An Open Letter to Chief Justice Reynato Puno
January 13, 2009
Supreme Court of the Philippines
Dear Chief Justice Puno:
Assalamu Alaikum Warrahmatulahi Wabarakatu! Greetings of peace to you and your family this new year!
First of all, we sincerely hope that you will bother to read this letter. We had our first experience on how is it to be in the Supreme Court a few months back during the Oral Argument on the MOA-AD and I felt that the Bangsamoro people had not been adequately heard. I don't want to cry over spilled milk but I just want to register for record purposes that not a single Moro soul has even been allowed to speak on the Ancestal Domain during all the three session days of your Oral Arguments. Where is fair play?
I was watching the evening news yesterday and I was overwhelmed with amusement when I heard the story about the plan to impeach you. Amused because I cannot simply believe how fast karma can at times get back on some people. How I wish it arrived earlier in the doorsteps of Malacañang than in the Supreme Court but God has a way of playing jokes. My amusement lies not on the possibility that you will be impeached – but on the fact that the same people who butchered the MOA-AD are the very ones now out to oust you. After getting what they wanted on the MOA-AD in your Court – now they want your head.
The truth Mr. Chief Justice is that you have blood in your hands. You have enjoined the signing of a peace agreement that could have resolved the raging armed conflict in Mindanao . In the presence of hundreds of diplomats, donors, government officials, journalists, peace advocates who came to Marriot Hotel in Kuala Lumpur to witness the historic signing of the most contentious agenda in the peace talks, you had so boldly issued your TRO.
In favor of whom? Vice Governor Pinol? If you don't know yet, Piñol will prevent anything that will return the lands that he had grabbed from the lumads and Bangsamoro people in Cotabato. If you so very well studied Ancestral Domain – you cannot simply miss to ask how is it that an Ilonggo like Piñol is now the one ruling over the plains of Cotabato? How did Piñol turn this once proud Cotabato empire into Piñol country? Piñol from where? By native title alone, Cotabato belongs to the Bangsamoro people and we simply could not understand why people begrudge the Moros from claiming what is rightly ours.
Mayor Lobregat? Where did the Lobregats come from? How may thousands of hectares did the Lobregat grab from the Maranaos in Balabagan, Lanao del Sur? How can your scale of justice cannot fathom the injustices here in Mindanao ? Aside from crying foul that the Cathedral and his own residence are included in the BJE which is a total lie – he could have also complained that his frequently visited gay bars in Zamboanga are included too. But that is already below the belt. I will no longer dwell into that. Besides, I have such high respect for gay people.
As I have read in my law books Mr. Chief Justice, the Supreme Court is not only a court of law but a court of justice. How do you address the historical injustice committed against the Bangsamoro people when you have that great wall of constitutionality blocking viable formula for peace? Of course it cannot pass the test of constitutionality because the legal system is so designed to maintain the status quo, to favor the Christian settlers, to protect the interests of the ruling elite.
I don't want to lecture you on these concepts Mr. Chief Justice because I know that you're a very brilliant lawyer. One of the best legal minds this country has ever produced. But what is the use of your legal mind if you cannot use it to promote the cause of peace and justice?
I hope you will also read other books other than the Constitution. In the case of Solomon Islands , they had to amend their constitution in order to accommodate the peace agreement. In Northern Island , the Republic of Ireland agreed to amend its constitution to comply with the commitments in the Good Friday agreement. They also did that in Bouganville in Papua New Guinea .
Mr. Chief Justice, I know that deep in your heart you want to contribute towards fulfilling the dream of every Mindanaoan. If you want to help, please don't listen to the politicians. The next thing that they will do in Congress is to abolish the Indigenous Peoples Act (IPRA). As what is happening now, they too are up against you. No thanks on the big favor you gave them in the MOA-AD case. I sincerely hope they will not succeed because they have more blood in their hands than yours.
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth".
This is a duty that is far higher than your Constitution. It is your duty to prevent bloodshed. It is your Christian duty to save lives. Now you have squandered the hopes that the people have pinned on the peace process. You allowed the politicians, who want to protect their landholdings and business interest at all cost – to triumph even if they have to annihilate the indigenous and Bangsamoro people. Armed with the laws and the military – they even have the gall to claim it is only the government which has the monopoly of violence. Yes, even if they raid civilian homes, indiscriminately drop bombs, shoot children and conveniently charged them as terrorists and MILF?
Here in the conflict affected areas – your constitution is simply irrelevant. I know it is difficult to imagine this because you might not have stepped in Sulu, Basilan, or Maguindanao? I hope you have – I really hope you have because if you have not – you should have at least the decency to call for ocular inspection in the conflict-affected areas before rendering the fate of the MOA-AD so that you will have a better appreciation of what is at stake in your decision. That is according to your Rules of Court, remember?
500,000 people displaced. These are human beings and they have nowhere to go at this point. Their homes had been burned, their properties destroyed, dreams shattered away and promises broken again and again.
In the hereafter, Mr. Chief Justice, God will not judge you not by how many times you have defended the Philippine Constitution. You will be measured by how much you have contributed towards making people feel that there is God. They can only experience that when there is peace, justice and development. Not in this situation of hell, war and violence that the Supreme Court decision has brought to these people.
Thank you for reading this letter. If you did not, at least give it to your wife and children so that they might at least be bothered by their conscience and send a few kilos of rice to alleviate the suffering of the 500,000 evacuees. 500,000 people, mothers, children, elderly – they are human beings for God's sake!
Fatima Bin Guerra
P.S. Thank you for castigating General Esperon in your decision. Although I believe you should have done that while he was busy executing the summary killings in the AFP not when he was curiously making peace. But perhaps that is belated karma for him. As has been said, God works in strange (and sometimes amusing) ways.