MANILA - Zamboanga City 1st District Rep. Celso Lobregat hopes the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will resolve all gray areas in the documents they signed on Saturday to avoid a repeat of a controversial agreement during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“Like any other Mindanaoan, we want lasting peace…but the concerns need to be revisited or amended because we don’t want the [current] peace agreement to fail like the MOA-AD [Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain],” Lobregat told ANC.
The MOA-AD, signed by the Arroyo government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008, was meant to expand the jurisdiction of the autonomous region.
It was met with strong opposition from several parties.
Since there was no final agreement signed between the government and the MILF, armed clashes broke out in several parts of Mindanao such as North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.
Before the Supreme Court could hand down its decision declaring the MOA-AD unconstitutional, the government already ceased implementing the agreement.
Lobregat noted the new Bangsamoro framework agreement and its annexes make a weak case for the country’s own Constitution.
“It’s now the reverse. Instead of the Constitution [being highlighted] in the peace agreement, it will now be the Constitution that will be amended to accommodate the peace agreement.”
Not one reference to the Constitution can be gleaned from the documents, he said.
“In the framework agreement and annexes, there was no reference to the Philippine Constitution…that [those] should be within the realm of the Constitution,” he said.
He compared the Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 peace pact, both of which were bound by the Constitution.
“[Like] the Tripoli Agreement, you can say anything you want to say about [former President Ferdinand] Marcos but he made sure that in the last provision, the government of the Philippines shall take all necessary constitutional processes for the implementation of the agreement.”
ISSUE OF TERRITORY
The issue of territory is also worrisome, he said.
Based on the framework agreement, the Bangsamoro shall be composed of: “All other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area may ask for their inclusion in the plebiscite, at least two months prior to its conduct, for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro.”
“This is a gray area. What do you mean by area? Barangay? Entire Zamboanga?” Lobregat noted. He said the provision is very open to interpretation that will become a “never ending story” in the peace pact.
Besides Zamboanga, Cotabato and Isabela City, Basilan voted not to be part of the autonomous region in the past, he said. In the framework deal, however, the envisioned core territory of the Bangsamoro are:
* the current ARMM provinces and Marawi City;
* the cities of Cotabato and Isabela;
* the 6 municipalities in Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite (Baloi, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, Tagaloan, Tangkal); and,
* the 39 barangays in six municipalities of North Cotabato province that likewise voted for inclusion in 2001 (Labacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawaya, Pikit and Midsayap).
“So if the whole ratification of the [Bangsamoro law] says yes [to Isabela and Cotabato], but both said no, will they still be included in Bangsamoro? The Constitution says only those who vote ‘yes’ will be included in an autonomous region,” Lobregat said.
North Cotabato and Isabela City were two of the areas which questioned the MOA-AD before the Supreme Court during the Arroyo administration.