(A tale of two very differently treated cases) By Soliman M. Santos, Jr. WITH due respect, as we are supposed to say, the Supreme Court’s one-page resolution of November 11 (but released only on November 21) summarily “deny(ing) with finality” the two Motions for Reconsideration of its October 14 Decision, which by an 8-7 vote declared as “contrary to law and the Constitution” the initialed but unsigned final draft of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), is very disappointing, to say the least. According to a news report on the just released resolution, the SC reasoned therein that it had already passed on the “basic issues” and that “no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision.” The disappointing nature of the SC resolution can be taken on several levels. But first it has to be pointed out that the two MRs came from several Bangsamoro civil society organizations which were intervenors in the MOA-AD case, intervening in support of the respondent GRP Peace Panel, in effect in support of the proposed MOA-AD and the unfinished GRP-MILF peace negotiations. One MR of 49 pages was filed by the Muslim Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (MUSLAF) on October 31. The second MR of 73 pages plus 19 documentary annexes was filed jointly by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) and the Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum, Inc. (BWSF) on November 5. [The GRP Peace Panel and its co-respondent government officials, represented by the Solicitor General, did not itself file a MR but a “Constancia,” i.e. a manifestation as a matter on record, expressing continuing concern about SC encroachment into executive power.] In their MR, the CBCS-BWSF stated at the outset that “The members of the Court should do what great minds and great hearts should do, at least pause to reconsider. This includes listening to the muffled voices of the aggrieved Bangsamoro.” The CBCS-BWSF then pointed out that, after all, the several Bangsamoro civil society organization intervenors “were not (allowed to be) heard during any of the three oral argument hearings [on August 15, 22 and 29]. Their Memorandums and arguments are not even referred to in the Decision, showing that these were probably not even read.” It was as if the Bangsamoro were invisible to the SC. In contrast, it heard on oral argument three petitioners (North Cotabato, Zamboanga City, and Iligan City) and two of their supporting intervenors (former Senator Drilon, and incumbent Senator Roxas), all representing Filipino Christian majority interests. All five of their counsels were ranged in oral argument against the Solicitor General representing basically the Executive Department of the Philippine government, which also had to cater to its Filipino Christian majority constituency. How about the Bangsamoro -- where are they in this argumentation? Are they not also key stakeholders here, whose Bangsamoro problem the peace negotiations are supposed to solve? The MUSLAF and CBCS-BWSF MRs were therefore in essence an attempt to get the Bangsamoro voice heard by the SC, while there was still a chance in the MOA-AD case. Unfortunately, it has been to no avail, and in a very disappointing manner. The SC went on recess from November 1 to 9, returning back to work on November 10. And then on November 11, barely a day after returning to their backlog, it already issues a one-page resolution denying the two MRs with finality. Strangely this one-page resolution takes all of 10 days to be released on November 21. More strangely was the barely one day to go through and digest the total of 122 pages of the two MRs. The normal, usual or regular course for dealing with MRs in a major case would be to require or allow the other side to comment or oppose within a reasonable time like 10 to 15 days (the latter being the reglementary period itself to file a MR), and then consider the matter submitted for resolution -- which would or should then come as a matter of course and of time. What if, on November 11, the SC instead summarily granted, not denied, the two MRs? You can imagine the all the sound and fury that would be raised by the petitioners and their supporting intervenors -- probably a reprise of all the hue and cry that occasioned the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) last August 4 and the Decision itself last October 14 against the proposed MOA-AD. You can imagine their shrill invocation of the sacrosanct constitutional rights to due process and fair hearing in judicial proceedings. Alas, it seems that these same rights do not apply for the equal protection of the Bangsamoro. A contrasting case in point is the Mining Act Case (445 SCRA 1) where the SC reversed itself (from ruling 8-5-1 “unconstitutional” to 10-4-1 “constitutional”) within 2004, on reconsideration from its Decision of January 27 to its Resolution of December 1. In that case, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP) was allowed even after the initial Decision, to intervene, to file a MR, and then even to be heard on oral argument. What does the mining industry have that the Bangsamoro does not have to be given that kind of due process and fair hearing, if that was even due or fair at all, including to the therein lead petitioner La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Association, Inc.? Why does the protection of the law seem more equal for big business and the mining industry than for the Bangsamoro and the indigenous peoples? An investigative journalist report on the inside story of that “Goliath Win for Mining” provides some answers. According to this report, “it’s clear that the High Court bent its rules to accommodate the chamber [CMP] as intervenor in the case.” What soon after turned the tide in there was the oral argument of influential former SC Justice Florentino Feliciano on behalf of the CMP. But both Feliciano and the CMP could not have come into the picture there without the support of an “advocate” within the SC -- then Associate Justice Artemio Panganiban “who relentlessly prodded his colleagues to let the Chamber of Mines air its side,” especially through an unprecedented oral argument during the reconsideration stage of the case. And then Panganiban eventually became the ponente (writer) of the new majority Resolution of December 1, 2004. Going back now to the MOA-AD Case, the Bangsamoro simply did not have a Feliciano advocating for them in oral argument and a Panganiban “advocating” for them within the SC. Instead, it would be fair to infer (alliteration intended) that there was within the SC an “advocate” who relentlessly prodded his colleagues to issue the early TRO last August 4 and also to issue the early denial of the two MRs last November 11. It is interesting to note that the ponente of the Decision of October 14 in this case, Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, was the same ponente of the Decision of January 24, 2004 in the afore-mentioned Mining Act Case. She must have also made sure that reconsideration history did not repeat itself. Interestingly also, former Chief Justice Panganiban (who was on opposite sides with Justice Morales in the Mining Act Case) was one of those who had publicly asked the SC to “Decide the MOA issues fully” and who later publicly celebrated the SC Decision as a “Victory for the Constitution.” Not coincidentally, he, the mining industry and big business were all on the same side on the MOA-AD issue. And how about media and its investigative journalism sector – will they bother to connect the dots in the MOA Case like they did in the Mining Act Case? How easy it seems for the SC and its Justices to flip-flop even on constitutional principles when it comes to different issues and interests. In then Justice Panganiban’s Epilogue of his 245-page Resolution of December 1, 2004 in the Mining Act Case, he said, among others: “Verily, under the doctrine of separation of powers and due respect [that term again!] for co-equal and coordinate branches of government, this Court must restrain itself from intruding into policy matters and must allow the President and Congress maximum discretion in using the resources of our country and in securing the assistance of foreign groups to eradicate the grinding poverty of our people and answer their cry for viable employment opportunities in the country…Let the development of the mining industry be the responsibility of the political branches of government. And let not the Court interfere inordinately and unnecessarily.” And how about with the development of the peace process to resolve our internal armed conflicts and address their root causes, the context of the MOA-AD Case? It is so easy for the SC, in its one-page Resolution last November 11 summarily denying the two MRs of its Decision on the proposed MOA-AD, to resort to the hackneyed formula of saying it had already passed on the “basic issues” and that “no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision.” It is clear that the SC and some very strong anti-Bangsamoro and anti-peace forces do not want to be bothered with this matter any more, and so the quick hammering of the final nail on the coffin of “thinking out of the box” in future peace negotiations. In their haste (to use their own critique about the forging of the MOA-AD) to do this during what should be a reconsideration stage of the case, they have also delivered the clear message that the Bangsamoro have no voice in these judicial proceedings which have truly become an “internal matter” of the Filipino Christian majority. Granting that the SC had already passed on the “basic issues” and that “no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision,” couldn’t it have at least shown more sensitivity to the Bangsamoro by even going through the motions of giving their intervening representatives a fair hearing on their MRs even if eventually these would likewise be struck down like the proposed MOA-AD? But a fair and good enough reading of the two MRs totaling 122 pages of the Bangsamoro civil society organization intervenors will show that, on the contrary, substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision. The CBCS-BWSF MR argued, among others, that the very logic of the Decision itself, particularly its recognition that the negotiated solutions to an armed conflict may require changes to the Constitution, militates against the wholesale declaration of the proposed MOA-AD as “unconstitutional.” It argued that this is not just a matter of executive power and separation of powers but also of constitutional policy, principles and rights which make for a strong constitutional mandate for peace. The MUSLAF MR, on the other hand, argued mainly from the need to resolve the MOA-AD issue through a resort to international law, the generally accepted principles of which are anyway adopted as part of the law of the land under the Constitution. Whether we agree or not with these different lines of argument coming from Bangsamoro representatives, they certainly deserve more than a one-page resolution of summary denial. Be that as it may, the two MRs are there as the Bangsamoro voice of dissent in the case record, for whatever reference need of posterity, including the judgment of history. In ending, it might be instructive to quote from Justice Morales’ own dissent to the new majority Resolution of December 1, 2004 in the Mining Act Case: “The task of reclaiming Filipino control over Philippine natural resources now belongs to another generation.” The task of another generation, if we must speak of posterity -- that may as well be said too of finding a solution to the Bangsamoro problem, after the finality of the SC Decision on the proposed MOA-AD, which was moving well toward that solution when stopped dead on its tracks. Despite that final resolution in the MOA-AD Case, it is not good to end on a pessimistic or resigned note. So, I quote the text message of a leading member of the dissolved GRP Peace Panel in reaction to that final resolution: “Disappointing indeed. Am sure though that our vindication and that of the Bangsamoro will come someday. Damn the torpedoes!”
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By Soliman M. Santos, Jr. Contributor THE government has not only set aside the initialed but unsigned final draft of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD); it has also dissolved the GRP Peace Panel which negotiated the MOA. With the way things are working in this country, this can only mean that they (the panel) must have done something good. I therefore wish to give them some tribute. In the Harvard Negotiation Project’s now classic book "Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher and William Ury, the first of four main points of method here is to "Separate the People from the Problem.” One of the notes under this is that "Negotiators are people first." In negotiations, one is dealing not with abstract representatives of the "other side" but with human beings. They have emotions, deeply held values, and different backgrounds and viewpoints. That's why one basic rule in negotiations is "Be hard on issues but be soft with people." And who are these people whom many in the Filipino Christian mainstream are being so hard with now? The GRP Peace Panel Chairman was retired Gen. Rodolfo Garcia from San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. When he retired from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2004, he was Vice Chief of Staff. His military service in Mindanao dates back to 1970, after graduating from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). He was a platoon leader and later Executive Officer in the 26th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army (PA), covering Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Zamboanga del Sur. He rose to become the Commander of the 6th Infantry Division, PA in Central Mindanao in 1999. His transition from man of war to man of peace was made in 2003 when, while still AFP Vice Chief of Staff, he concurrently becomes Chairman of the GRP ceasefire committee for the peace process with the MILF. After the military retirement, he joined the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process (OPAPP) as an Undersecretary, was appointed a member of the GRP Peace Panel and later became its Vice-Chairman. He took over as Chairman only in July 2007 after the stint of Secretary Silvestre C. Afable, Jr. who oversaw most of the ancestral domain negotiations up to June 2007. The GRP Peace Panel Vice-Chairman was Prof. Rudy Rodil from Upi, Maguindanao and long-time resident of Iligan City. He is a Mindanao historian, author of several books on Mindanao, and a long-time now retired history professor at the Mindanao State University (MSU)-Iligan Institute of Technology (IIT). He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Philippine Studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) with a dissertation on ancestral domain, one of his lifelong fields of expertise. His active involvement in the government’s peace efforts started in 1988 as a Commissioner in the Regional Consultative Commission for drafting an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He then became a member of the GRP Peace Panel for the third and final round of negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from 1992 to 1996. He was a special consultant to the GRP Peace Panel for talks with the MILF from 2001, becoming a panel member in 2004. A third member of the GRP Peace Panel was Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, a Maranao from Marawi City. He is the incumbent Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) since 2005. His stint in public service started in 1993 as Chairman of the ARMM 2000 Technical Committee. His involvement with the GRP-MILF peace talks started in 2004 when he was designated to the GRP Technical Working Group (TWG) on Ancestral Domain in his capacity as DAR Undersecretary for Mindanao Affairs and Indigenous Peoples. He later headed the TWG team dealing with the Territory Strand of Ancestral Domain. He became a panel member only in September 2007. He has a Bachelor of Laws degree from the Colegio de San Jose Recoletos (CSJR) in Cebu City. A fourth member of the GRP Peace Panel was Ms. Sylvia Okinlay-Paraguya, a Higaonon from Impasugong, Bukidnon. She is the Executive Director of the Mindanao Alliance of Self-Help Societies-Southern Philippines Educational Cooperative Center (MASS-SPEC) based in Cagayan de Oro City since 2000. She is also Chairperson of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE), Commissioner-at-Large and Vice-Chair for Peace and Multi-Culturalism of the Mindanao Commission on Women, and Co-Chair of the Economic Development Committee of the Regional Development Council (RDC) of Region X. She is a Chemical Engineer by profession, graduating as National State Scholar and College Valedictorian at the Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City in 1984. She also has a Master of Business Management degree from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) as an AIM Scholar in 1990. A fifth and alternate member of the GRP Peace Panel was lawyer. Leah Tanodra-Armamento from Sibalum, Antique. She is presently the Assistant Chief State Prosecutor at the Department of Justice (DOJ) since 2003. Her legal career started with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) as a Trial Attorney in 1986. She then moved to the DOJ as a State Prosecutor in 1991. She was designated head of the GRP TWG on Ancestral Domain and, in such capacity, was appointed as an alternate member of the panel only in July 2007. She graduated Bachelor of Laws Second Honors at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) in 1985. She is connected by affinity to Mindanao through her husband and in-laws from Cotabato City. The first thing that has to be said about these people in the recently dissolved GRP Peace Panel is that it would have been completely out of character for them to commit any “grave abuse of discretion” in their negotiations with the MILF. They just are not the type. Thus Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, had been able to say: “At present, I give the MOA-AD and the two peace panels the benefit of the doubt. They have worked at the agreement for years, painstakingly hammering out every word and every phrase, every concept and its implications. I know that they have the interests of their respective constituencies always in mind.” Secondly, their credentials speak for themselves in terms of competence and loyalty. How can anyone doubt the loyalty of Gen. Garcia who did his part in “defending every inch of Philippine territory,” particularly from Moro rebels in Mindanao? How can anyone doubt the competence of Prof. Rodil when it comes to Mindanao history, the Moro Problem, the peace processes with the MNLF and MILF, ancestral domain, and the Lumads? He was practically the institutional memory between the successive peace negotiations with the MNLF and then with the MILF. Lawyer Armamento is actually only one of several good Ateneo lawyers, all students of their constitutionalist guru Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., who grappled with the legalities and constitutionality of the ancestral domain negotiations. And Bernas himself has lent his constitutional expertise to this peace effort. An interesting sidelight to all these are some prominent UP lawyers tending to be on the other side of the MOA debate. (But let’s not forget the provincial lawyers on both sides.) Third, all -- yes, all of the panel members have a connection to Mindanao, even Bulaqueño Gen. Garcia who had a long military stint in Mindanao, and Antiqueña lawyer. Armamento who still visits her in-laws in Cotabato City. As for those Mindanao natives in the panel, there was a nice tri-people mix: Prof. Rodil who is of Christian settler family background, Secretary Pangandaman who is a Moro, and Ms. Paraguya who is a Lumad. She also represents NGOs and women. And still on the matter of mix or balance, there was good enough gender balance of three men and two women (at least better than the MILF’s all-men panel). I think it will be hard to find another good panel like this. We said earlier that negotiators are people first, human beings with families too. In the end, for them, as for any of us, I suppose, the most important appraisal is that which comes from one’s loved ones, like one’s own children who will ask you in the future what you did for their peace when you had the historical chance to do something. Take Prof. Rodil. He has been declared persona non grata by the City Council of Iligan where he lives. But his grown-up daughter Amillah writes, with much maturity: “As of yesterday [Sept. 3], GMA has officially dissolved the government panel for peace talks with the MILF. (Disclosure to those who don't know: my dad was part of the panel). I feel sad because I know how the panel has been working hard to achieve a deal. They were aiming to sign a final peace agreement by 2010. The controversial (and I think, misunderstood) Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was part of the deal, and now it has also been scrapped along with the panel.” “Attributing the breakdown of the talks to the Memorandum of Agreement itself is not fair. It was an attempt at a solution, and not (as some people think) something that GMA just thought of to extend her term. It was the result of years of negotiation. I believe what contributed to the breakdown of the talks was the series of knee-jerk chain reactions of the people involved.” “For the good of all involved, I hope the ceasefire holds, and negotiations resume at some point. But the work to be done is not just with the negotiators. We should all be involved in creating a culture of peace, and it can be as simple as breathing deeply and thinking things through before opening your mouth, marching in the streets, attacking people, or ditching years of work down the drain.” One big group of Mindanao civil society peace advocates, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), through its Chair Professor Octavio A. Dinampo (remember him who was kidnapped with Ces Oreña-Drilon), for their part, sent out this text message: “All said and done, we still salute the courage and sincerity of Sec. Garcia and Sec. Esperon in pushing hard not only peace but the very Moro right to self-determination…we’ll remember that.” And then to Sec. Garcia: “We protest vehemently the insinuation of your mishandling the peace process. Forgive them for they know not what they are doing. And be assured of our solidarity with you and Sec. Esperon.” Finally, what about the “adversary,” the MILF Peace Panel, what does it have to say about its dissolved GRP counterpart? Sometimes, the ultimate compliment comes from the adversary. MILF Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal formally wrote Sec. Garcia: “We were saddened by the news that the GRP Peace Panel has been dissolved effective September 3, 2008. We felt that, indeed, the peace process has lost people whom we personally know are competent, trustworthy and sincere in addressing the long struggle of the Bangsamoro people.” Iqbal went on to say: “We will always treasure the fruits of our hard work, sleepless nights and sometimes our constructive disagreements to thread together the two very far ends (very far when we started) of issues, particularly ancestral domain…This was not the end of the long journey to peace in Mindanao, but it initially showcased how far sovereignty and right to self-determination can harmonize and accommodate each other…” “On behalf of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel, we bid farewell to our worthy partners in peace, as my honorable counterpart puts it. Let me thank the good Secretary Rodolfo Garcia, Prof. Rudy Rodil, Atty. Leah Armamento, Atty. Sedfrey Candelaria, Sec. Nasser Pangandaman, and the energetic head of your secretariat, Director Ryan Mark Sullivan. We will never forget you and your wonderful team and we hope that in some future time and occasion we meet and cross paths for the sake of peace and humanity.” Right now, it is the GRP and MILF themselves which should meet and cross paths for the sake of peace and humanity.
I really admire the order imposed against cutting trees by Mayor Lim. Definitely, deforestation and land degradation are serious problems in our country, which explains the worst floods in Metro Manila during heavy rains. This act may decrease the effects of the natural calamities and if we do not act on this, perhaps in the next 10 years, illegal logging will be so rampant that the local and national government will not be able do anything to stop it. Although they may have millions of reasons for cutting the Mahogany and Narra trees, this is does not make it right. Illegal loggers should be punishable by law if the case becomes legitimized. Pircelyn B. Pialago, Bacoor, Cavite, via e-mail
By Pam Galisim I spent the first couple of minutes trying to figure out a connection between our asymptotic views. Thought I'd tell you what I was thinking that day and you replied to me by telling me of your passionate hatred towards my country...then I realized, "Simply Dear Expat, It's the Philippines and you are from a different country, don't take it any seriously ok?!". I'm hoping that by thinking like that all diversified disconnections, like our cultures (or the lack thereof) suddenly will be justified. But on one end, maybe you just wanted a spontaneous sharing of thoughts. I don't claim to be an expert but having lived here for the past 28 years spurred me to share this to you, my dear transient friend. In this spirit, I'd say that I have no further reaction than an insight of your hatred being a function of such "familiarity- breeding contempt". I have a friend who has gone to a marriage counseling session over her "defunct" marital relationship. Their counselor told her and her husband that you can tell if a couple will last a year, two or so by observing how they are with each other for the next 15 minutes. The observer would just have to take note of facial expressions, sighs which convey hints of contempt. Basically to see how much the couple can stand each other. At this, they would be advised if the relationship is still healthy of not. My point? In "'Expat time scale", a year or a little over is probably enough to render all the signs of contempt (should there be any) from a love-hate relationship that you've built with this country through time. Indeed , it is also possible that you haven't stayed in another country (other than your home) long enough to say it is better or, you have probably stayed in this country far too long to see so much of its flaws and realize how you just can't live with it. At which case, like any couple with such contempt, your relationship with this country is no longer healthy (for you, at the most part). So before even nudging a nonchalant comment about this country to any Pinoy or Pinay, think, think and think…how long have you been here?There is nothing more this country can do to make you love or at least accept it. Especially if it’s your choice to look at the dark side of things (e.g. traffic, pollution, corruption, hypocrisy etc). Despite the friendships you've formed, all the nice beaches and the affordable hobbies you can nurture, this country is or will soon be an "ex-lover" you can't wait to get rid of . The Philippines, however, will owe you no favors even if you start loving it; neither will it disappear in some dismal universe the more you curse it to its bones by over analyzing it. Either way, ordinary Pinoy parents can only continue to tell their kids to make this country if not the world a better place, corrupted politicians will tell their kids how noble their candy-coated jobs are while the middle-class will still struggle for a blind hope that things can only get better. When will it end? Please don't look at me. At the end of the day, it is you dear Expat who will grow tired and waste your measly days away should you keep digging. Thinking of the lawless, barbaric ways of this country is like going down a bottomless pit of disgusting flaws that could drain you, just by thinking about it. Perhaps it doesn’t take 28 years or a defunct marriage to merit giving an advice like this, only a diplomatic desire to "love where you are at". So much said, maybe a couple of points missed, it would help to know what really you are looking for in a country. In the end, like an ex-lover who has made years of your life hell, you might even thank this country whose insane qualities became your stimuli to find your ideal home.