondent the MILF Peace Negotiating Panelrepresented by its Chairman Mohagher Iqbal.
Various parties moved to intervene
and were granted leave of court to file their petitions-/comments-in-intervention.
By subsequent Resolutions, the Court ordered theconsolidation of the petitions.
Respondents filed Comments onthe petitions, while some of petitioners submitted their respectiveReplies.The cases were heard on oral argument on August 15, 22 and 29,2008 that tackled the following principal issues:1. Whether the petitions have become moot and academic(i) insofar as the mandamus aspect is concerned, in view of thedisclosure of official copies of the final draft of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA); and(ii) insofar as the prohibition aspect involving the LocalGovernment Units is concerned, if it is considered thatconsultation has become fait accompli with the finalization of thedraft;2. Whether the constitutionality and the legality of the MOA is
 
ripe for adjudication; 
 
3. Whether respondent Government of the Republic of the
 
Philippines Peace Panel committed grave abuse of discretion
 
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it negotiated and
 
initiated the MOA vis-à-vis ISSUES Nos. 4 and 5; 
 
4. Whether there is a violation of the people’s right to informationon matters of public concern (1987 Constitution, Article III, Sec. 7)under a state policy of full disclosure of all its transactionsinvolving public interest (1987 Constitution, Article II, Sec. 28)including public consultation under Republic Act No. 7160(LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991)[;]If it is in the affirmative, whether prohibition under Rule 65 of the1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is an appropriate remedy;5. Whether by signing the MOA, the Government of the Republicof the Philippines would be BINDING itself a) to create and recognize the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE)
 
as a separate state, or a juridical, territorial or political subdivision
 
not recognized by law;
 
b) to revise or amend the Constitution and existing laws to
 
conform to the MOA;
 
c) to concede to or recognize the claim of the Moro Islamic
 
Liberation Front for ancestral domain in violation of Republic Act
 
No. 8371 (THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS ACT OF 1997),particularly Section 3(g) & Chapter VII (DELINEATION,RECOGNITION OF ANCESTRAL DOMAINS)[;]If in the affirmative, whether the Executive Branch has theauthority to so bind the Government of the Republic of the
 
Philippines;6. Whether the inclusion/exclusion of the Province of NorthCotabato, Cities of Zamboanga, Iligan and Isabela, and theMunicipality of Linamon, Lanao del Norte in/from the areascovered by the projected Bangsamoro Homeland is a justiciablequestion; and7. Whether desistance from signing the MOA derogates any prior valid commitments of the Government of the Republic of thePhilippines.[24]III. Overview of the MOA-ADThe MOA-AD identifies the Parties to it as the GRP and the MILF.The MOA-AD also identifies as TOR two local statutes theorganic act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

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