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Province of North Cotabato v Government of the Republic of the Philippines

Province of North Cotabato v Government of the Republic of the Philippines

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Published by Stef Macapagal
constitutional law case digest: 14 october 2008 decision concerning the constitutionality of the moa-ad between the philippine government and the moro islamic liberation front
constitutional law case digest: 14 october 2008 decision concerning the constitutionality of the moa-ad between the philippine government and the moro islamic liberation front

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Published by: Stef Macapagal on Jul 22, 2010
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07/17/2014

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Province of North Cotabato v. Government of the Republic of the Philippines
 
(G.R. Nos. 183591, 183752, 183893, 183951, &183962) (14 October 2008)
 Facts:
On 8 August 2008, the Government of the Republic of thePhilippines (GRP), represented by the GRP Peace Panel and thePresidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP), and the MoroIslamic Liberation Front (MILF) were scheduled to sign theMemorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD)Aspect of the previous GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.The MOA-AD included, among others, a stipulation thatcreates the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), to which the GRPgrants the authority and jurisdiction over the ancestral domain andancestral lands of the Bangsamoro—defined as the presentgeographic area of the ARMM constituted by Lanao del Sur,Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Marawi City, as wellas the municipalities of Lanao del Norte which voted for inclusion inthe ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite. The BJE is then granted the power to build, develop, and maintain its own institutions. The MOA-ADalso described the relationship of the GRP and the BJE as“associative,” characterized by shared authority and responsibility. Itfurther provides that its provisions requiring “amendments to theexisting legal frameworkshall take effect upon signing of aComprehensive Compact.Before the signing, however, the Province of North Cotabatosought to compel the respondents to disclose and furnish it withcomplete and official copies of the MOA-AD, as well as to hold a public consultation thereon, invoking its right to information onmatters of public concern. A subsequent petition sought to have theCity of Zamboanga excluded from the BJE. The Court then issued aTemporary Restraining Order (TRO) on 4 August 2008, directing the public respondents and their agents to cease and desist from formallysigning the MOA-AD.
 Issues and Ruling:
1.W/N the President has the power to pursue reforms thatwould require new legislation and constitutionalamendments.
YES. However, the stipulation in the MOA-AD that virtuallyguarantees that necessary changes shall be effected upon the legalframework of the GRP must be struck down as unconstitutional as itis inconsistent with the limits of the President’s authority to proposeconstitutional amendments. Because although the President’s power to conduct peace negotiations is implicitly included in her powers asChief Executive and Commander-in-Chief, and, in the course of conducting peace negotiations, may validly consider implementingeven those policies that require changes to the Constitution, she maynot unilaterally implement them without the intervention of Congress, or act in any way as if the assent of that body wereassumed as a certainty.
2.
W/N there is a violation of the people’s right toinformation on matters of public concern (1987 Constitution,Art. III, Sec. 7) under a state policy of full disclosure of all itstransactions involving public interest (1987 Constitution,Art. II, Sec. 28), including public consultation under RA No.7160 (Local Government Code of 1991).
YES. At least three pertinent laws animate these constitutionalimperatives and justify the exercise of the people’s right to beconsulted on relevant matters relating to the peace agenda:
 
a.
EO No. 3, which enumerates the functions andresponsibilities of the PAPP, is replete withmechanics for continuing consultations on bothnational and local levels and for a principal forumfor consensus-building. In fact, it is the duty of thePAPP to conduct regular dialogues to seek relevantinformation, comments, advice, andrecommendations from peace partners andconcerned sectors of society;
b.
RA No. 7160 (LGC) requires all national offices toconduct consultations before any project or programcritical to the environment and human ecologyincluding those that may call for the eviction of a particular group of people residing in such locality,is implemented therein. The MOA-AD is one peculiar program that unequivocally and unilaterallyvests ownership of a vast territory to theBangsamoro people, which could pervasively anddrastically result to the diaspora or displacement of agreat number of inhabitants from their totalenvironment;c.RA No. 8371 (IPRA) provides for clear-cut procedure for the recognition and delineation of ancestral domain, which entails, among other things,the observance of the free and prior informedconsent of the Indigenous CulturalCommunities/Indigenous Peoples (ICC/IP).
3.
W/N the GRP Peace Panel and the PAPP committedgrave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of  jurisdiction.
YES. The PAPP committed grave abuse of discretion when he failedto carry out the pertinent consultation process, as mandated by EO No. 3, RA No. 7160, and RA No. 8371. The furtive process by whichthe MOA-AD was designed and crafted runs contrary to and inexcess of the legal authority, and amounts to a whimsical, capricious,oppressive, arbitrary, and despotic exercise thereof. It illustrates agross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform theduty enjoined.
4.
W/N the MOA-AD is constitutional.
 NO. It cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws. Not only its specific provisions, but the very concept underlyingthem, namely, the associative relationship envisioned between theGRP and the BJE, are unconstitutional, for the concept presupposesthat the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on itsway to independence.
 
While there is a clause in the MOA-AD statingthat the provisions thereof inconsistent with the present legalframework will not be effective until that framework is amended, thesame does not cure its defect. The inclusion of provisions in theMOA-AD establishing an associative relationship between the BJEand the Central Government is, itself, a violation of theMemorandum of Instructions From The President addressed to thegovernment peace panel. Moreover, as the clause is worded, itvirtually guarantees that the necessary amendments to theConstitution and the laws will eventually be put in place. Neither theGRP Peace Panel nor the President herself is authorized to makesuch a guarantee. Upholding such an act would amount toauthorizing a usurpation of the constituent powers vested only inCongress, a Constitutional Convention, or the people themselvesthrough the process of initiative, for the only way that the Executivecan ensure the outcome of the amendment process is through anundue influence or interference with that process.

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