MILF to appeal 'illegal' MOA-AD before ICJ, OIC

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2008 08:44 AM | Updated as of Oct 15 2008 09:18 PM

 

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may bring before the international community the junked Bangsamoro homeland deal which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC).
 
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, said the group was contemplating on appealing before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or the Organization of Islamic Conference the scuttled Bangsamoro homeland deal.
 
"We will assert the MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain), not on the domestic level, but on a higher level. We will bring this before the international community so that they will know that the Philippine government doesn't know how to respect an agreement," Iqbal said.
 
Iqbal said that the MILF leadership will not order its forces to launch attacks in retaliation to the MOA-AD's junking. However, he said the leadership won't be able to guarantee its forces will exercise the same restraint.
 
"The Supreme Court's decision will not stop the fighting in Mindanao," he said.
 
The high court initially stopped the MOA-AD's signing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last August. 
 
Days after the restraining order was issued by the court, hundreds of radical MILF fighters launched civilian attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao province, killing dozens of people. Thousands of families have also been displaced in the south because of the fighting.
 
Grave abuse of discretion
 
Voting 8-7, the SC justices on Tuesday ruled that the proposed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was illegal and said the government's peace adviser "committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation process".
 
"It illustrates a gross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined," the court said, describing the government's approach in striking a deal with the rebels as a "whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise".
 
The court said the MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the Philippine Constitution since it presupposes that the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is a state that is on its way to independence. It said the MOA-AD virtually guarantees that the necessary constitutional amendments will eventually be put in place, which is an usurpation of the powers vested in Congress. 
 
“Outside of ambit of RP govt”
 
A senior member of the MILF peace panel had downplayed Tuesday the SC decision to strike down the scrapped territorial deal.
 
Lawyer Datu Michael Mastura said the MILF Central Committee is "indifferent" to the high court’s decision since the group is outside the ambit of the Philippine judiciary and the government. 
 
"We are indifferent to the decision. This is internal to the government and the opposition. The rebels are outside the ambit of government so their status is -- they are involved in an armed conflict. It cannot be resolved through legal means, by going to the Supreme Court," Mastura told ABS-CBN News Channel. 
 
He said the proposed territorial deal is part of negotiations to end the decades-long armed rebellion in Mindanao. 
 
Iqbal on Tuesday had said the decision has "thrown to the wind four years of our hard negotiations."
 
"It proves once again that the constitution is a tool to stifle the Moros' legitimate aspirations," Iqbal told Reuters.
 
He added that the decision closed the door on any peace talks to end nearly 40 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced two million and kept one of the most resource-rich regions of the country dirt poor.
 
Political sabotage
 
Mastura said some members of the MILF Central Committee have lost confidence in the government after President Arroyo announced that she would not sign the agreement as written even before the SC issued its ruling. 
 
He added that the no-signing and the subsequent court ruling showed that the "Philippine government does not honor its obligations in international law on treaties and diplomatic practice." 
 
"Do we return to the negotiating table? If this is the way government goes about its negotiations, it could happen again. What we need is some guarantee that government will implement it, that's number one. And number two, we would need a position taken by government and the opposition," he said. 
 
Mastura said the government should conduct consultations with various branches of government before finalizing its position on the peace process through a referendum. He said that aside from the executive branch, negotiators should also talk to local government officials and the opposition to come up with a unified stand on the peace process. 
 
The MILF negotiator denied that the MOA-AD would lead to a "dismembering" of the republic. He also accused some senators of sabotaging the agreement as a tool to further their political ambitions. 
 
"Government needs to have a united position. It cannot be that some senators would use the negotiations as a prop to their 2010 ambitions or senatorial ambitions," he said.