EN BANC

 

THE PROVINCE OF NORTH COTABATO, duly represented by GOVERNOR JESUS SACDALAN and/or VICE-GOVERNOR EMMANUEL PIOL, for and in his own behalf,

Petitioners,

 

- versus -

 

 

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE PANEL ON ANCESTRAL DOMAIN (GRP), represented by SEC. RODOLFO GARCIA, ATTY. LEAH ARMAMENTO, ATTY. SEDFREY CANDELARIA, MARK RYAN SULLIVAN and/or GEN. HERMOGENES ESPERON, JR., the latter in his capacity as the present and duly-appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) or the so-called Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process,

Respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

CITY GOVERNMENT OF ZAMBOANGA, as represented by HON. CELSO L. LOBREGAT, City Mayor of Zamboanga, and in his personal capacity as resident of the City of Zamboanga, Rep. MA. ISABELLE G. CLIMACO, District 1, and Rep. ERICO BASILIO A. FABIAN, District 2, City of Zamboanga,

Petitioners,

 

 

- versus -

 

 

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE NEGOTIATING PANEL (GRP), as represented by RODOLFO C. GARCIA, LEAH ARMAMENTO, SEDFREY CANDELARIA, MARK RYAN SULLIVAN and HERMOGENES ESPERON, in his capacity as the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process,

Respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

THE CITY OF ILIGAN, duly represented by CITY MAYOR LAWRENCE LLUCH CRUZ,

Petitioner,

 

 

- versus

 

 

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE PANEL ON ANCESTRAL DOMAIN (GRP), represented by SEC. RODOLFO GARCIA, ATTY. LEAH ARMAMENTO, ATTY. SEDFREY CANDELARIA, MARK RYAN SULLIVAN; GEN. HERMOGENES ESPERON, JR., in his capacity as the present and duly appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; and/or SEC. EDUARDO ERMITA, in his capacity as Executive Secretary.

Respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, as represented by HON. ROLANDO E. YEBES, in his capacity as Provincial Governor, HON. FRANCIS H. OLVIS, in his capacity as Vice-Governor and Presiding Officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, HON. CECILIA JALOSJOS CARREON, Congresswoman, 1st Congressional District, HON. CESAR G. JALOSJOS, Congressman, 3rd Congressional District, and Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Zamboanga del Norte, namely, HON. SETH FREDERICK P. JALOSJOS, HON. FERNANDO R. CABIGON, JR., HON. ULDARICO M. MEJORADA II, HON. EDIONAR M. ZAMORAS, HON. EDGAR J. BAGUIO, HON. CEDRIC L. ADRIATICO, HON. FELIXBERTO C. BOLANDO, HON. JOSEPH BRENDO C. AJERO, HON. NORBIDEIRI B. EDDING, HON. ANECITO S. DARUNDAY, HON. ANGELICA J. CARREON and HON. LUZVIMINDA E. TORRINO,

Petitioners,

 

 

- versus -

 

 

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE NEGOTIATING PANEL [GRP], as represented by HON. RODOLFO C. GARCIA and HON. HERMOGENES ESPERON, in his capacity as the Presidential Adviser of Peace Process,

Respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

ERNESTO M. MACEDA, JEJOMAR C. BINAY, and AQUILINO L. PIMENTEL III,

Petitioners,

 

- versus -

 

 

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE NEGOTIATING PANEL, represented by its Chairman RODOLFO C. GARCIA, and the MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT PEACE NEGOTIATING PANEL, represented by its Chairman MOHAGHER IQBAL,

Respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

FRANKLIN M. DRILON and ADEL ABBAS TAMANO,

Petitioners-in-Intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

SEN. MANUEL A. ROXAS,

Petitioners-in-Intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

MUNICIPALITY OF LINAMON duly represented by its Municipal Mayor NOEL N. DEANO,

Petitioners-in-Intervention,

x--------------------------------------------x

THE CITY OF ISABELA, BASILAN PROVINCE, represented by MAYOR CHERRYLYN P. SANTOS-AKBAR,

Petitioners-in-Intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

THE PROVINCE OF SULTAN KUDARAT, rep. by HON. SUHARTO T. MANGUDADATU, in his capacity as Provincial Governor and a resident of the Province of Sultan Kudarat,

Petitioner-in-Intervention.

x-------------------------------------------x

 

RUY ELIAS LOPEZ, for and in his own behalf and on behalf of Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao Not Belonging to the MILF,

Petitioner-in-Intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

CARLO B. GOMEZ, GERARDO S. DILIG, NESARIO G. AWAT, JOSELITO C. ALISUAG and RICHALEX G. JAGMIS, as citizens and residents of Palawan,

Petitioners-in-Intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

MARINO RIDAO and KISIN BUXANI,

Petitioners-in-Intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

MUSLIM LEGAL ASSISTANCE FOUNDATION, INC (MUSLAF),

Respondent-in-Intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

MUSLIM MULTI-SECTORAL MOVEMENT FOR PEACE & DEVELOPMENT (MMMPD),

Respondent-in-Intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

 

G.R. No. 183591

Present:

 

PUNO, C.J.,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

AZCUNA,

TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA,

REYES,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, &

BRION, JJ.

Promulgated:

 

October 14, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G.R. No. 183752

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G.R. No. 183893

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G.R. No. 183951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G.R. No. 183962

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

 

D E C I S I O N

 

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

 

Subject of these consolidated cases is the extent of the powers of the President in pursuing the peace process. While the facts surrounding this controversy center on the armed conflict in Mindanao between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the legal issue involved has a bearing on all areas in the country where there has been a long-standing armed conflict. Yet again, the Court is tasked to perform a delicate balancing act. It must uncompromisingly delineate the bounds within which the President may lawfully exercise her discretion, but it must do so in strict adherence to the Constitution, lest its ruling unduly restricts the freedom of action vested by that same Constitution in the Chief Executive precisely to enable her to pursue the peace process effectively.

I. FACTUAL ANTECEDENTS OF THE PETITIONS

 

 

On August 5, 2008, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF, through the Chairpersons of their respective peace negotiating panels, were scheduled to sign a Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

The MILF is a rebel group which was established in March 1984 when, under the leadership of the late Salamat Hashim, it splintered from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) then headed by Nur Misuari, on the ground, among others, of what Salamat perceived to be the manipulation of the MNLF away from an Islamic basis towards Marxist-Maoist orientations.[1]

 

The signing of the MOA-AD between the GRP and the MILF was not to materialize, however, for upon motion of petitioners, specifically those who filed their cases before the scheduled signing of the MOA-AD, this Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining the GRP from signing the same.

 

The MOA-AD was preceded by a long process of negotiation and the concluding of several prior agreements between the two parties beginning in 1996, when the GRP-MILF peace negotiations began. On July 18, 1997, the GRP and MILF Peace Panels signed the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities. The following year, they signed the General Framework of Agreement of Intent on August 27, 1998.

 

The Solicitor General, who represents respondents, summarizes the MOA-AD by stating that the same contained, among others, the commitment of the parties to pursue peace negotiations, protect and respect human rights, negotiate with sincerity in the resolution and pacific settlement of the conflict, and refrain from the use of threat or force to attain undue advantage while the peace negotiations on the substantive agenda are on-going.[2]

 

Early on, however, it was evident that there was not going to be any smooth sailing in the GRP-MILF peace process. Towards the end of 1999 up to early 2000, the MILF attacked a number of municipalities in Central Mindanao and, in March 2000, it took control of the town hall of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.[3] In response, then President Joseph Estrada declared and carried out an all-out-war against the MILF.

 

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office, the military offensive against the MILF was suspended and the government sought a resumption of the peace talks. The MILF, according to a leading MILF member, initially responded with deep reservation, but when President Arroyo asked the Government of Malaysia through Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad to help convince the MILF to return to the negotiating table, the MILF convened its Central Committee to seriously discuss the matter and, eventually, decided to meet with the GRP.[4]

 

The parties met in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, 2001, with the talks being facilitated by the Malaysian government, the parties signing on the same date the Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks Between the GRP and the MILF. The MILF thereafter suspended all its military actions.[5]

 

Formal peace talks between the parties were held in Tripoli, Libya from June 20-22, 2001, the outcome of which was the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace (Tripoli Agreement 2001) containing the basic principles and agenda on the following aspects of the negotiation: Security Aspect, Rehabilitation Aspect, and Ancestral Domain Aspect. With regard to the Ancestral Domain Aspect, the parties in Tripoli Agreement 2001 simply agreed that the same be discussed further by the Parties in their next meeting.

 

A second round of peace talks was held in Cyberjaya, Malaysia on August 5-7, 2001 which ended with the signing of the Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement 2001 leading to a ceasefire status between the parties. This was followed by the Implementing Guidelines on the Humanitarian Rehabilitation and Development Aspects of the Tripoli Agreement 2001, which was signed on May 7, 2002 at Putrajaya, Malaysia. Nonetheless, there were many incidence of violence between government forces and the MILF from 2002 to 2003.

 

Meanwhile, then MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim passed away on July 13, 2003 and he was replaced by Al Haj Murad, who was then the chief peace negotiator of the MILF. Murads position as chief peace negotiator was taken over by Mohagher Iqbal.[6]

 

In 2005, several exploratory talks were held between the parties in Kuala Lumpur, eventually leading to the crafting of the draft MOA-AD in its final form, which, as mentioned, was set to be signed last August 5, 2008.

 

II. Statement of the proceedings

 

 

Before the Court is what is perhaps the most contentious consensus ever embodied in an instrument the MOA-AD which is assailed principally by the present petitions bearing docket numbers 183591, 183752, 183893, 183951 and 183962.

 

Commonly impleaded as respondents are the GRP Peace Panel on Ancestral Domain[7] and the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP) Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.

 

On July 23, 2008, the Province of North Cotabato[8] and Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piol filed a petition, docketed as G.R. No. 183591, for Mandamus and Prohibition with Prayer for the Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order.[9] Invoking the right to information on matters of public concern, petitioners seek to compel respondents to disclose and furnish them the complete and official copies of the MOA-AD including its attachments, and to prohibit the slated signing of the MOA-AD, pending the disclosure of the contents of the MOA-AD and the holding of a public consultation thereon. Supplementarily, petitioners pray that the MOA-AD be declared unconstitutional.[10]

 

This initial petition was followed by another one, docketed as G.R. No. 183752, also for Mandamus and Prohibition[11] filed by the City of Zamboanga,[12] Mayor Celso Lobregat, Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco and Rep. Erico Basilio Fabian who likewise pray for similar injunctive reliefs. Petitioners herein moreover pray that the City of Zamboanga be excluded from the Bangsamoro Homeland and/or Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and, in the alternative, that the MOA-AD be declared null and void.

 

By Resolution of August 4, 2008, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order commanding and directing public respondents and their agents to cease and desist from formally signing the MOA-AD.[13] The Court also required the Solicitor General to submit to the Court and petitioners the official copy of the final draft of the MOA-AD,[14] to which she complied.[15]

 

Meanwhile, the City of Iligan[16] filed a petition for Injunction and/or Declaratory Relief, docketed as G.R. No. 183893, praying that respondents be enjoined from signing the MOA-AD or, if the same had already been signed, from implementing the same, and that the MOA-AD be declared unconstitutional. Petitioners herein additionally implead Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as respondent.

 

The Province of Zamboanga del Norte,[17] Governor Rolando Yebes, Vice-Governor Francis Olvis, Rep. Cecilia Jalosjos-Carreon, Rep. Cesar Jalosjos, and the members[18] of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Zamboanga del Norte filed on August 15, 2008 a petition for Certiorari, Mandamus and Prohibition,[19] docketed as G.R. No. 183951. They pray, inter alia, that the MOA-AD be declared null and void and without operative effect, and that respondents be enjoined from executing the MOA-AD.

 

On August 19, 2008, Ernesto Maceda, Jejomar Binay, and Aquilino Pimentel III filed a petition for Prohibition,[20] docketed as G.R. No. 183962, praying for a judgment prohibiting and permanently enjoining respondents from formally signing and executing the MOA-AD and or any other agreement derived therefrom or similar thereto, and nullifying the MOA-AD for being unconstitutional and illegal. Petitioners herein additionally implead as respondent the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel represented by its Chairman Mohagher Iqbal.

Various parties moved to intervene and were granted leave of court to file their petitions-/comments-in-intervention. Petitioners-in-Intervention include Senator Manuel A. Roxas, former Senate President Franklin Drilon and Atty. Adel Tamano, the City of Isabela[21] and Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar, the Province of Sultan Kudarat[22] and Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu, the Municipality of Linamon in Lanao del Norte,[23] Ruy Elias Lopez of Davao City and of the Bagobo tribe, Sangguniang Panlungsod member Marino Ridao and businessman Kisin Buxani, both of Cotabato City; and lawyers Carlo Gomez, Gerardo Dilig, Nesario Awat, Joselito Alisuag, Richalex Jagmis, all of Palawan City. The Muslim Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (Muslaf) and the Muslim Multi-Sectoral Movement for Peace and Development (MMMPD) filed their respective Comments-in-Intervention.

 

By subsequent Resolutions, the Court ordered the consolidation of the petitions. Respondents filed Comments on the petitions, while some of petitioners submitted their respective Replies.

 

Respondents, by Manifestation and Motion of August 19, 2008, stated that the Executive Department shall thoroughly review the MOA-AD and pursue further negotiations to address the issues hurled against it, and thus moved to dismiss the cases. In the succeeding exchange of pleadings, respondents motion was met with vigorous opposition from petitioners.

 

The cases were heard on oral argument on August 15, 22 and 29, 2008 that tackled the following principal issues:

 

1. Whether the petitions have become moot and academic

 

(i) insofar as the mandamus aspect is concerned, in view of the disclosure of official copies of the final draft of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA); and

 

(ii) insofar as the prohibition aspect involving the Local Government Units is concerned, if it is considered that consultation has become fait accompli with the finalization of the draft;

 

2. Whether the constitutionality and the legality of the MOA is ripe for adjudication;

 

3. Whether respondent Government of the Republic of the Philippines Peace Panel committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it negotiated and initiated the MOA vis--vis ISSUES Nos. 4 and 5;

 

4. Whether there is a violation of the peoples right to information on matters of public concern (1987 Constitution, Article III, Sec. 7) under a state policy of full disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest (1987 Constitution, Article II, Sec. 28) including public consultation under Republic Act No. 7160 (LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991)[;]

 

If it is in the affirmative, whether prohibition under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is an appropriate remedy;

 

5. Whether by signing the MOA, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines would be BINDING itself

 

a) to create and recognize the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) as a separate state, or a juridical, territorial or political subdivision not recognized by law;

 

b) to revise or amend the Constitution and existing laws to conform to the MOA;

 

c) to concede to or recognize the claim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for ancestral domain in violation of Republic Act No. 8371 (THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS ACT OF 1997), particularly Section 3(g) & Chapter VII (DELINEATION, RECOGNITION OF ANCESTRAL DOMAINS)[;]

 

If in the affirmative, whether the Executive Branch has the authority to so bind the Government of the Republic of the Philippines;

 

6. Whether the inclusion/exclusion of the Province of North Cotabato, Cities of Zamboanga, Iligan and Isabela, and the Municipality of Linamon, Lanao del Norte in/from the areas covered by the projected Bangsamoro Homeland is a justiciable question; and

 

7. Whether desistance from signing the MOA derogates any prior valid commitments of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.[24]

 

The Court, thereafter, ordered the parties to submit their respective Memoranda. Most of the parties submitted their memoranda on time.

 

III. Overview of the MOA-AD

 

As a necessary backdrop to the consideration of the objections raised in the subject five petitions and six petitions-in-intervention against the MOA-AD, as well as the two comments-in-intervention in favor of the MOA-AD, the Court takes an overview of the MOA.

 

The MOA-AD identifies the Parties to it as the GRP and the MILF.

 

Under the heading Terms of Reference (TOR), the MOA-AD includes not only four earlier agreements between the GRP and MILF, but also two agreements between the GRP and the MNLF: the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, and the Final Peace Agreement on the Implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, signed on September 2, 1996 during the administration of President Fidel Ramos.

 

The MOA-AD also identifies as TOR two local statutes the organic act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)[25] and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA),[26] and several international law instruments the ILO Convention No. 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries in relation to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and the UN Charter, among others.

 

The MOA-AD includes as a final TOR the generic category of compact rights entrenchment emanating from the regime of dar-ul-muahada (or territory under compact) and dar-ul-sulh (or territory under peace agreement) that partakes the nature of a treaty device.

 

During the height of the Muslim Empire, early Muslim jurists tended to see the world through a simple dichotomy: there was the dar-ul-Islam (the Abode of Islam) and dar-ul-harb (the Abode of War). The first referred to those lands where Islamic laws held sway, while the second denoted those lands where Muslims were persecuted or where Muslim laws were outlawed or ineffective.[27] This way of viewing the world, however, became more complex through the centuries as the Islamic world became part of the international community of nations.

 

As Muslim States entered into treaties with their neighbors, even with distant States and inter-governmental organizations, the classical division of the world into dar-ul-Islam and dar-ul-harb eventually lost its meaning. New terms were drawn up to describe novel ways of perceiving non-Muslim territories. For instance, areas like dar-ul-muahada (land of compact) and dar-ul-sulh (land of treaty) referred to countries which, though under a secular regime, maintained peaceful and cooperative relations with Muslim States, having been bound to each other by treaty or agreement. Dar-ul-aman (land of order), on the other hand, referred to countries which, though not bound by treaty with Muslim States, maintained freedom of religion for Muslims.[28]

 

It thus appears that the compact rights entrenchment emanating from the regime of dar-ul-muahada and dar-ul-sulh simply refers to all other agreements between the MILF and the Philippine government the Philippines being the land of compact and peace agreement that partake of the nature of a treaty device, treaty being broadly defined as any solemn agreement in writing that sets out understandings, obligations, and benefits for both parties which provides for a framework that elaborates the principles declared in the [MOA-AD].[29]

 

The MOA-AD states that the Parties HAVE AGREED AND ACKNOWLEDGED AS FOLLOWS, and starts with its main body.

 

The main body of the MOA-AD is divided into four strands, namely, Concepts and Principles, Territory, Resources, and Governance.

 

A. Concepts and Principles

 

This strand begins with the statement that it is the birthright of all Moros and all Indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as Bangsamoros. It defines Bangsamoro people as the natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization, and their descendants whether mixed or of full blood, including their spouses.[30]

 

Thus, the concept of Bangsamoro, as defined in this strand of the MOA-AD, includes not only Moros as traditionally understood even by Muslims,[31] but all indigenous peoples of Mindanao and its adjacent islands. The MOA-AD adds that the freedom of choice of indigenous peoples shall be respected. What this freedom of choice consists in has not been specifically defined.

 

The MOA-AD proceeds to refer to the Bangsamoro homeland, the ownership of which is vested exclusively in the Bangsamoro people by virtue of their prior rights of occupation.[32] Both parties to the MOA-AD acknowledge that ancestral domain does not form part of the public domain.[33]

 

The Bangsamoro people are acknowledged as having the right to self-governance, which right is said to be rooted on ancestral territoriality exercised originally under the suzerain authority of their sultanates and the Pat a Pangampong ku Ranaw. The sultanates were described as states or karajaan/kadatuan resembling a body politic endowed with all the elements of a nation-state in the modern sense.[34]

 

The MOA-AD thus grounds the right to self-governance of the Bangsamoro people on the past suzerain authority of the sultanates. As gathered, the territory defined as the Bangsamoro homeland was ruled by several sultanates and, specifically in the case of the Maranao, by the Pat a Pangampong ku Ranaw, a confederation of independent principalities (pangampong) each ruled by datus and sultans, none of whom was supreme over the others.[35]

 

The MOA-AD goes on to describe the Bangsamoro people as the First Nation with defined territory and with a system of government having entered into treaties of amity and commerce with foreign nations.

The term First Nation is of Canadian origin referring to the indigenous peoples of that territory, particularly those known as Indians. In Canada, each of these indigenous peoples is equally entitled to be called First Nation, hence, all of them are usually described collectively by the plural First Nations.[36] To that extent, the MOA-AD, by identifying the Bangsamoro people as the First Nation suggesting its exclusive entitlement to that designation departs from the Canadian usage of the term.

 

The MOA-AD then mentions for the first time the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) to which it grants the authority and jurisdiction over the Ancestral Domain and Ancestral Lands of the Bangsamoro.[37]

 

 

 

B. Territory

 

The territory of the Bangsamoro homeland is described as the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, including the aerial domain and the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan geographic region.[38]

 

More specifically, the core of the BJE is defined as the present geographic area of the ARMM thus constituting the following areas: Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Marawi City. Significantly, this core also includes certain municipalities of Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite.[39]

 

Outside of this core, the BJE is to cover other provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, which are grouped into two categories, Category A and Category B. Each of these areas is to be subjected to a plebiscite to be held on different dates, years apart from each other. Thus, Category A areas are to be subjected to a plebiscite not later than twelve (12) months following the signing of the MOA-AD.[40] Category B areas, also called Special Intervention Areas, on the other hand, are to be subjected to a plebiscite twenty-five (25) years from the signing of a separate agreement the Comprehensive Compact.[41]

 

The Parties to the MOA-AD stipulate that the BJE shall have jurisdiction over all natural resources within its internal waters, defined as extending fifteen (15) kilometers from the coastline of the BJE area;[42] that the BJE shall also have territorial waters, which shall stretch beyond the BJE internal waters up to the baselines of the Republic of the Philippines (RP) south east and south west of mainland Mindanao; and that within these territorial waters, the BJE and the Central Government (used interchangeably with RP) shall exercise joint jurisdiction, authority and management over all natural resources.[43] Notably, the jurisdiction over the internal waters is not similarly described as joint.

 

The MOA-AD further provides for the sharing of minerals on the territorial waters between the Central Government and the BJE, in favor of the latter, through production sharing and economic cooperation agreement.[44] The activities which the Parties are allowed to conduct on the territorial waters are enumerated, among which are the exploration and utilization of natural resources, regulation of shipping and fishing activities, and the enforcement of police and safety measures.[45] There is no similar provision on the sharing of minerals and allowed activities with respect to the internal waters of the BJE.

 

C. RESOURCES

 

The MOA-AD states that the BJE is free to enter into any economic cooperation and trade relations with foreign countries and shall have the option to establish trade missions in those countries. Such relationships and understandings, however, are not to include aggression against the GRP. The BJE may also enter into environmental cooperation agreements.[46]

 

The external defense of the BJE is to remain the duty and obligation of the Central Government. The Central Government is also bound to take necessary steps to ensure the BJEs participation in international meetings and events like those of the ASEAN and the specialized agencies of the UN. The BJE is to be entitled to participate in Philippine official missions and delegations for the negotiation of border agreements or protocols for environmental protection and equitable sharing of incomes and revenues involving the bodies of water adjacent to or between the islands forming part of the ancestral domain.[47]

 

With regard to the right of exploring for, producing, and obtaining all potential sources of energy, petroleum, fossil fuel, mineral oil and natural gas, the jurisdiction and control thereon is to be vested in the BJE as the party having control within its territorial jurisdiction. This right carries the proviso that, in times of national emergency, when public interest so requires, the Central Government may, for a fixed period and under reasonable terms as may be agreed upon by both Parties, assume or direct the operation of such resources.[48]

 

The sharing between the Central Government and the BJE of total production pertaining to natural resources is to be 75:25 in favor of the BJE.[49]

The MOA-AD provides that legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people arising from any unjust dispossession of their territorial and proprietary rights, customary land tenures, or their marginalization shall be acknowledged. Whenever restoration is no longer possible, reparation is to be in such form as mutually determined by the Parties.[50]

 

The BJE may modify or cancel the forest concessions, timber licenses, contracts or agreements, mining concessions, Mineral Production and Sharing Agreements (MPSA), Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMA), and other land tenure instruments granted by the Philippine Government, including those issued by the present ARMM.[51]

 

D. Governance

The MOA-AD binds the Parties to invite a multinational third-party to observe and monitor the implementation of the Comprehensive Compact. This compact is to embody the details for the effective enforcement and the mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation of the MOA-AD. The MOA-AD explicitly provides that the participation of the third party shall not in any way affect the status of the relationship between the Central Government and the BJE.[52]

 

The associative relationship

between the Central Government

and the BJE

 

The MOA-AD describes the relationship of the Central Government and the BJE as associative, characterized by shared authority and responsibility. And it states that the structure of governance is to be based on executive, legislative, judicial, and administrative institutions with defined powers and functions in the Comprehensive Compact.

 

The MOA-AD provides that its provisions requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall take effect upon signing of the Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the aforesaid amendments, with due regard to the non-derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be contained in the Comprehensive Compact. As will be discussed later, much of the present controversy hangs on the legality of this provision.

 

The BJE is granted the power to build, develop and maintain its own institutions inclusive of civil service, electoral, financial and banking, education, legislation, legal, economic, police and internal security force, judicial system and correctional institutions, the details of which shall be discussed in the negotiation of the comprehensive compact.

 

As stated early on, the MOA-AD was set to be signed on August 5, 2008 by Rodolfo Garcia and Mohagher Iqbal, Chairpersons of the Peace Negotiating Panels of the GRP and the MILF, respectively. Notably, the penultimate paragraph of the MOA-AD identifies the signatories as the representatives of the Parties, meaning the GRP and MILF themselves, and not merely of the negotiating panels.[53] In addition, the signature page of the MOA-AD states that it is WITNESSED BY Datuk Othman Bin Abd Razak, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, ENDORSED BY Ambassador Sayed Elmasry, Adviser to Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General and Special Envoy for Peace Process in Southern Philippines, and SIGNED IN THE PRESENCE OF Dr. Albert G. Romulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of RP and Dato Seri Utama Dr. Rais Bin Yatim, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia, all of whom were scheduled to sign the Agreement last August 5, 2008.

 

Annexed to the MOA-AD are two documents containing the respective lists cum maps of the provinces, municipalities, and barangays under Categories A and B earlier mentioned in the discussion on the strand on TERRITORY.

 

IV. PROCEDURAL ISSUES

 

 

A. Ripeness

 

 

The power of judicial review is limited to actual cases or controversies.[54] Courts decline to issue advisory opinions or to resolve hypothetical or feigned problems, or mere academic questions.[55] The limitation of the power of judicial review to actual cases and controversies defines the role assigned to the judiciary in a tripartite allocation of power, to assure that the courts will not intrude into areas committed to the other branches of government.[56]

 

An actual case or controversy involves a conflict of legal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims, susceptible of judicial resolution as distinguished from a hypothetical or abstract difference or dispute. There must be a contrariety of legal rights that can be interpreted and enforced on the basis of existing law and jurisprudence.[57] The Court can decide the constitutionality of an act or treaty only when a proper case between opposing parties is submitted for judicial determination.[58]

 

Related to the requirement of an actual case or controversy is the requirement of ripeness. A question is ripe for adjudication when the act being challenged has had a direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it.[59] For a case to be considered ripe for adjudication, it is a prerequisite that something had then been accomplished or performed by either branch before a court may come into the picture,[60] and the petitioner must allege the existence of an immediate or threatened injury to itself as a result of the challenged action.[61] He must show that he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of the act complained of.[62]

 

The Solicitor General argues that there is no justiciable controversy that is ripe for judicial review in the present petitions, reasoning that

 

The unsigned MOA-AD is simply a list of consensus points subject to further negotiations and legislative enactments as well as constitutional processes aimed at attaining a final peaceful agreement. Simply put, the MOA-AD remains to be a proposal that does not automatically create legally demandable rights and obligations until the list of operative acts required have been duly complied with. x x x

 

x x x x

 

In the cases at bar, it is respectfully submitted that this Honorable Court has no authority to pass upon issues based on hypothetical or feigned constitutional problems or interests with no concrete bases. Considering the preliminary character of the MOA-AD, there are no concrete acts that could possibly violate petitioners and intervenors rights since the acts complained of are mere contemplated steps toward the formulation of a final peace agreement. Plainly, petitioners and intervenors perceived injury, if at all, is merely imaginary and illusory apart from being unfounded and based on mere conjectures. (Underscoring supplied)

 

 

The Solicitor General cites[63] the following provisions of the MOA-AD:

 

TERRITORY

 

x x x x

 

2. Toward this end, the Parties enter into the following stipulations:

x x x x

 

d. Without derogating from the requirements of prior agreements, the Government stipulates to conduct and deliver, using all possible legal measures, within twelve (12) months following the signing of the MOA-AD, a plebiscite covering the areas as enumerated in the list and depicted in the map as Category A attached herein (the Annex). The Annex constitutes an integral part of this framework agreement. Toward this end, the Parties shall endeavor to complete the negotiations and resolve all outstanding issues on the Comprehensive Compact within fifteen (15) months from the signing of the MOA-AD.

 

x x x x

 

GOVERNANCE

 

x x x x

 

7. The Parties agree that mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation of this MOA-AD shall be spelt out in the Comprehensive Compact to mutually take such steps to enable it to occur effectively.

 

Any provisions of the MOA-AD requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall come into force upon the signing of a Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework with due regard to non-derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be contained in the Comprehensive Compact.[64] (Underscoring supplied)

 

 

The Solicitor Generals arguments fail to persuade.

 

Concrete acts under the MOA-AD are not necessary to render the present controversy ripe. In Pimentel, Jr. v. Aguirre,[65] this Court held:

 

x x x [B]y the mere enactment of the questioned law or the approval of the challenged action, the dispute is said to have ripened into a judicial controversy even without any other overt act. Indeed, even a singular violation of the Constitution and/or the law is enough to awaken judicial duty.

 

x x x x

 

By the same token, when an act of the President, who in our constitutional scheme is a coequal of Congress, is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution and the laws x x x settling the dispute becomes the duty and the responsibility of the courts.[66]

 

 

In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe,[67] the United States Supreme Court held that the challenge to the constitutionality of the schools policy allowing student-led prayers and speeches before games was ripe for adjudication, even if no public prayer had yet been led under the policy, because the policy was being challenged as unconstitutional on its face.[68]

 

That the law or act in question is not yet effective does not negate ripeness. For example, in New York v. United States,[69] decided in 1992, the United States Supreme Court held that the action by the State of New York challenging the provisions of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act was ripe for adjudication even if the questioned provision was not to take effect until January 1, 1996, because the parties agreed that New York had to take immediate action to avoid the provision's consequences.[70]

 

The present petitions pray for Certiorari,[71] Prohibition, and Mandamus. Certiorari and Prohibition are remedies granted by law when any tribunal, board or officer has acted, in the case of certiorari, or is proceeding, in the case of prohibition, without or in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.[72] Mandamus is a remedy granted by law when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station, or unlawfully excludes another from the use or enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is entitled.[73] Certiorari, Mandamus and Prohibition are appropriate remedies to raise constitutional issues and to review and/or prohibit/nullify, when proper, acts of legislative and executive officials.[74]

 

The authority of the GRP Negotiating Panel is defined by Executive Order No. 3 (E.O. No. 3), issued on February 28, 2001.[75] The said executive order requires that [t]he government's policy framework for peace, including the systematic approach and the administrative structure for carrying out the comprehensive peace process x x x be governed by this Executive Order.[76]

 

The present petitions allege that respondents GRP Panel and PAPP Esperon drafted the terms of the MOA-AD without consulting the local government units or communities affected, nor informing them of the proceedings. As will be discussed in greater detail later, such omission, by itself, constitutes a departure by respondents from their mandate under E.O. No. 3.

 

Furthermore, the petitions allege that the provisions of the MOA-AD violate the Constitution. The MOA-AD provides that any provisions of the MOA-AD requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall come into force upon the signing of a Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework, implying an amendment of the Constitution to accommodate the MOA-AD. This stipulation, in effect, guaranteed to the MILF the amendment of the Constitution. Such act constitutes another violation of its authority. Again, these points will be discussed in more detail later.

As the petitions allege acts or omissions on the part of respondent that exceed their authority, by violating their duties under E.O. No. 3 and the provisions of the Constitution and statutes, the petitions make a prima facie case for Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus, and an actual case or controversy ripe for adjudication exists. When an act of a branch of government is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it becomes not only the right but in fact the duty of the judiciary to settle the dispute.[77]

 

B. Locus Standi

 

 

For a party to have locus standi, one must allege such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.[78]

 

Because constitutional cases are often public actions in which the relief sought is likely to affect other persons, a preliminary question frequently arises as to this interest in the constitutional question raised.[79]

 

When suing as a citizen, the person complaining must allege that he has been or is about to be denied some right or privilege to which he is lawfully entitled or that he is about to be subjected to some burdens or penalties by reason of the statute or act complained of.[80] When the issue concerns a public right, it is sufficient that the petitioner is a citizen and has an interest in the execution of the laws.[81]

 

For a taxpayer, one is allowed to sue where there is an assertion that public funds are illegally disbursed or deflected to an illegal purpose, or that there is a wastage of public funds through the enforcement of an invalid or unconstitutional law.[82] The Court retains discretion whether or not to allow a taxpayers suit.[83]

 

In the case of a legislator or member of Congress, an act of the Executive that injures the institution of Congress causes a derivative but nonetheless substantial injury that can be questioned by legislators. A member of the House of Representatives has standing to maintain inviolate the prerogatives, powers and privileges vested by the Constitution in his office.[84]

 

An organization may be granted standing to assert the rights of its members,[85] but the mere invocation by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines or any member of the legal profession of the duty to preserve the rule of law does not suffice to clothe it with standing.[86]

 

As regards a local government unit (LGU), it can seek relief in order to protect or vindicate an interest of its own, and of the other LGUs.[87]

 

Intervenors, meanwhile, may be given legal standing upon showing of facts that satisfy the requirements of the law authorizing intervention,[88] such as a legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success of either of the parties.

 

In any case, the Court has discretion to relax the procedural technicality on locus standi, given the liberal attitude it has exercised, highlighted in the case of David v. Macapagal-Arroyo,[89] where technicalities of procedure were brushed aside, the constitutional issues raised being of paramount public interest or of transcendental importance deserving the attention of the Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents.[90] The Courts forbearing stance on locus standi on issues involving constitutional issues has for its purpose the protection of fundamental rights.

 

In not a few cases, the Court, in keeping with its duty under the Constitution to determine whether the other branches of government have kept themselves within the limits of the Constitution and the laws and have not abused the discretion given them, has brushed aside technical rules of procedure.[91]

 

In the petitions at bar, petitioners Province of North Cotabato (G.R. No. 183591) Province of Zamboanga del Norte (G.R. No. 183951), City of Iligan (G.R. No. 183893) and City of Zamboanga (G.R. No. 183752) and petitioners-in-intervention Province of Sultan Kudarat, City of Isabela and Municipality of Linamon have locus standi in view of the direct and substantial injury that they, as LGUs, would suffer as their territories, whether in whole or in part, are to be included in the intended domain of the BJE. These petitioners allege that they did not vote for their inclusion in the ARMM which would be expanded to form the BJE territory. Petitioners legal standing is thus beyond doubt.

 

In G.R. No. 183962, petitioners Ernesto Maceda, Jejomar Binay and Aquilino Pimentel III would have no standing as citizens and taxpayers for their failure to specify that they would be denied some right or privilege or there would be wastage of public funds. The fact that they are a former Senator, an incumbent mayor of Makati City, and a resident of Cagayan de Oro, respectively, is of no consequence. Considering their invocation of the transcendental importance of the issues at hand, however, the Court grants them standing.

 

Intervenors Franklin Drilon and Adel Tamano, in alleging their standing as taxpayers, assert that government funds would be expended for the conduct of an illegal and unconstitutional plebiscite to delineate the BJE territory. On that score alone, they can be given legal standing. Their allegation that the issues involved in these petitions are of undeniable transcendental importance clothes them with added basis for their personality to intervene in these petitions.

 

With regard to Senator Manuel Roxas, his standing is premised on his being a member of the Senate and a citizen to enforce compliance by respondents of the publics constitutional right to be informed of the MOA-AD, as well as on a genuine legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success or failure of either of the parties. He thus possesses the requisite standing as an intervenor.

 

With respect to Intervenors Ruy Elias Lopez, as a former congressman of the 3rd district of Davao City, a taxpayer and a member of the Bagobo tribe; Carlo B. Gomez, et al., as members of the IBP Palawan chapter, citizens and taxpayers; Marino Ridao, as taxpayer, resident and member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cotabato City; and Kisin Buxani, as taxpayer, they failed to allege any proper legal interest in the present petitions. Just the same, the Court exercises its discretion to relax the procedural technicality on locus standi given the paramount public interest in the issues at hand.

 

Intervening respondents Muslim Multi-Sectoral Movement for Peace and Development, an advocacy group for justice and the attainment of peace and prosperity in Muslim Mindanao; and Muslim Legal Assistance Foundation Inc., a non-government organization of Muslim lawyers, allege that they stand to be benefited or prejudiced, as the case may be, in the resolution of the petitions concerning the MOA-AD, and prays for the denial of the petitions on the grounds therein stated. Such legal interest suffices to clothe them with standing.

 

B. Mootness

 

Respondents insist that the present petitions have been rendered moot with the satisfaction of all the reliefs prayed for by petitioners and the subsequent pronouncement of the Executive Secretary that [n]o matter what the Supreme Court ultimately decides[,] the government will not sign the MOA.[92]

 

In lending credence to this policy decision, the Solicitor General points out that the President had already disbanded the GRP Peace Panel.[93]

 

In David v. Macapagal-Arroyo,[94] this Court held that the moot and academic principle not being a magical formula that automatically dissuades courts in resolving a case, it will decide cases, otherwise moot and academic, if it finds that (a) there is a grave violation of the Constitution;[95] (b) the situation is of exceptional character and paramount public interest is involved;[96] (c) the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public;[97] and (d) the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.[98]

 

Another exclusionary circumstance that may be considered is where there is a voluntary cessation of the activity complained of by the defendant or doer. Thus, once a suit is filed and the doer voluntarily ceases the challenged conduct, it does not automatically deprive the tribunal of power to hear and determine the case and does not render the case moot especially when the plaintiff seeks damages or prays for injunctive relief against the possible recurrence of the violation.[99]

 

The present petitions fall squarely into these exceptions to thus thrust them into the domain of judicial review. The grounds cited above in David are just as applicable in the present cases as they were, not only in David, but also in Province of Batangas v. Romulo[100] and Manalo v. Calderon[101] where the Court similarly decided them on the merits, supervening events that would ordinarily have rendered the same moot notwithstanding.

 

Petitions not mooted

 

 

Contrary then to the asseverations of respondents, the non-signing of the MOA-AD and the eventual dissolution of the GRP Peace Panel did not moot the present petitions. It bears emphasis that the signing of the MOA-AD did not push through due to the Courts issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order.

 

Contrary too to respondents position, the MOA-AD cannot be considered a mere list of consensus points, especially given its nomenclature, the need to have it signed or initialed by all the parties concerned on August 5, 2008, and the far-reaching Constitutional implications of these consensus points, foremost of which is the creation of the BJE.

 

In fact, as what will, in the main, be discussed, there is a commitment on the part of respondents to amend and effect necessary changes to the existing legal framework for certain provisions of the MOA-AD to take effect. Consequently, the present petitions are not confined to the terms and provisions of the MOA-AD, but to other on-going and future negotiations and agreements necessary for its realization. The petitions have not, therefore, been rendered moot and academic simply by the public disclosure of the MOA-AD,[102] the manifestation that it will not be signed as well as the disbanding of the GRP Panel not withstanding.

 

Petitions are imbued with paramount public interest

 

 

There is no gainsaying that the petitions are imbued with paramount public interest, involving a significant part of the countrys territory and the wide-ranging political modifications of affected LGUs. The assertion that the MOA-AD is subject to further legal enactments including possible Constitutional amendments more than ever provides impetus for the Court to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, the public and, in this case, the government and its negotiating entity.

 

Respondents cite Suplico v. NEDA, et al.[103] where the Court did not pontificat[e] on issues which no longer legitimately constitute an actual case or controversy [as this] will do more harm than good to the nation as a whole.

 

The present petitions must be differentiated from Suplico. Primarily, in Suplico, what was assailed and eventually cancelled was a stand-alone government procurement contract for a national broadband network involving a one-time contractual relation between two partiesthe government and a private foreign corporation. As the issues therein involved specific government procurement policies and standard principles on contracts, the majority opinion in Suplico found nothing exceptional therein, the factual circumstances being peculiar only to the transactions and parties involved in the controversy.

The MOA-AD is part of a series of agreements

 

In the present controversy, the MOA-AD is a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the Tripoli Agreement 2001. The MOA-AD which dwells on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of said Tripoli Agreement is the third such component to be undertaken following the implementation of the Security Aspect in August 2001 and the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Aspect in May 2002.

 

Accordingly, even if the Executive Secretary, in his Memorandum of August 28, 2008 to the Solicitor General, has stated that no matter what the Supreme Court ultimately decides[,] the government will not sign the MOA[-AD], mootness will not set in in light of the terms of the Tripoli Agreement 2001.

 

Need to formulate principles-guidelines

 

Surely, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one will be drawn up to carry out the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement 2001, in another or in any form, which could contain similar or significantly drastic provisions. While the Court notes the word of the Executive Secretary that the government is committed to securing an agreement that is both constitutional and equitable because that is the only way that long-lasting peace can be assured, it is minded to render a decision on the merits in the present petitions to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, the public and, most especially, the government in negotiating with the MILF regarding Ancestral Domain.

 

Respondents invite the Courts attention to the separate opinion of then Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban in Sanlakas v. Reyes[104] in which he stated that the doctrine of capable of repetition yet evading review can override mootness, provided the party raising it in a proper case has been and/or continue to be prejudiced or damaged as a direct result of their issuance. They contend that the Court must have jurisdiction over the subject matter for the doctrine to be invoked.

 

The present petitions all contain prayers for Prohibition over which this Court exercises original jurisdiction. While G.R. No. 183893 (City of Iligan v. GRP) is a petition for Injunction and Declaratory Relief, the Court will treat it as one for Prohibition as it has far reaching implications and raises questions that need to be resolved.[105] At all events, the Court has jurisdiction over most if not the rest of the petitions.

 

Indeed, the present petitions afford a proper venue for the Court to again apply the doctrine immediately referred to as what it had done in a number of landmark cases.[106] There is a reasonable expectation that petitioners, particularly the Provinces of North Cotabato, Zamboanga del Norte and Sultan Kudarat, the Cities of Zamboanga, Iligan and Isabela, and the Municipality of Linamon, will again be subjected to the same problem in the future as respondents actions are capable of repetition, in another or any form.

 

It is with respect to the prayers for Mandamus that the petitions have become moot, respondents having, by Compliance of August 7, 2008, provided this Court and petitioners with official copies of the final draft of the MOA-AD and its annexes. Too, intervenors have been furnished, or have procured for themselves, copies of the MOA-AD.

V. SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES

 

 

As culled from the Petitions and Petitions-in-Intervention, there are basically two SUBSTANTIVE issues to be resolved, one relating to the manner in which the MOA-AD was negotiated and finalized, the other relating to its provisions, viz:

 

1. Did respondents violate constitutional and statutory provisions on public consultation and the right to information when they negotiated and later initialed the MOA-AD?

 

2. Do the contents of the MOA-AD violate the Constitution and the laws?

On the first Substantive issue

 

Petitioners invoke their constitutional right to information on matters of public concern, as provided in Section 7, Article III on the Bill of Rights:

 

Sec. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.[107]

 

 

As early as 1948, in Subido v. Ozaeta,[108] the Court has recognized the statutory right to examine and inspect public records, a right which was eventually accorded constitutional status.

 

The right of access to public documents, as enshrined in both the 1973 Constitution and the 1987 Constitution, has been recognized as a self-executory constitutional right.[109]

 

In the 1976 case of Baldoza v. Hon. Judge Dimaano,[110] the Court ruled that access to public records is predicated on the right of the people to acquire information on matters of public concern since, undoubtedly, in a democracy, the pubic has a legitimate interest in matters of social and political significance.

 

x x x The incorporation of this right in the Constitution is a recognition of the fundamental role of free exchange of information in a democracy. There can be no realistic perception by the public of the nations problems, nor a meaningful democratic decision-making if they are denied access to information of general interest. Information is needed to enable the members of society to cope with the exigencies of the times. As has been aptly observed: Maintaining the flow of such information depends on protection for both its acquisition and its dissemination since, if either process is interrupted, the flow inevitably ceases. x x x[111]

 

 

In the same way that free discussion enables members of society to cope with the exigencies of their time, access to information of general interest aids the people in democratic decision-making by giving them a better perspective of the vital issues confronting the nation[112] so that they may be able to criticize and participate in the affairs of the government in a responsible, reasonable and effective manner. It is by ensuring an unfettered and uninhibited exchange of ideas among a well-informed public that a government remains responsive to the changes desired by the people.[113]

 

The MOA-AD is a matter of public concern

 

That the subject of the information sought in the present cases is a matter of public concern[114] faces no serious challenge. In fact, respondents admit that the MOA-AD is indeed of public concern.[115] In previous cases, the Court found that the regularity of real estate transactions entered in the Register of Deeds,[116] the need for adequate notice to the public of the various laws,[117] the civil service eligibility of a public employee,[118] the proper management of GSIS funds allegedly used to grant loans to public officials,[119] the recovery of the Marcoses alleged ill-gotten wealth,[120] and the identity of party-list nominees,[121] among others, are matters of public concern. Undoubtedly, the MOA-AD subject of the present cases is of public concern, involving as it does the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State, which directly affects the lives of the public at large.

 

Matters of public concern covered by the right to information include steps and negotiations leading to the consummation of the contract. In not distinguishing as to the executory nature or commercial character of agreements, the Court has categorically ruled:

 

x x x [T]he right to information contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of the transaction. Certainly, a consummated contract is not a requirement for the exercise of the right to information. Otherwise, the people can never exercise the right if no contract is consummated, and if one is consummated, it may be too late for the public to expose its defects.

Requiring a consummated contract will keep the public in the dark until the contract, which may be grossly disadvantageous to the government or even illegal, becomes fait accompli. This negates the State policy of full transparency on matters of public concern, a situation which the framers of the Constitution could not have intended. Such a requirement will prevent the citizenry from participating in the public discussion of any proposed contract, effectively truncating a basic right enshrined in the Bill of Rights. We can allow neither an emasculation of a constitutional right, nor a retreat by the State of its avowed policy of full disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.[122] (Emphasis and italics in the original)

 

 

Intended as a splendid symmetry[123] to the right to information under the Bill of Rights is the policy of public disclosure under Section 28, Article II of the Constitution reading:

 

Sec. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.[124]

 

The policy of full public disclosure enunciated in above-quoted Section 28 complements the right of access to information on matters of public concern found in the Bill of Rights. The right to information guarantees the right of the people to demand information, while Section 28 recognizes the duty of officialdom to give information even if nobody demands.[125]

 

The policy of public disclosure establishes a concrete ethical principle for the conduct of public affairs in a genuinely open democracy, with the peoples right to know as the centerpiece. It is a mandate of the State to be accountable by following such policy.[126] These provisions are vital to the exercise of the freedom of expression and essential to hold public officials at all times accountable to the people.[127]

 

Whether Section 28 is self-executory, the records of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission so disclose:

 

MR. SUAREZ. And since this is not self-executory, this policy will not be enunciated or will not be in force and effect until after Congress shall have provided it.

 

MR. OPLE. I expect it to influence the climate of public ethics immediately but, of course, the implementing law will have to be enacted by Congress, Mr. Presiding Officer.[128]

 

 

The following discourse, after Commissioner Hilario Davide, Jr., sought clarification on the issue, is enlightening.

 

MR. DAVIDE. I would like to get some clarifications on this. Mr. Presiding Officer, did I get the Gentleman correctly as having said that this is not a self-executing provision? It would require a legislation by Congress to implement?

 

MR. OPLE. Yes. Originally, it was going to be self-executing, but I accepted an amendment from Commissioner Regalado, so that the safeguards on national interest are modified by the clause as may be provided by law

 

MR. DAVIDE. But as worded, does it not mean that this will immediately take effect and Congress may provide for reasonable safeguards on the sole ground national interest?

 

MR. OPLE. Yes. I think so, Mr. Presiding Officer, I said earlier that it should immediately influence the climate of the conduct of public affairs but, of course, Congress here may no longer pass a law revoking it, or if this is approved, revoking this principle, which is inconsistent with this policy.[129] (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

Indubitably, the effectivity of the policy of public disclosure need not await the passing of a statute. As Congress cannot revoke this principle, it is merely directed to provide for reasonable safeguards. The complete and effective exercise of the right to information necessitates that its complementary provision on public disclosure derive the same self-executory nature. Since both provisions go hand-in-hand, it is absurd to say that the broader[130] right to information on matters of public concern is already enforceable while the correlative duty of the State to disclose its transactions involving public interest is not enforceable until there is an enabling law. Respondents cannot thus point to the absence of an implementing legislation as an excuse in not effecting such policy.

 

An essential element of these freedoms is to keep open a continuing dialogue or process of communication between the government and the people. It is in the interest of the State that the channels for free political discussion be maintained to the end that the government may perceive and be responsive to the peoples will.[131] Envisioned to be corollary to the twin rights to information and disclosure is the design for feedback mechanisms.

 

MS. ROSARIO BRAID. Yes. And lastly, Mr. Presiding Officer, will the people be able to participate? Will the government provide feedback mechanisms so that the people can participate and can react where the existing media facilities are not able to provide full feedback mechanisms to the government? I suppose this will be part of the government implementing operational mechanisms.

 

MR. OPLE. Yes. I think through their elected representatives and that is how these courses take place. There is a message and a feedback, both ways.

 

x x x x

 

MS. ROSARIO BRAID. Mr. Presiding Officer, may I just make one last sentence?

 

I think when we talk about the feedback network, we are not talking about public officials but also network of private business o[r] community-based organizations that will be reacting. As a matter of fact, we will put more credence or credibility on the private network of volunteers and voluntary community-based organizations. So I do not think we are afraid that there will be another OMA in the making.[132] (Emphasis supplied)

 

The imperative of a public consultation, as a species of the right to information, is evident in the marching orders to respondents. The mechanics for the duty to disclose information and to conduct public consultation regarding the peace agenda and process is manifestly provided by E.O. No. 3.[133] The preambulatory clause of E.O. No. 3 declares that there is a need to further enhance the contribution of civil society to the comprehensive peace process by institutionalizing the peoples participation.

One of the three underlying principles of the comprehensive peace process is that it should be community-based, reflecting the sentiments, values and principles important to all Filipinos and shall be defined not by the government alone, nor by the different contending groups only, but by all Filipinos as one community.[134] Included as a component of the comprehensive peace process is consensus-building and empowerment for peace, which includes continuing consultations on both national and local levels to build consensus for a peace agenda and process, and the mobilization and facilitation of peoples participation in the peace process.[135]

 

Clearly, E.O. No. 3 contemplates not just the conduct of a plebiscite to effectuate continuing consultations, contrary to respondents position that plebiscite is more than sufficient consultation.[136]

 

Further, E.O. No. 3 enumerates the functions and responsibilities of the PAPP, one of which is to [c]onduct regular dialogues with the National Peace Forum (NPF) and other peace partners to seek relevant information, comments, recommendations as well as to render appropriate and timely reports on the progress of the comprehensive peace process.[137] E.O. No. 3 mandates the establishment of the NPF to be the principal forum for the PAPP to consult with and seek advi[c]e from the peace advocates, peace partners and concerned sectors of society on both national and local levels, on the implementation of the comprehensive peace process, as well as for government[-]civil society dialogue and consensus-building on peace agenda and initiatives.[138]

 

In fine, E.O. No. 3 establishes petitioners right to be consulted on the peace agenda, as a corollary to the constitutional right to information and disclosure.

 

PAPP Esperon committed grave abuse of discretion

 

 

The PAPP committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation. The furtive process by which the MOA-AD was designed and crafted runs contrary to and in excess of the legal authority, and amounts to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise thereof.

 

The Court may not, of course, require the PAPP to conduct the consultation in a particular way or manner. It may, however, require him to comply with the law and discharge the functions within the authority granted by the President.[139]

 

Petitioners are not claiming a seat at the negotiating table, contrary to respondents retort in justifying the denial of petitioners right to be consulted. Respondents stance manifests the manner by which they treat the salient provisions of E.O. No. 3 on peoples participation. Such disregard of the express mandate of the President is not much different from superficial conduct toward token provisos that border on classic lip service.[140] It illustrates a gross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined.

 

As for respondents invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege, it is not tenable under the premises. The argument defies sound reason when contrasted with E.O. No. 3s explicit provisions on continuing consultation and dialogue on both national and local levels. The executive order even recognizes the exercise of the publics right even before the GRP makes its official recommendations or before the government proffers its definite propositions.[141] It bear emphasis that E.O. No. 3 seeks to elicit relevant advice, information, comments and recommendations from the people through dialogue.

 

AT ALL EVENTS, respondents effectively waived the defense of executive privilege in view of their unqualified disclosure of the official copies of the final draft of the MOA-AD. By unconditionally complying with the Courts August 4, 2008 Resolution, without a prayer for the documents disclosure in camera, or without a manifestation that it was complying therewith ex abundante ad cautelam.

 

Petitioners assertion that the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 declares it a State policy to require all national agencies and offices to conduct periodic consultations with appropriate local government units, non-governmental and people's organizations, and other concerned sectors of the community before any project or program is implemented in their respective jurisdictions[142] is well-taken. The LGC chapter on intergovernmental relations puts flesh into this avowed policy:

 

Prior Consultations Required. No project or program shall be implemented by government authorities unless the consultations mentioned in Sections 2 (c) and 26 hereof are complied with, and prior approval of the sanggunian concerned is obtained: Provided, That occupants in areas where such projects are to be implemented shall not be evicted unless appropriate relocation sites have been provided, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.[143] (Italics and underscoring supplied)

 

 

In Lina, Jr. v. Hon. Pao,[144] the Court held that the above-stated policy and above-quoted provision of the LGU apply only to national programs or projects which are to be implemented in a particular local community. Among the programs and projects covered are those that are critical to the environment and human ecology including those that may call for the eviction of a particular group of people residing in the locality where these will be implemented.[145] The MOA-AD is one peculiar program that unequivocally and unilaterally vests ownership of a vast territory to the Bangsamoro people,[146] which could pervasively and drastically result to the diaspora or displacement of a great number of inhabitants from their total environment.

 

With respect to the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs), whose interests are represented herein by petitioner Lopez and are adversely affected by the MOA-AD, the ICCs/IPs have, under the IPRA, the right to participate fully at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies.[147] The MOA-AD, an instrument recognizing ancestral domain, failed to justify its non-compliance with the clear-cut mechanisms ordained in said Act,[148] which entails, among other things, the observance of the free and prior informed consent of the ICCs/IPs.

Notably, the IPRA does not grant the Executive Department or any government agency the power to delineate and recognize an ancestral domain claim by mere agreement or compromise. The recognition of the ancestral domain is the raison detre of the MOA-AD, without which all other stipulations or consensus points necessarily must fail. In proceeding to make a sweeping declaration on ancestral domain, without complying with the IPRA, which is cited as one of the TOR of the MOA-AD, respondents clearly transcended the boundaries of their authority. As it seems, even the heart of the MOA-AD is still subject to necessary changes to the legal framework. While paragraph 7 on Governance suspends the effectivity of all provisions requiring changes to the legal framework, such clause is itself invalid, as will be discussed in the following section.

 

Indeed, ours is an open society, with all the acts of the government subject to public scrutiny and available always to public cognizance. This has to be so if the country is to remain democratic, with sovereignty residing in the people and all government authority emanating from them.[149]

 

 

ON THE SECOND SUBSTANTIVE ISSUE

 

With regard to the provisions of the MOA-AD, there can be no question that they cannot all be accommodated under the present Constitution and laws. Respondents have admitted as much in the oral arguments before this Court, and the MOA-AD itself recognizes the need to amend the existing legal framework to render effective at least some of its provisions. Respondents, nonetheless, counter that the MOA-AD is free of any legal infirmity because any provisions therein which are inconsistent with the present legal framework will not be effective until the necessary changes to that framework are made. The validity of this argument will be considered later. For now, the Court shall pass upon how

 

The MOA-AD is inconsistent with the Constitution and laws as presently worded.

 

In general, the objections against the MOA-AD center on the extent of the powers conceded therein to the BJE. Petitioners assert that the powers granted to the BJE exceed those granted to any local government under present laws, and even go beyond those of the present ARMM. Before assessing some of the specific powers that would have been vested in the BJE, however, it would be useful to turn first to a general idea that serves as a unifying link to the different provisions of the MOA-AD, namely, the international law concept of association. Significantly, the MOA-AD explicitly alludes to this concept, indicating that the Parties actually framed its provisions with it in mind.

 

Association is referred to in paragraph 3 on TERRITORY, paragraph 11 on RESOURCES, and paragraph 4 on GOVERNANCE. It is in the last mentioned provision, however, that the MOA-AD most clearly uses it to describe the envisioned relationship between the BJE and the Central Government.

 

4. The relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro juridical entity shall be associative characterized by shared authority and responsibility with a structure of governance based on executive, legislative, judicial and administrative institutions with defined powers and functions in the comprehensive compact. A period of transition shall be established in a comprehensive peace compact specifying the relationship between the Central Government and the BJE. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

The nature of the associative relationship may have been intended to be defined more precisely in the still to be forged Comprehensive Compact. Nonetheless, given that there is a concept of association in international law, and the MOA-AD by its inclusion of international law instruments in its TOR placed itself in an international legal context, that concept of association may be brought to bear in understanding the use of the term associative in the MOA-AD.

 

Keitner and Reisman state that

 

[a]n association is formed when two states of unequal power voluntarily establish durable links. In the basic model, one state, the associate, delegates certain responsibilities to the other, the principal, while maintaining its international status as a state. Free associations represent a middle ground between integration and independence. x x x[150] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

 

For purposes of illustration, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), formerly part of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands,[151] are associated states of the U.S. pursuant to a Compact of Free Association. The currency in these countries is the U.S. dollar, indicating their very close ties with the U.S., yet they issue their own travel documents, which is a mark of their statehood. Their international legal status as states was confirmed by the UN Security Council and by their admission to UN membership.

 

According to their compacts of free association, the Marshall Islands and the FSM generally have the capacity to conduct foreign affairs in their own name and right, such capacity extending to matters such as the law of the sea, marine resources, trade, banking, postal, civil aviation, and cultural relations. The U.S. government, when conducting its foreign affairs, is obligated to consult with the governments of the Marshall Islands or the FSM on matters which it (U.S. government) regards as relating to or affecting either government.

 

In the event of attacks or threats against the Marshall Islands or the FSM, the U.S. government has the authority and obligation to defend them as if they were part of U.S. territory. The U.S. government, moreover, has the option of establishing and using military areas and facilities within these associated states and has the right to bar the military personnel of any third country from having access to these territories for military purposes.

 

It bears noting that in U.S. constitutional and international practice, free association is understood as an international association between sovereigns. The Compact of Free Association is a treaty which is subordinate to the associated nations national constitution, and each party may terminate the association consistent with the right of independence. It has been said that, with the admission of the U.S.-associated states to the UN in 1990, the UN recognized that the American model of free association is actually based on an underlying status of independence.[152]

 

In international practice, the associated state arrangement has usually been used as a transitional device of former colonies on their way to full independence. Examples of states that have passed through the status of associated states as a transitional phase are Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada. All have since become independent states.[153]

 

Back to the MOA-AD, it contains many provisions which are consistent with the international legal concept of association, specifically the following: the BJEs capacity to enter into economic and trade relations with foreign countries, the commitment of the Central Government to ensure the BJEs participation in meetings and events in the ASEAN and the specialized UN agencies, and the continuing responsibility of the Central Government over external defense. Moreover, the BJEs right to participate in Philippine official missions bearing on negotiation of border agreements, environmental protection, and sharing of revenues pertaining to the bodies of water adjacent to or between the islands forming part of the ancestral domain, resembles the right of the governments of FSM and the Marshall Islands to be consulted by the U.S. government on any foreign affairs matter affecting them.

 

These provisions of the MOA indicate, among other things, that the Parties aimed to vest in the BJE the status of an associated state or, at any rate, a status closely approximating it.

 

The concept of association is not recognized under the present Constitution

 

No province, city, or municipality, not even the ARMM, is recognized under our laws as having an associative relationship with the national government. Indeed, the concept implies powers that go beyond anything ever granted by the Constitution to any local or regional government. It also implies the recognition of the associated entity as a state. The Constitution, however, does not contemplate any state in this jurisdiction other than the Philippine State, much less does it provide for a transitory status that aims to prepare any part of Philippine territory for independence.

 

Even the mere concept animating many of the MOA-ADs provisions, therefore, already requires for its validity the amendment of constitutional provisions, specifically the following provisions of Article X:

 

SECTION 1. The territorial and political subdivisions of the Republic of the Philippines are the provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. There shall be autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras as hereinafter provided.

 

SECTION 15. There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.

 

 

The BJE is a far more powerful

entity than the autonomous region

recognized in the Constitution

 

 

It is not merely an expanded version of the ARMM, the status of its relationship with the national government being fundamentally different from that of the ARMM. Indeed, BJE is a state in all but name as it meets the criteria of a state laid down in the Montevideo Convention,[154] namely, a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and a capacity to enter into relations with other states.

 

Even assuming arguendo that the MOA-AD would not necessarily sever any portion of Philippine territory, the spirit animating it which has betrayed itself by its use of the concept of association runs counter to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic.

 

The defining concept underlying the relationship between the national government and the BJE being itself contrary to the present Constitution, it is not surprising that many of the specific provisions of the MOA-AD on the formation and powers of the BJE are in conflict with the Constitution and the laws.

 

Article X, Section 18 of the Constitution provides that [t]he creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region. (Emphasis supplied)

 

As reflected above, the BJE is more of a state than an autonomous region. But even assuming that it is covered by the term autonomous region in the constitutional provision just quoted, the MOA-AD would still be in conflict with it. Under paragraph 2(c) on TERRITORY in relation to 2(d) and 2(e), the present geographic area of the ARMM and, in addition, the municipalities of Lanao del Norte which voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal are automatically part of the BJE without need of another plebiscite, in contrast to the areas under Categories A and B mentioned earlier in the overview. That the present components of the ARMM and the above-mentioned municipalities voted for inclusion therein in 2001, however, does not render another plebiscite unnecessary under the Constitution, precisely because what these areas voted for then was their inclusion in the ARMM, not the BJE.

 

 

The MOA-AD, moreover, would not

comply with Article X, Section 20 of

the Constitution

 

since that provision defines the powers of autonomous regions as follows:

 

SECTION 20. Within its territorial jurisdiction and subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national laws, the organic act of autonomous regions shall provide for legislative powers over:

 

(1) Administrative organization;

(2) Creation of sources of revenues;

(3) Ancestral domain and natural resources;

(4) Personal, family, and property relations;

(5) Regional urban and rural planning development;

(6) Economic, social, and tourism development;

(7) Educational policies;

(8) Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and

(9) Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people of the region. (Underscoring supplied)

 

 

Again on the premise that the BJE may be regarded as an autonomous region, the MOA-AD would require an amendment that would expand the above-quoted provision. The mere passage of new legislation pursuant to sub-paragraph No. 9 of said constitutional provision would not suffice, since any new law that might vest in the BJE the powers found in the MOA-AD must, itself, comply with other provisions of the Constitution. It would not do, for instance, to merely pass legislation vesting the BJE with treaty-making power in order to accommodate paragraph 4 of the strand on RESOURCES which states: The BJE is free to enter into any economic cooperation and trade relations with foreign countries: provided, however, that such relationships and understandings do not include aggression against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines x x x. Under our constitutional system, it is only the President who has that power. Pimentel v. Executive Secretary[155] instructs:

 

In our system of government, the President, being the head of state, is regarded as the sole organ and authority in external relations and is the country's sole representative with foreign nations. As the chief architect of foreign policy, the President acts as the country's mouthpiece with respect to international affairs. Hence, the President is vested with the authority to deal with foreign states and governments, extend or withhold recognition, maintain diplomatic relations, enter into treaties, and otherwise transact the business of foreign relations. In the realm of treaty-making, the President has the sole authority to negotiate with other states. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

 

Article II, Section 22 of the Constitution must also be amended if the scheme envisioned in the MOA-AD is to be effected. That constitutional provision states: The State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development. (Underscoring supplied) An associative arrangement does not uphold national unity. While there may be a semblance of unity because of the associative ties between the BJE and the national government, the act of placing a portion of Philippine territory in a status which, in international practice, has generally been a preparation for independence, is certainly not conducive to national unity.

 

Besides being irreconcilable with the Constitution, the MOA-AD is also inconsistent with prevailing statutory law, among which are R.A. No. 9054[156] or the Organic Act of the ARMM, and the IPRA.[157]

 

 

Article X, Section 3 of the Organic Act of the ARMM is a bar to the adoption of the definition of Bangsamoro people used in the MOA-AD. Paragraph 1 on Concepts and Principles states:

 

1. It is the birthright of all Moros and all Indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as Bangsamoros. The Bangsamoro people refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization of its descendants whether mixed or of full blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the Indigenous people shall be respected. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

This use of the term Bangsamoro sharply contrasts with that found in the Article X, Section 3 of the Organic Act, which, rather than lumping together the identities of the Bangsamoro and other indigenous peoples living in Mindanao, clearly distinguishes between Bangsamoro people and Tribal peoples, as follows:

 

As used in this Organic Act, the phrase indigenous cultural community refers to Filipino citizens residing in the autonomous region who are:

 

(a) Tribal peoples. These are citizens whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sectors of the national community; and

 

(b) Bangsa Moro people. These are citizens who are believers in Islam and who have retained some or all of their own social, economic, cultural, and political institutions.

 

 

Respecting the IPRA, it lays down the prevailing procedure for the delineation and recognition of ancestral domains. The MOA-ADs manner of delineating the ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people is a clear departure from that procedure. By paragraph 1 of Territory, the Parties simply agree that, subject to the delimitations in the agreed Schedules, [t]he Bangsamoro homeland and historic territory refer to the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain, the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan geographic region.

 

Chapter VIII of the IPRA, on the other hand, lays down a detailed procedure, as illustrated in the following provisions thereof:

 

SECTION 52. Delineation Process. The identification and delineation of ancestral domains shall be done in accordance with the following procedures:

 

x x x x

 

b) Petition for Delineation. The process of delineating a specific perimeter may be initiated by the NCIP with the consent of the ICC/IP concerned, or through a Petition for Delineation filed with the NCIP, by a majority of the members of the ICCs/IPs;

 

c) Delineation Proper. The official delineation of ancestral domain boundaries including census of all community members therein, shall be immediately undertaken by the Ancestral Domains Office upon filing of the application by the ICCs/IPs concerned. Delineation will be done in coordination with the community concerned and shall at all times include genuine involvement and participation by the members of the communities concerned;

 

d) Proof Required. Proof of Ancestral Domain Claims shall include the testimony of elders or community under oath, and other documents directly or indirectly attesting to the possession or occupation of the area since time immemorial by such ICCs/IPs in the concept of owners which shall be any one (1) of the following authentic documents:

 

1) Written accounts of the ICCs/IPs customs and traditions;

 

2) Written accounts of the ICCs/IPs political structure and institution;

 

3) Pictures showing long term occupation such as those of old improvements, burial grounds, sacred places and old villages;

 

4) Historical accounts, including pacts and agreements concerning boundaries entered into by the ICCs/IPs concerned with other ICCs/IPs;

 

5) Survey plans and sketch maps;

 

6) Anthropological data;

 

7) Genealogical surveys;

 

8) Pictures and descriptive histories of traditional communal forests and hunting grounds;

 

9) Pictures and descriptive histories of traditional landmarks such as mountains, rivers, creeks, ridges, hills, terraces and the like; and

 

10) Write-ups of names and places derived from the native dialect of the community.

 

e) Preparation of Maps. On the basis of such investigation and the findings of fact based thereon, the Ancestral Domains Office of the NCIP shall prepare a perimeter map, complete with technical descriptions, and a description of the natural features and landmarks embraced therein;

 

f) Report of Investigation and Other Documents. A complete copy of the preliminary census and a report of investigation, shall be prepared by the Ancestral Domains Office of the NCIP;

 

g) Notice and Publication. A copy of each document, including a translation in the native language of the ICCs/IPs concerned shall be posted in a prominent place therein for at least fifteen (15) days. A copy of the document shall also be posted at the local, provincial and regional offices of the NCIP, and shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for two (2) consecutive weeks to allow other claimants to file opposition thereto within fifteen (15) days from date of such publication: Provided, That in areas where no such newspaper exists, broadcasting in a radio station will be a valid substitute: Provided, further, That mere posting shall be deemed sufficient if both newspaper and radio station are not available;

 

h) Endorsement to NCIP. Within fifteen (15) days from publication, and of the inspection process, the Ancestral Domains Office shall prepare a report to the NCIP endorsing a favorable action upon a claim that is deemed to have sufficient proof. However, if the proof is deemed insufficient, the Ancestral Domains Office shall require the submission of additional evidence: Provided, That the Ancestral Domains Office shall reject any claim that is deemed patently false or fraudulent after inspection and verification: Provided, further, That in case of rejection, the Ancestral Domains Office shall give the applicant due notice, copy furnished all concerned, containing the grounds for denial. The denial shall be appealable to the NCIP: Provided, furthermore, That in cases where there are conflicting claims among ICCs/IPs on the boundaries of ancestral domain claims, the Ancestral Domains Office shall cause the contending parties to meet and assist them in coming up with a preliminary resolution of the conflict, without prejudice to its full adjudication according to the section below.

 

x x x x

To remove all doubts about the irreconcilability of the MOA-AD with the present legal system, a discussion of not only the Constitution and domestic statutes, but also of international law is in order, for

 

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states that the Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land.

 

 

Applying this provision of the Constitution, the Court, in Mejoff v. Director of Prisons,[158] held that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is part of the law of the land on account of which it ordered the release on bail of a detained alien of Russian descent whose deportation order had not been executed even after two years. Similarly, the Court in Agustin v. Edu[159] applied the aforesaid constitutional provision to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals.

 

International law has long recognized the right to self-determination of peoples, understood not merely as the entire population of a State but also a portion thereof. In considering the question of whether the people of Quebec had a right to unilaterally secede from Canada, the Canadian Supreme Court in REFERENCE RE SECESSION OF QUEBEC[160] had occasion to acknowledge that the right of a people to self-determination is now so widely recognized in international conventions that the principle has acquired a status beyond convention and is considered a general principle of international law.

Among the conventions referred to are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[161] and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[162] which state, in Article 1 of both covenants, that all peoples, by virtue of the right of self-determination, freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.

 

The peoples right to self-determination should not, however, be understood as extending to a unilateral right of secession. A distinction should be made between the right of internal and external self-determination. REFERENCE RE SECESSION OF QUEBEC is again instructive:

 

(ii) Scope of the Right to Self-determination

 

126. The recognized sources of international law establish that the right to self-determination of a people is normally fulfilled through internal self-determination a peoples pursuit of its political, economic, social and cultural development within the framework of an existing state. A right to external self-determination (which in this case potentially takes the form of the assertion of a right to unilateral secession) arises in only the most extreme of cases and, even then, under carefully defined circumstances. x x x

 

External self-determination can be defined as in the following statement from the Declaration on Friendly Relations, supra, as

 

The establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an independent State or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by a people constitute modes of implementing the right of self-determination by that people. (Emphasis added)

 

127. The international law principle of self-determination has evolved within a framework of respect for the territorial integrity of existing states. The various international documents that support the existence of a peoples right to self-determination also contain parallel statements supportive of the conclusion that the exercise of such a right must be sufficiently limited to prevent threats to an existing states territorial integrity or the stability of relations between sovereign states.

 

x x x x (Emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied)

 

 

The Canadian Court went on to discuss the exceptional cases in which the right to external self-determination can arise, namely, where a people is under colonial rule, is subject to foreign domination or exploitation outside a colonial context, and less definitely but asserted by a number of commentators is blocked from the meaningful exercise of its right to internal self-determination. The Court ultimately held that the population of Quebec had no right to secession, as the same is not under colonial rule or foreign domination, nor is it being deprived of the freedom to make political choices and pursue economic, social and cultural development, citing that Quebec is equitably represented in legislative, executive and judicial institutions within Canada, even occupying prominent positions therein.

 

The exceptional nature of the right of secession is further exemplified in the REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF JURISTS ON THE LEGAL ASPECTS OF THE AALAND ISLANDS QUESTION.[163] There, Sweden presented to the Council of the League of Nations the question of whether the inhabitants of the Aaland Islands should be authorized to determine by plebiscite if the archipelago should remain under Finnish sovereignty or be incorporated in the kingdom of Sweden. The Council, before resolving the question, appointed an International Committee composed of three jurists to submit an opinion on the preliminary issue of whether the dispute should, based on international law, be entirely left to the domestic jurisdiction of Finland. The Committee stated the rule as follows:

 

x x x [I]n the absence of express provisions in international treaties, the right of disposing of national territory is essentially an attribute of the sovereignty of every State. Positive International Law does not recognize the right of national groups, as such, to separate themselves from the State of which they form part by the simple expression of a wish, any more than it recognizes the right of other States to claim such a separation. Generally speaking, the grant or refusal of the right to a portion of its population of determining its own political fate by plebiscite or by some other method, is, exclusively, an attribute of the sovereignty of every State which is definitively constituted. A dispute between two States concerning such a question, under normal conditions therefore, bears upon a question which International Law leaves entirely to the domestic jurisdiction of one of the States concerned. Any other solution would amount to an infringement of sovereign rights of a State and would involve the risk of creating difficulties and a lack of stability which would not only be contrary to the very idea embodied in term State, but would also endanger the interests of the international community. If this right is not possessed by a large or small section of a nation, neither can it be held by the State to which the national group wishes to be attached, nor by any other State. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

 

The Committee held that the dispute concerning the Aaland Islands did not refer to a question which is left by international law to the domestic jurisdiction of Finland, thereby applying the exception rather than the rule elucidated above. Its ground for departing from the general rule, however, was a very narrow one, namely, the Aaland Islands agitation originated at a time when Finland was undergoing drastic political transformation. The internal situation of Finland was, according to the Committee, so abnormal that, for a considerable time, the conditions required for the formation of a sovereign State did not exist. In the midst of revolution, anarchy, and civil war, the legitimacy of the Finnish national government was disputed by a large section of the people, and it had, in fact, been chased from the capital and forcibly prevented from carrying out its duties. The armed camps and the police were divided into two opposing forces. In light of these circumstances, Finland was not, during the relevant time period, a definitively constituted sovereign state. The Committee, therefore, found that Finland did not possess the right to withhold from a portion of its population the option to separate itself a right which sovereign nations generally have with respect to their own populations.

 

Turning now to the more specific category of indigenous peoples, this term has been used, in scholarship as well as international, regional, and state practices, to refer to groups with distinct cultures, histories, and connections to land (spiritual and otherwise) that have been forcibly incorporated into a larger governing society. These groups are regarded as indigenous since they are the living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. Otherwise stated, indigenous peoples, nations, or communities are culturally distinctive groups that find themselves engulfed by settler societies born of the forces of empire and conquest.[164] Examples of groups who have been regarded as indigenous peoples are the Maori of New Zealand and the aboriginal peoples of Canada.

 

As with the broader category of peoples, indigenous peoples situated within states do not have a general right to independence or secession from those states under international law,[165] but they do have rights amounting to what was discussed above as the right to internal self-determination.

 

In a historic development last September 13, 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP) through General Assembly Resolution 61/295. The vote was 143 to 4, the Philippines being included among those in favor, and the four voting against being Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. The Declaration clearly recognized the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination, encompassing the right to autonomy or self-government, to wit:

 

Article 3

 

Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

 

Article 4

 

Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

 

Article 5

 

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

 

 

Self-government, as used in international legal discourse pertaining to indigenous peoples, has been understood as equivalent to internal self-determination.[166] The extent of self-determination provided for in the UN DRIP is more particularly defined in its subsequent articles, some of which are quoted hereunder:

Article 8

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

2.  States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:

(a)  Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;

(b)  Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;

(c)  Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;

(d)  Any form of forced assimilation or integration;

(e)  Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.

Article 21

 

1.  Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.

2.  States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.

 

Article 26

 

1.  Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2.  Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3.  States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

 

Article 30

 

1.  Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concerned.

 

2.  States shall undertake effective consultations with the indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activities.

 

Article 32

 

1.  Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.

 

2.  States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

 

3.  States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.

 

Article 37

 

1.  Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

 

2.  Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as diminishing or eliminating the rights of indigenous peoples contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

 

Article 38

 

States in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take the appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.

 

 

 

Assuming that the UN DRIP, like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, must now be regarded as embodying customary international law a question which the Court need not definitively resolve here the obligations enumerated therein do not strictly require the Republic to grant the Bangsamoro people, through the instrumentality of the BJE, the particular rights and powers provided for in the MOA-AD. Even the more specific provisions of the UN DRIP are general in scope, allowing for flexibility in its application by the different States.

There is, for instance, no requirement in the UN DRIP that States now guarantee indigenous peoples their own police and internal security force. Indeed, Article 8 presupposes that it is the State which will provide protection for indigenous peoples against acts like the forced dispossession of their lands a function that is normally performed by police officers. If the protection of a right so essential to indigenous peoples identity is acknowledged to be the responsibility of the State, then surely the protection of rights less significant to them as such peoples would also be the duty of States. Nor is there in the UN DRIP an acknowledgement of the right of indigenous peoples to the aerial domain and atmospheric space. What it upholds, in Article 26 thereof, is the right of indigenous peoples to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

 

Moreover, the UN DRIP, while upholding the right of indigenous peoples to autonomy, does not obligate States to grant indigenous peoples the near-independent status of an associated state. All the rights recognized in that document are qualified in Article 46 as follows:

 

1.  Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.

 

 

Even if the UN DRIP were considered as part of the law of the land pursuant to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, it would not suffice to uphold the validity of the MOA-AD so as to render its compliance with other laws unnecessary.

 

It is, therefore, clear that the MOA-AD contains numerous provisions that cannot be reconciled with the Constitution and the laws as presently worded. Respondents proffer, however, that the signing of the MOA-AD alone would not have entailed any violation of law or grave abuse of discretion on their part, precisely because it stipulates that the provisions thereof inconsistent with the laws shall not take effect until these laws are amended. They cite paragraph 7 of the MOA-AD strand on GOVERNANCE quoted earlier, but which is reproduced below for convenience:

 

7. The Parties agree that the mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation of this MOA-AD shall be spelt out in the Comprehensive Compact to mutually take such steps to enable it to occur effectively.

Any provisions of the MOA-AD requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall come into force upon signing of a Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework with due regard to non derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be contained in the Comprehensive Compact.

Indeed, the foregoing stipulation keeps many controversial provisions of the MOA-AD from coming into force until the necessary changes to the legal framework are effected. While the word Constitution is not mentioned in the provision now under consideration or anywhere else in the MOA-AD, the term legal framework is certainly broad enough to include the Constitution.

 

Notwithstanding the suspensive clause, however, respondents, by their mere act of incorporating in the MOA-AD the provisions thereof regarding the associative relationship between the BJE and the Central Government, have already violated the Memorandum of Instructions From The President dated March 1, 2001, which states that the negotiations shall be conducted in accordance with x x x the principles of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines. (Emphasis supplied) Establishing an associative relationship between the BJE and the Central Government is, for the reasons already discussed, a preparation for independence, or worse, an implicit acknowledgment of an independent status already prevailing.

 

Even apart from the above-mentioned Memorandum, however, the MOA-AD is defective because the suspensive clause is invalid, as discussed below.

 

The authority of the GRP Peace Negotiating Panel to negotiate with the MILF is founded on E.O. No. 3, Section 5(c), which states that there shall be established Government Peace Negotiating Panels for negotiations with different rebel groups to be appointed by the President as her official emissaries to conduct negotiations, dialogues, and face-to-face discussions with rebel groups. These negotiating panels are to report to the President, through the PAPP on the conduct and progress of the negotiations.

 

It bears noting that the GRP Peace Panel, in exploring lasting solutions to the Moro Problem through its negotiations with the MILF, was not restricted by E.O. No. 3 only to those options available under the laws as they presently stand. One of the components of a comprehensive peace process, which E.O. No. 3 collectively refers to as the Paths to Peace, is the pursuit of social, economic, and political reforms which may require new legislation or even constitutional amendments. Sec. 4(a) of E.O. No. 3, which reiterates Section 3(a), of E.O. No. 125,[167] states:

 

SECTION 4. The Six Paths to Peace. The components of the comprehensive peace process comprise the processes known as the Paths to Peace. These component processes are interrelated and not mutually exclusive, and must therefore be pursued simultaneously in a coordinated and integrated fashion. They shall include, but may not be limited to, the following:

 

a. PURSUIT OF SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL REFORMS. This component involves the vigorous implementation of various policies, reforms, programs and projects aimed at addressing the root causes of internal armed conflicts and social unrest. This may require administrative action, new legislation or even constitutional amendments.

 

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

The MOA-AD, therefore, may reasonably be perceived as an attempt of respondents to address, pursuant to this provision of E.O. No. 3, the root causes of the armed conflict in Mindanao. The E.O. authorized them to think outside the box, so to speak. Hence, they negotiated and were set on signing the MOA-AD that included various social, economic, and political reforms which cannot, however, all be accommodated within the present legal framework, and which thus would require new legislation and constitutional amendments.

 

The inquiry on the legality of the suspensive clause, however, cannot stop here, because it must be asked

 

whether the President herself may exercise the power delegated to the GRP Peace Panel under E.O. No. 3, Sec. 4(a).

The President cannot delegate a power that she herself does not possess. May the President, in the course of peace negotiations, agree to pursue reforms that would require new legislation and constitutional amendments, or should the reforms be restricted only to those solutions which the present laws allow? The answer to this question requires a discussion of

 

the extent of the Presidents power to conduct peace negotiations.

 

 

That the authority of the President to conduct peace negotiations with rebel groups is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution does not mean that she has no such authority. In Sanlakas v. Executive Secretary,[168] in issue was the authority of the President to declare a state of rebellion an authority which is not expressly provided for in the Constitution. The Court held thus:

 

In her ponencia in Marcos v. Manglapus, Justice Cortes put her thesis into jurisprudence. There, the Court, by a slim 8-7 margin, upheld the President's power to forbid the return of her exiled predecessor. The rationale for the majority's ruling rested on the President's

 

. . . unstated residual powers which are implied from the grant of executive power and which are necessary for her to comply with her duties under the Constitution. The powers of the President are not limited to what are expressly enumerated in the article on the Executive Department and in scattered provisions of the Constitution. This is so, notwithstanding the avowed intent of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 to limit the powers of the President as a reaction to the abuses under the regime of Mr. Marcos, for the result was a limitation of specific powers of the President, particularly those relating to the commander-in-chief clause, but not a diminution of the general grant of executive power.

Thus, the President's authority to declare a state of rebellion springs in the main from her powers as chief executive and, at the same time, draws strength from her Commander-in-Chief powers. x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Similarly, the Presidents power to conduct peace negotiations is implicitly included in her powers as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief. As Chief Executive, the President has the general responsibility to promote public peace, and as Commander-in-Chief, she has the more specific duty to prevent and suppress rebellion and lawless violence.[169]

 

As the experience of nations which have similarly gone through internal armed conflict will show, however, peace is rarely attained by simply pursuing a military solution. Oftentimes, changes as far-reaching as a fundamental reconfiguration of the nations constitutional structure is required. The observations of Dr. Kirsti Samuels are enlightening, to wit:

 

x x x [T]he fact remains that a successful political and governance transition must form the core of any post-conflict peace-building mission. As we have observed in Liberia and Haiti over the last ten years, conflict cessation without modification of the political environment, even where state-building is undertaken through technical electoral assistance and institution- or capacity-building, is unlikely to succeed. On average, more than 50 percent of states emerging from conflict return to conflict. Moreover, a substantial proportion of transitions have resulted in weak or limited democracies.

 

The design of a constitution and its constitution-making process can play an important role in the political and governance transition. Constitution-making after conflict is an opportunity to create a common vision of the future of a state and a road map on how to get there. The constitution can be partly a peace agreement and partly a framework setting up the rules by which the new democracy will operate.[170]

In the same vein, Professor Christine Bell, in her article on the nature and legal status of peace agreements, observed that the typical way that peace agreements establish or confirm mechanisms for demilitarization and demobilization is by linking them to new constitutional structures addressing governance, elections, and legal and human rights institutions.[171]

 

In the Philippine experience, the link between peace agreements and constitution-making has been recognized by no less than the framers of the Constitution. Behind the provisions of the Constitution on autonomous regions[172] is the framers intention to implement a particular peace agreement, namely, the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 between the GRP and the MNLF, signed by then Undersecretary of National Defense Carmelo Z. Barbero and then MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari.

 

MR. ROMULO. There are other speakers; so, although I have some more questions, I will reserve my right to ask them if they are not covered by the other speakers. I have only two questions.

I heard one of the Commissioners say that local autonomy already exists in the Muslim region; it is working very well; it has, in fact, diminished a great deal of the problems. So, my question is: since that already exists, why do we have to go into something new?

 

MR. OPLE. May I answer that on behalf of Chairman Nolledo. Commissioner Yusup Abubakar is right that certain definite steps have been taken to implement the provisions of the Tripoli Agreement with respect to an autonomous region in Mindanao. This is a good first step, but there is no question that this is merely a partial response to the Tripoli Agreement itself and to the fuller standard of regional autonomy contemplated in that agreement, and now by state policy.[173] (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

The constitutional provisions on autonomy and the statutes enacted pursuant to them have, to the credit of their drafters, been partly successful. Nonetheless, the Filipino people are still faced with the reality of an on-going conflict between the Government and the MILF. If the President is to be expected to find means for bringing this conflict to an end and to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, then she must be given the leeway to explore, in the course of peace negotiations, solutions that may require changes to the Constitution for their implementation. Being uniquely vested with the power to conduct peace negotiations with rebel groups, the President is in a singular position to know the precise nature of their grievances which, if resolved, may bring an end to hostilities.

 

The President may not, of course, unilaterally implement the solutions that she considers viable, but she may not be prevented from submitting them as recommendations to Congress, which could then, if it is minded, act upon them pursuant to the legal procedures for constitutional amendment and revision. In particular, Congress would have the option, pursuant to Article XVII, Sections 1 and 3 of the Constitution, to propose the recommended amendments or revision to the people, call a constitutional convention, or submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.

 

While the President does not possess constituent powers as those powers may be exercised only by Congress, a Constitutional Convention, or the people through initiative and referendum she may submit proposals for constitutional change to Congress in a manner that does not involve the arrogation of constituent powers.

 

In Sanidad v. COMELEC,[174] in issue was the legality of then President Marcos act of directly submitting proposals for constitutional amendments to a referendum, bypassing the interim National Assembly which was the body vested by the 1973 Constitution with the power to propose such amendments. President Marcos, it will be recalled, never convened the interim National Assembly. The majority upheld the Presidents act, holding that the urges of absolute necessity compelled the President as the agent of the people to act as he did, there being no interim National Assembly to propose constitutional amendments. Against this ruling, Justices Teehankee and Muoz Palma vigorously dissented. The Courts concern at present, however, is not with regard to the point on which it was then divided in that controversial case, but on that which was not disputed by either side.

 

Justice Teehankees dissent,[175] in particular, bears noting. While he disagreed that the President may directly submit proposed constitutional amendments to a referendum, implicit in his opinion is a recognition that he would have upheld the Presidents action along with the majority had the President convened the interim National Assembly and coursed his proposals through it. Thus Justice Teehankee opined:

 

Since the Constitution provides for the organization of the essential departments of government, defines and delimits the powers of each and prescribes the manner of the exercise of such powers, and the constituent power has not been granted to but has been withheld from the President or Prime Minister, it follows that the Presidents questioned decrees proposing and submitting constitutional amendments directly to the people (without the intervention of the interim National Assembly in whom the power is expressly vested) are devoid of constitutional and legal basis.[176] (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

From the foregoing discussion, the principle may be inferred that the President in the course of conducting peace negotiations may validly consider implementing even those policies that require changes to the Constitution, but she may not unilaterally implement them without the intervention of Congress, or act in any way as if the assent of that body were assumed as a certainty.

 

Since, under the present Constitution, the people also have the power to directly propose amendments through initiative and referendum, the President may also submit her recommendations to the people, not as a formal proposal to be voted on in a plebiscite similar to what President Marcos did in Sanidad, but for their independent consideration of whether these recommendations merit being formally proposed through initiative.

 

These recommendations, however, may amount to nothing more than the Presidents suggestions to the people, for any further involvement in the process of initiative by the Chief Executive may vitiate its character as a genuine peoples initiative. The only initiative recognized by the Constitution is that which truly proceeds from the people. As the Court stated in Lambino v. COMELEC:[177]

 

The Lambino Group claims that their initiative is the people's voice. However, the Lambino Group unabashedly states in ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02, in the verification of their petition with the COMELEC, that ULAP maintains its unqualified support to the agenda of Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for constitutional reforms. The Lambino Group thus admits that their people's initiative is an unqualified support to the agenda of the incumbent President to change the Constitution. This forewarns the Court to be wary of incantations of people's voice or sovereign will in the present initiative.

It will be observed that the President has authority, as stated in her oath of office,[178] only to preserve and defend the Constitution. Such presidential power does not, however, extend to allowing her to change the Constitution, but simply to recommend proposed amendments or revision. As long as she limits herself to recommending these changes and submits to the proper procedure for constitutional amendments and revision, her mere recommendation need not be construed as an unconstitutional act.

 

The foregoing discussion focused on the Presidents authority to propose constitutional amendments, since her authority to propose new legislation is not in controversy. It has been an accepted practice for Presidents in this jurisdiction to propose new legislation. One of the more prominent instances the practice is usually done is in the yearly State of the Nation Address of the President to Congress. Moreover, the annual general appropriations bill has always been based on the budget prepared by the President, which for all intents and purposes is a proposal for new legislation coming from the President.[179]

 

The suspensive clause in the MOA-AD viewed in light of the above-discussed standards

 

Given the limited nature of the Presidents authority to propose constitutional amendments, she cannot guarantee to any third party that the required amendments will eventually be put in place, nor even be submitted to a plebiscite. The most she could do is submit these proposals as recommendations either to Congress or the people, in whom constituent powers are vested.

 

Paragraph 7 on Governance of the MOA-AD states, however, that all provisions thereof which cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws shall come into force upon signing of a Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework. This stipulation does not bear the marks of a suspensive condition defined in civil law as a future and uncertain event but of a term. It is not a question of whether the necessary changes to the legal framework will be effected, but when. That there is no uncertainty being contemplated is plain from what follows, for the paragraph goes on to state that the contemplated changes shall be with due regard to non derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be contained in the Comprehensive Compact.

 

Pursuant to this stipulation, therefore, it is mandatory for the GRP to effect the changes to the legal framework contemplated in the MOA-AD which changes would include constitutional amendments, as discussed earlier. It bears noting that,

 

 

By the time these changes are put in place, the MOA-AD itself would be counted among the prior agreements from which there could be no derogation.

What remains for discussion in the Comprehensive Compact would merely be the implementing details for these consensus points and, notably, the deadline for effecting the contemplated changes to the legal framework.

 

Plainly, stipulation-paragraph 7 on GOVERNANCE is inconsistent with the limits of the Presidents authority to propose constitutional amendments, it being a virtual guarantee that the Constitution and the laws of the Republic of the Philippines will certainly be adjusted to conform to all the consensus points found in the MOA-AD. Hence, it must be struck down as unconstitutional.

 

A comparison between the suspensive clause of the MOA-AD with a similar provision appearing in the 1996 final peace agreement between the MNLF and the GRP is most instructive.

 

As a backdrop, the parties to the 1996 Agreement stipulated that it would be implemented in two phases. Phase I covered a three-year transitional period involving the putting up of new administrative structures through Executive Order, such as the Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD) and the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), while Phase II covered the establishment of the new regional autonomous government through amendment or repeal of R.A. No. 6734, which was then the Organic Act of the ARMM.

 

The stipulations on Phase II consisted of specific agreements on the structure of the expanded autonomous region envisioned by the parties. To that extent, they are similar to the provisions of the MOA-AD. There is, however, a crucial difference between the two agreements. While the MOA-AD virtually guarantees that the necessary changes to the legal framework will be put in place, the GRP-MNLF final peace agreement states thus: Accordingly, these provisions [on Phase II] shall be recommended by the GRP to Congress for incorporation in the amendatory or repealing law.

 

Concerns have been raised that the MOA-AD would have given rise to a binding international law obligation on the part of the Philippines to change its Constitution in conformity thereto, on the ground that it may be considered either as a binding agreement under international law, or a unilateral declaration of the Philippine government to the international community that it would grant to the Bangsamoro people all the concessions therein stated. Neither ground finds sufficient support in international law, however.

 

The MOA-AD, as earlier mentioned in the overview thereof, would have included foreign dignitaries as signatories. In addition, representatives of other nations were invited to witness its signing in Kuala Lumpur. These circumstances readily lead one to surmise that the MOA-AD would have had the status of a binding international agreement had it been signed. An examination of the prevailing principles in international law, however, leads to the contrary conclusion.

 

The Decision on Challenge to Jurisdiction: Lom Accord Amnesty[180] (the Lom Accord case) of the Special Court of Sierra Leone is enlightening. The Lom Accord was a peace agreement signed on July 7, 1999 between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group with which the Sierra Leone Government had been in armed conflict for around eight years at the time of signing. There were non-contracting signatories to the agreement, among which were the Government of the Togolese Republic, the Economic Community of West African States, and the UN.

 

On January 16, 2002, after a successful negotiation between the UN Secretary-General and the Sierra Leone Government, another agreement was entered into by the UN and that Government whereby the Special Court of Sierra Leone was established. The sole purpose of the Special Court, an international court, was to try persons who bore the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996.

 

Among the stipulations of the Lom Accord was a provision for the full pardon of the members of the RUF with respect to anything done by them in pursuit of their objectives as members of that organization since the conflict began.

 

In the Lom Accord case, the Defence argued that the Accord created an internationally binding obligation not to prosecute the beneficiaries of the amnesty provided therein, citing, among other things, the participation of foreign dignitaries and international organizations in the finalization of that agreement. The Special Court, however, rejected this argument, ruling that the Lome Accord is not a treaty and that it can only create binding obligations and rights between the parties in municipal law, not in international law. Hence, the Special Court held, it is ineffective in depriving an international court like it of jurisdiction.

 

37. In regard to the nature of a negotiated settlement of an internal armed conflict it is easy to assume and to argue with some degree of plausibility, as Defence counsel for the defendants seem to have done, that the mere fact that in addition to the parties to the conflict, the document formalizing the settlement is signed by foreign heads of state or their representatives and representatives of international organizations, means the agreement of the parties is internationalized so as to create obligations in international law.

 

x x x x

 

40. Almost every conflict resolution will involve the parties to the conflict and the mediator or facilitator of the settlement, or persons or bodies under whose auspices the settlement took place but who are not at all parties to the conflict, are not contracting parties and who do not claim any obligation from the contracting parties or incur any obligation from the settlement.

 

41. In this case, the parties to the conflict are the lawful authority of the State and the RUF which has no status of statehood and is to all intents and purposes a faction within the state. The non-contracting signatories of the Lom Agreement were moral guarantors of the principle that, in the terms of Article XXXIV of the Agreement, this peace agreement is implemented with integrity and in good faith by both parties. The moral guarantors assumed no legal obligation. It is recalled that the UN by its representative appended, presumably for avoidance of doubt, an understanding of the extent of the agreement to be implemented as not including certain international crimes.

 

42. An international agreement in the nature of a treaty must create rights and obligations regulated by international law so that a breach of its terms will be a breach determined under international law which will also provide principle means of enforcement. The Lom Agreement created neither rights nor obligations capable of being regulated by international law. An agreement such as the Lom Agreement which brings to an end an internal armed conflict no doubt creates a factual situation of restoration of peace that the international community acting through the Security Council may take note of. That, however, will not convert it to an international agreement which creates an obligation enforceable in international, as distinguished from municipal, law. A breach of the terms of such a peace agreement resulting in resumption of internal armed conflict or creating a threat to peace in the determination of the Security Council may indicate a reversal of the factual situation of peace to be visited with possible legal consequences arising from the new situation of conflict created. Such consequences such as action by the Security Council pursuant to Chapter VII arise from the situation and not from the agreement, nor from the obligation imposed by it. Such action cannot be regarded as a remedy for the breach. A peace agreement which settles an internal armed conflict cannot be ascribed the same status as one which settles an international armed conflict which, essentially, must be between two or more warring States. The Lom Agreement cannot be characterised as an international instrument. x x x (Emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied)

 

Similarly, that the MOA-AD would have been signed by representatives of States and international organizations not parties to the Agreement would not have sufficed to vest in it a binding character under international law.

 

In another vein, concern has been raised that the MOA-AD would amount to a unilateral declaration of the Philippine State, binding under international law, that it would comply with all the stipulations stated therein, with the result that it would have to amend its Constitution accordingly regardless of the true will of the people. Cited as authority for this view is Australia v. France,[181] also known as the Nuclear Tests Case, decided by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

 

In the Nuclear Tests Case, Australia challenged before the ICJ the legality of Frances nuclear tests in the South Pacific. France refused to appear in the case, but public statements from its President, and similar statements from other French officials including its Minister of Defence, that its 1974 series of atmospheric tests would be its last, persuaded the ICJ to dismiss the case.[182] Those statements, the ICJ held, amounted to a legal undertaking addressed to the international community, which required no acceptance from other States for it to become effective.

 

Essential to the ICJ ruling is its finding that the French government intended to be bound to the international community in issuing its public statements, viz:

 

43. It is well recognized that declarations made by way of unilateral acts, concerning legal or factual situations, may have the effect of creating legal obligations. Declarations of this kind may be, and often are, very specific. When it is the intention of the State making the declaration that it should become bound according to its terms, that intention confers on the declaration the character of a legal undertaking, the State being thenceforth legally required to follow a course of conduct consistent with the declaration. An undertaking of this kind, if given publicly, and with an intent to be bound, even though not made within the context of international negotiations, is binding. In these circumstances, nothing in the nature of a quid pro quo nor any subsequent acceptance of the declaration, nor even any reply or reaction from other States, is required for the declaration to take effect, since such a requirement would be inconsistent with the strictly unilateral nature of the juridical act by which the pronouncement by the State was made.

 

44. Of course, not all unilateral acts imply obligation; but a State may choose to take up a certain position in relation to a particular matter with the intention of being boundthe intention is to be ascertained by interpretation of the act. When States make statements by which their freedom of action is to be limited, a restrictive interpretation is called for.

 

x x x x

 

51. In announcing that the 1974 series of atmospheric tests would be the last, the French Government conveyed to the world at large, including the Applicant, its intention effectively to terminate these tests. It was bound to assume that other States might take note of these statements and rely on their being effective. The validity of these statements and their legal consequences must be considered within the general framework of the security of international intercourse, and the confidence and trust which are so essential in the relations among States. It is from the actual substance of these statements, and from the circumstances attending their making, that the legal implications of the unilateral act must be deduced. The objects of these statements are clear and they were addressed to the international community as a whole, and the Court holds that they constitute an undertaking possessing legal effect. The Court considers *270 that the President of the Republic, in deciding upon the effective cessation of atmospheric tests, gave an undertaking to the international community to which his words were addressed. x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

 

As gathered from the above-quoted ruling of the ICJ, public statements of a state representative may be construed as a unilateral declaration only when the following conditions are present: the statements were clearly addressed to the international community, the state intended to be bound to that community by its statements, and that not to give legal effect to those statements would be detrimental to the security of international intercourse. Plainly, unilateral declarations arise only in peculiar circumstances.

 

The limited applicability of the Nuclear Tests Case ruling was recognized in a later case decided by the ICJ entitled Burkina Faso v. Mali,[183] also known as the Case Concerning the Frontier Dispute. The public declaration subject of that case was a statement made by the President of Mali, in an interview by a foreign press agency, that Mali would abide by the decision to be issued by a commission of the Organization of African Unity on a frontier dispute then pending between Mali and Burkina Faso.

Unlike in the Nuclear Tests Case, the ICJ held that the statement of Malis President was not a unilateral act with legal implications. It clarified that its ruling in the Nuclear Tests case rested on the peculiar circumstances surrounding the French declaration subject thereof, to wit:

 

40. In order to assess the intentions of the author of a unilateral act, account must be taken of all the factual circumstances in which the act occurred. For example, in the Nuclear Tests cases, the Court took the view that since the applicant States were not the only ones concerned at the possible continuance of atmospheric testing by the French Government, that Government's unilateral declarations had conveyed to the world at large, including the Applicant, its intention effectively to terminate these tests (I.C.J. Reports 1974, p. 269, para. 51; p. 474, para. 53). In the particular circumstances of those cases, the French Government could not express an intention to be bound otherwise than by unilateral declarations. It is difficult to see how it could have accepted the terms of a negotiated solution with each of the applicants without thereby jeopardizing its contention that its conduct was lawful. The circumstances of the present case are radically different. Here, there was nothing to hinder the Parties from manifesting an intention to accept the binding character of the conclusions of the Organization of African Unity Mediation Commission by the normal method: a formal agreement on the basis of reciprocity. Since no agreement of this kind was concluded between the Parties, the Chamber finds that there are no grounds to interpret the declaration made by Mali's head of State on 11 April 1975 as a unilateral act with legal implications in regard to the present case. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

 

Assessing the MOA-AD in light of the above criteria, it would not have amounted to a unilateral declaration on the part of the Philippine State to the international community. The Philippine panel did not draft the same with the clear intention of being bound thereby to the international community as a whole or to any State, but only to the MILF. While there were States and international organizations involved, one way or another, in the negotiation and projected signing of the MOA-AD, they participated merely as witnesses or, in the case of Malaysia, as facilitator. As held in the Lom Accord case, the mere fact that in addition to the parties to the conflict, the peace settlement is signed by representatives of states and international organizations does not mean that the agreement is internationalized so as to create obligations in international law.

 

Since the commitments in the MOA-AD were not addressed to States, not to give legal effect to such commitments would not be detrimental to the security of international intercourse to the trust and confidence essential in the relations among States.

 

In one important respect, the circumstances surrounding the MOA-AD are closer to that of Burkina Faso wherein, as already discussed, the Mali Presidents statement was not held to be a binding unilateral declaration by the ICJ. As in that case, there was also nothing to hinder the Philippine panel, had it really been its intention to be bound to other States, to manifest that intention by formal agreement. Here, that formal agreement would have come about by the inclusion in the MOA-AD of a clear commitment to be legally bound to the international community, not just the MILF, and by an equally clear indication that the signatures of the participating states-representatives would constitute an acceptance of that commitment. Entering into such a formal agreement would not have resulted in a loss of face for the Philippine government before the international community, which was one of the difficulties that prevented the French Government from entering into a formal agreement with other countries. That the Philippine panel did not enter into such a formal agreement suggests that it had no intention to be bound to the international community. On that ground, the MOA-AD may not be considered a unilateral declaration under international law.

 

The MOA-AD not being a document that can bind the Philippines under international law notwithstanding, respondents almost consummated act of guaranteeing amendments to the legal framework is, by itself, sufficient to constitute grave abuse of discretion. The grave abuse lies not in the fact that they considered, as a solution to the Moro Problem, the creation of a state within a state, but in their brazen willingness to guarantee that Congress and the sovereign Filipino people would give their imprimatur to their solution. Upholding such an act would amount to authorizing a usurpation of the constituent powers vested only in Congress, a Constitutional Convention, or the people themselves through the process of initiative, for the only way that the Executive can ensure the outcome of the amendment process is through an undue influence or interference with that process.

 

The sovereign people may, if it so desired, go to the extent of giving up a portion of its own territory to the Moros for the sake of peace, for it can change the Constitution in any it wants, so long as the change is not inconsistent with what, in international law, is known as Jus Cogens.[184] Respondents, however, may not preempt it in that decision.

 

 

SUMMARY

 

The petitions are ripe for adjudication. The failure of respondents to consult the local government units or communities affected constitutes a departure by respondents from their mandate under E.O. No. 3. Moreover, respondents exceeded their authority by the mere act of guaranteeing amendments to the Constitution. Any alleged violation of the Constitution by any branch of government is a proper matter for judicial review.

 

As the petitions involve constitutional issues which are of paramount public interest or of transcendental importance, the Court grants the petitioners, petitioners-in-intervention and intervening respondents the requisite locus standi in keeping with the liberal stance adopted in David v. Macapagal-Arroyo.

 

Contrary to the assertion of respondents that the non-signing of the MOA-AD and the eventual dissolution of the GRP Peace Panel mooted the present petitions, the Court finds that the present petitions provide an exception to the moot and academic principle in view of (a) the grave violation of the Constitution involved; (b) the exceptional character of the situation and paramount public interest; (c) the need to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; and (d) the fact that the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.

 

The MOA-AD is a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace signed by the government and the MILF back in June 2001. Hence, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the original.

The Court, however, finds that the prayers for mandamus have been rendered moot in view of the respondents action in providing the Court and the petitioners with the official copy of the final draft of the MOA-AD and its annexes.

 

The peoples right to information on matters of public concern under Sec. 7, Article III of the Constitution is in splendid symmetry with the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest under Sec. 28, Article II of the Constitution. The right to information guarantees the right of the people to demand information, while Section 28 recognizes the duty of officialdom to give information even if nobody demands. The complete and effective exercise of the right to information necessitates that its complementary provision on public disclosure derive the same self-executory nature, subject only to reasonable safeguards or limitations as may be provided by law.

 

The contents of the MOA-AD is a matter of paramount public concern involving public interest in the highest order. In declaring that the right to information contemplates steps and negotiations leading to the consummation of the contract, jurisprudence finds no distinction as to the executory nature or commercial character of the agreement.

An essential element of these twin freedoms is to keep a continuing dialogue or process of communication between the government and the people. Corollary to these twin rights is the design for feedback mechanisms. The right to public consultation was envisioned to be a species of these public rights.

 

At least three pertinent laws animate these constitutional imperatives and justify the exercise of the peoples right to be consulted on relevant matters relating to the peace agenda.

 

One, E.O. No. 3 itself is replete with mechanics for continuing consultations on both national and local levels and for a principal forum for consensus-building. In fact, it is the duty of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to conduct regular dialogues to seek relevant information, comments, advice, and recommendations from peace partners and concerned sectors of society.

 

Two, Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 requires all national offices to conduct consultations before any project or program critical to the environment and human ecology including 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 unilaterally vests ownership of a vast territory to the Bangsamoro people, which could pervasively and drastically result to the diaspora or displacement of a great number of inhabitants from their total environment.

 

Three, Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 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 informed consent of the Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples. Notably, the statute does not grant the Executive Department or any government agency the power to delineate and recognize an ancestral domain claim by mere agreement or compromise.

 

The invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege as a defense to the general right to information or the specific right to consultation is untenable. The various explicit legal provisions fly in the face of executive secrecy. In any event, respondents effectively waived such defense after it unconditionally disclosed the official copies of the final draft of the MOA-AD, for judicial compliance and public scrutiny.

 

In sum, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation process, as mandated by E.O. No. 3, Republic Act No. 7160, and Republic Act No. 8371. The furtive process by which the MOA-AD was designed and crafted runs contrary to and in excess of the legal authority, and amounts to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise thereof. It illustrates a gross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined.

 

The MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws. Not only its specific provisions but the very concept underlying them, namely, the associative relationship envisioned between the GRP and the BJE, are unconstitutional, for the concept presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.

 

While there is a clause in the MOA-AD stating that the provisions thereof inconsistent with the present legal framework will not be effective until that framework is amended, the same does not cure its defect. The inclusion of provisions in the MOA-AD establishing an associative relationship between the BJE and the Central Government is, itself, a violation of the Memorandum of Instructions From The President dated March 1, 2001, addressed to the government peace panel. Moreover, as the clause is worded, it virtually guarantees that the necessary amendments to the Constitution and the laws will eventually be put in place. Neither the GRP Peace Panel nor the President herself is authorized to make such a guarantee. Upholding such an act would amount to authorizing a usurpation of the constituent powers vested only in Congress, a Constitutional Convention, or the people themselves through the process of initiative, for the only way that the Executive can ensure the outcome of the amendment process is through an undue influence or interference with that process.

 

While the MOA-AD would not amount to an international agreement or unilateral declaration binding on the Philippines under international law, respondents act of guaranteeing amendments is, by itself, already a constitutional violation that renders the MOA-AD fatally defective.

 

WHEREFORE, respondents motion to dismiss is DENIED. The main and intervening petitions are GIVEN DUE COURSE and hereby GRANTED.

 

The Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 is declared contrary to law and the Constitution.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES- SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
RUBEN T. REYES

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

 

 

 

CERTIFICATION

 

 

Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice



[1] Eric Gutierrez and Abdulwahab Guialal, The Unfinished Jihad: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Peace in Mindanao in Rebels, Warlords and Ulama: A Reader on Muslim Separatism and the War in Southern Philippines 275 (1999).

[2] Memorandum of Respondents dated September 24, 2008, p. 10.

[3] Memorandum of Respondents dated September 24, 2008, pp. 10-11.

[4] Vide Salah Jubair, The Long Road to Peace: Inside the GRP-MILF Peace Process 35-36 (2007).

[5] Memorandum of Respondents dated September 24, 2008, p. 12.

[6] Vide Salah Jubair, The Long Road to Peace: Inside the GRP-MILF Peace Process 40-41 (2007).

[7] Composed of its Chairperson, Sec. Rodolfo Garcia, and members, Atty. Leah Armamento, Atty. Sedfrey Candelaria, with Mark Ryan Sullivan as Secretariat head.

[8] Represented by Governor Jesus Sacdalan and/or Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piol.

[9] Rollo (G.R. No. 183591), pp. 3-33.

[10] Supplement to Petition (with motion for leave) of August 11, 2008, rollo (G.R. No. 183591), pp. 143-162.

[11] Rollo (G.R. No. 183752), pp. 3-28.

[12] Represented by Mayor Celso L. Lobregat.

[13] Rollo (G.R. No. 183591), pp. 132-135; rollo (G.R. No. 183752), pp. 68-71.

[14] Rollo (G.R. No. 183591), pp. 130-131; rollo (G.R. No. 183752), pp. 66-67.

[15] Rollo (G.R. No. 183752), pp. 173-246.

[16] Represented by Mayor Lawrence Lluch Cruz.

[17] Represented by Governor Rolando Yebes.

[18] Namely, Seth Frederick Jaloslos, Fernando Cabigon, Jr., Uldarico Mejorada II, Edionar Zamoras, Edgar Baguio, Cedric Adriatico, Felixberto Bolando, Joseph Brendo Ajero, Norbideiri Edding, Anecito Darunday, Angelica Carreon, and Luzviminda Torrino.

[19] Rollo (G.R. No. 183951), pp. 3-33.

[20] Rollo (G.R. No. 183962), pp. 3- 20.

[21] Represented by Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar.

[22] Represented by Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu.

[23] Represented by Mayor Noel Deano.

[24] Rollo (G.R. No. 183591), pp. 451-453.

[25] R.A. No. 6734, as amended by R.A. 9054 entitled An Act to Strengthen and Expand the organic act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the purpose republic act no. 6734, entitled an act of providing for the autonomous region in muslim mindanao, as amended.

[26] R.A. No. 8371, An act to recognize, protect and promote the rights of indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples, creating a national commission on indigenous peoples, establishing implementing mechanisms, appropriating funds therefor, and for other purposes, October 29, 1997.

[27] Cesar Adib Majul, The General Nature of Islamic Law and its Application in the Philippines, lecture delivered as part of the Ricardo Paras Lectures, a series jointly sponsored by the Commission on Bar Integration of the Supreme Court, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the U.P. Law Center, September 24, 1977.

[28] Ibid., vide M.A. Muqtedar Khan Ph.D., immigrant American Muslims and the Moral Dilemmas of Citizenship, http://www.islamfortoday.com/khan04.htm, visited on September 18, 2008, and Syed Shahabuddin, Muslim World and the contemporary Ijma' on rules of governance - ii, http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/2004/01-15May04-Print-Edition/0105200471.htm, visited on September 18, 2008.

[29] MOA-AD Terms of Reference.

[30] MOA-AD, Concepts and Principles, par. 1.

[31] A traditional Muslim historical account of the acts of Shariff Kabungsuwan is quoted by historian Cesar Adib Majul in his book, Muslims in the Philippines (1973):

 

After a time it came to pass that Mamalu, who was the chief man next to Kabungsuwan, journeyed to Cotabato. He found there that many of the people had ceased to regard the teachings of the Koran and had fallen into evil ways. Mamamlu sent to Kabungsuwan word of these things.

Kabungsuwan with a portion of his warriors went from Malabang to Cotabato and found that the word sent to him by Mamamlu was true. Then he assembled together all the people. Those of them, who had done evilly and disregarded the teachings of the Koran thenceforth, he drove out of the town into the hills, with their wives and children.

Those wicked one who were thus cast out were the beginnings of the tribes of the Tirurais and Manobos, who live to the east of Cotabato in the country into which their evil forefathers were driven. And even to this day they worship not God; neither do they obey the teachings of the Koran . . . But the people of Kabungsuwan, who regarded the teachings of the Koran and lived in fear of God, prospered and increased, and we Moros of today are their descendants. (Citation omitted, emphasis supplied).

 

[32] Id., par. 2.

[33] Id., par. 3.

[34] Id., par. 4.

[35] Francisco L. Gonzales, Sultans of a Violent Land, in Rebels, Warlords and Ulama: A Reader on Muslim Separatism and the War in Southern Philippines 99, 103 (1999).

[36] The Charter of the Assembly of First Nations, the leading advocacy group for the indigenous peoples of Canada, adopted in 1985, begins thus:

WE THE CHIEFS OF THE INDIAN FIRST NATIONS IN CANADA HAVING DECLARED:
 THAT our peoples are the original peoples of this land having been put here by the Creator; x x x.

[37] Id., par. 6.

[38] MOA-AD, Territory, par. 1.

[39] Id., par. 2(c).

[40] Id., par. 2(d).

[41] Id., par. 2(e).

[42] Id., par. 2(f).

[43] Id., par, 2(g)(1).

[44] Id., par. 2(h).

[45] Id., par. 2(i).

[46] MOA-AD, Resources, par. 4.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Id., par. 5.

[49] Id., par. 6.

[50] Id., par. 7.

[51] Id., par. 9.

[52] MOA-AD, Governance, par. 3.

[53] IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the undersigned, being the representatives of the Parties[,] hereby affix their signatures.

[54] Vide 1987 Constitution, Article VIII, Section 1.

[55] Vide Muskrat v. US, 219 US 346 (1911).

[56] Flast v. Cohen, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1950 (1968).

[57] Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association, Incorporated (DESAMA) v. Gozun, G.R. No. 157882, March 30, 2006, 485 SCRA 286.

[58] Vide U.S. v. Muskrat, 219 U.S. 346, 357 (1902).

[59] Guingona, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, 354 Phil. 415, 427-428 (1998).

[60] Francisco, Jr. v. House of Representatives, 460 Phil. 830, 901-902 (2003) (citation omitted).

[61] Vide Warth v. Seldin, 422 US 490, 511 (1975).

[62] Vide id. at 526.

[63] Solicitor Generals Comment to G.R. No. 183752, pp. 9-11.

[64] MOA-AD, pp. 3-7, 10.

[65] 391 Phil. 43 (2000).

[66] Id. at 107-108.

[67] 530 US 290 (2000).

[68] Id. at 292.

[69] 505 U.S. 144 (1992).

[70] Id. at 175.

[71] Although only one petition is denominated a petition for certiorari, most petitions pray that the MOA-AD be declared unconstitutional/null and void.

[72] Vide Rules of Court, Rule 65, Secs. 1 and 2.

[73] Vide Rules of Court, Rule 65, Sec. 3.

[74] Taada v. Angara, 338 Phil. 546, 575 (1997).

[75] Entitled Defining Policy and Administrative Structure for Governments Peace Efforts which reaffirms and reiterates Executive Order No. 125 of September 15, 1993.

[76] E.O. No. 3, (2001), Sec. 1.

[77] Vide Taada v. Angara, supra note 74.

[78] Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962).

[79] Vicente V. Mendoza , Judicial Review of Constitutional Questions 137 (2004).

[80] Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives, 460 Phil. 830, 896 (2003).

[81] David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, G.R. No. 171396, May 3, 2006, 489 SCRA 160, 223.

[82] Kilosbayan, Inc. v. Morato, 320 Phil. 171 (1995).

[83] Macasiano v. NHA, G.R. No. 107921, July 1, 1993, 224 SCRA 236.

[84] Del Mar v. Phil. Amusement and Gaming Corp., 400 Phil. 307, 328-329 (2000) citing Phil. Constitution Assn., Inc. v. Mathay, et al., 124 Phil. 890 (1966).

[85] Vide NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958).

[86] Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives, supra note 80.

[87] Province of Batangas v. Romulo, G.R. No. 152774, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 736.

[88] Firestone Ceramics, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 372 Phil. 401 (1999) citing Gibson v. Judge Revilla, 180 Phil. 645 (1979).

[89] Supra note 81.

[90] Integrated Bar of the Phils. v. Hon. Zamora, 392 Phil. 618 (2000).

[91] Tatad v. Secretary of Energy, 346 Phil. 321 (1997).

[92] Vide Compliance of September 1, 2008 of respondents.

[93] Vide Manifestation of September 4, 2008 of respondents.

[94] Supra note 81.

[95] Id. citing Province of Batangas v. Romulo, supra note 87.

[96] Id. citing Lacson v. Perez, 410 Phil. 78 (2001).

[97] Id. citing Province of Batangas v. Romulo, supra note 87.

[98] Id. citing Albaa v. Comelec, 478 Phil. 941 (2004); Chief Supt. Acop v. Guingona Jr., 433 Phil. 62 (2002); SANLAKAS v. Executive Secretary Reyes, 466 Phil. 482 (2004).

[99] US v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629 (1953); US v. Trans-Missouri Freight Assn, 166 U.S. 290, 308-310 (1897); Walling v. Helmerich & Payne, Inc., 323 U.S. 37, 43 (1944); Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, 376 (1963); Defunis v. Odegaard, 416 U.S. 312 (1974).

[100] Supra note 87.

[101] G.R. No. 178920, October 15, 2007, 536 SCRA 290.

[102] Chavez v. PCGG, 366 Phil. 863, 871 (1999).

[103] G.R. No. 178830, July 14, 2008.

[104] Supra note 98.

[105] Ortega v. Quezon City Government, G.R. No. 161400, September 2, 2005, 469 SCRA 388.

[106] Alunan III v. Mirasol, 342 Phil. 476 (1997); Viola v. Alunan III, 343 Phil. 184 (1997); Chief Superintendent Acop v. Guingona, Jr., supra note 98; Roble Arrastre, Inc. v. Villaflor, G.R. No. 128509, August 22, 2006, 499 SCRA 434, 447.

[107] Constitution, Article III, Sec. 7.

[108] 80 Phil. 383 (1948).

[109] Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. L-72119, May 29, 1987, 150 SCRA 530.

[110] 162 Phil. 868 (1976).

[111] Baldoza v. Dimaano, supra at 876.

[112] Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, supra note 109.

[113] Chavez v. PCGG, 360 Phil 133, 164 (1998).

[114] In Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, supra note 109 at 541, it was held that:

In determining whether or not a particular information is of public concern there is no rigid test which can be applied. `Public concern' like `public interest' is a term that eludes exact definition. Both terms embrace a broad spectrum of subjects which the public may want to know, either because these directly affect their lives, or simply because such matters naturally arouse the interest of an ordinary citizen. In the final analysis, it is for the courts to determine on a case by case basis whether the matter at issue is of interest or importance, as it relates to or affects the public.

[115] Respondents Comment of August 4, 2008, p. 9.

[116] Subido v. Ozaeta, supra note 108.

[117] Taada, et al. v. Hon. Tuvera, et al., 220 Phil. 422 (1985); Taada, v. Hon. Tuvera, 230 Phil. 528 (1986).

[118] Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, supra note 109.

[119] Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr., G.R. No. 74930, February 13, 1989, 170 SCRA 256.

[120] Chavez v. PCGG, supra note 113; Chavez v. PCGG, supra note 102.

[121] Bantay Republic Act or BA-RA 7941 v. Commission on Elections, G.R. 177271, May 4, 2007, 523 SCRA 1.

[122] Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, 433 Phil. 506, 532-533 (2002).

[123] Vide V Record, Constitutional Commission 26-28 (September 24, 1986) which is replete with such descriptive phrase used by Commissioner Blas Ople.

[124] Constitution, Article II, Sec. 28.

[125] Bernas, Joaquin, The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary 100 (2003).

[126] Vide Bernas, Joaquin, The Intent of the 1986 Constitution Writers 155 (1995).

[127] Vide Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, supra note 122.

[128] V Record, Constitutional Commission 25 (September 24, 1986).

[129] V Record, Constitutional Commission 28-29 (September 24, 1986). The phrase safeguards on national interest that may be provided by law was subsequently replaced by reasonable conditions, as proposed by Commissioner Davide [vide V Record, Constitutional Commission 30 (September 24, 1986)].

[130] In Chavez v. National Housing Authority, G.R. No. 164527, August 15, 2007, 530 SCRA 235, 331, the Court stated:

x x x The duty to disclose covers only transactions involving public interest, while the duty to allow access has a broader scope of information which embraces not only transactions involving public interest, but any matter contained in official communications and public documents of the government agency. (Underscoring supplied)

[131] Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr., supra note 119.

[132] V Record, Constitutional Commission 28, 30 (September 24, 1986).

[133] Supra note 55.

[134] Executive Order No. 3 (2001), Sec. 3 (a).

[135] Executive Order No. 3 (2001), Sec. 4 (b).

[136] Respondents Memorandum of September 24, 2008, p. 44.

[137] Executive Order No. 3 (2001), Sec. 5 (b), par. 6.

[138] Executive Order No. 3 (2001), Sec. 8, see also Sec. 10.

[139] Cf. Garcia v. Board of Investments, G.R. No. 88637, September 7, 1989, 177 SCRA 374, 382-384 where it was held that the Omnibus Investment Code of 1987 mandates the holding of consultations with affected communities, whenever necessary, on the acceptability of locating the registered enterprise within the community.

[140] In their Memorandum, respondents made allegations purporting to show that consultations were conducted on August 30, 2001 in Marawi City and Iligan City, on September 20, 2001 in Midsayap, Cotabato, and on January 18-19, 2002 in Metro Manila. (Memorandum of September 24, 2008, p. 13)

[141] Cf. Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, supra note 120.

[142] Republic Act No. 7160, Sec. 2(c).

[143] Republic Act No. 7160, Sec. 27.

[144] 416 Phil. 438 (2001).

[145] Id.; vide Alvarez v. PICOP Resources, Inc., G.R. No. 162243, November 29, 2006, 508 SCRA 498; Cf. Bangus Fry Fisherfolk v. Lanzanas, 453 Phil. 479 (2002).

[146] Vide MOA-AD Concepts and Principles, pars. 2 & 7 in relation to Resources, par. 9 where vested property rights are made subject to the cancellation, modification and review by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

[147] Republic Act No. 8371 or The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, Sec. 16.

[148] Id., Sec. 3 (g), Chapter VIII, inter alia.

[149] Taada v. Tuvera, No. L-63915, December 29, 1986, 146 SCRA 446, 456.

[150] C.I. Keitner and W.M. Reisman, Free Association: The United States Experience, 39 Tex. Int'l L.J. 1 (2003).

[151] The former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands is made up of the Caroline Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands, which extend east of the Philippines and northeast of Indonesia in the North Pacific Ocean. (Ibid.)

[152] H. Hills, Free Association for Micronesia and the Marshall islands: A Political Status Model, 27 U. Haw. L. Rev. 1 (2004).

[153] Henkin, et al., International Law: Cases and Materials, 2nd ed., 274 (1987).

[154] Convention on Rights and Duties of States, Dec. 26, 1933, 49 Stat. 3097, 165 L.N.T.S. 19.

[155] G.R. No. 158088, July 6, 2005, 462 SCRA 622, 632.

[156] An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 6734, Entitled An Act Providing for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as Amended, March 31, 2001.

[157] An Act To Recognize, Protect And Promote The Rights Of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples, Creating A National Commission On Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds Therefor, And For Other Purposes, October 29, 1997.

[158] 90 Phil. 70, 73-74 (1951).

[159] 177 Phil. 160, 178-179 (1979).

[160] 2 S.C.R. 217 (1998).

[161] 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (March 23, 1976).

[162] 993 U.N.T.S. 3 (January 3, 1976).

[163] League of Nations Official Journal, Special Supp. No. 3 (October 1920).

[164] Lorie M. Graham, Resolving Indigenous Claims To Self-Determination, 10 ILSA J. Int'l & Comp. L. 385 (2004). Vide S. James Anaya, Superpower Attitudes Toward Indigenous Peoples And Group Rights, 93 Am. Soc'y Int'l L. Proc. 251 (1999): In general, the term indigenous is used in association with groups that maintain a continuity of cultural identity with historical communities that suffered some form of colonial invasion, and that by virtue of that continuity of cultural identity continue to distinguish themselves from others.

[165] Catherine J. Iorns, Indigenous Peoples And Self Determination: Challenging State Sovereignty, 24 Case W. Res. J. Int'l L. 199 (1992).

[166] Federico Lenzerini, Sovereignty Revisited: International Law And Parallel Sovereignty Of Indigenous Peoples, 42 Tex. Int'l L.J. 155 (2006). Vide Christopher J. Fromherz, Indigenous Peoples' Courts: Egalitarian Juridical Pluralism, Self-Determination, And The United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples, 156 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1341 (2008): While Australia and the United States made much of the distinction between self-government and self-determination on September 13, 2007, the U.S. statement to the UN on May 17, 2004, seems to use these two concepts interchangeably. And, indeed, under the DRIP [Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples], all three terms should be considered virtually synonymous. Self-determination under the DRIP means internal self-determination when read in conjunction with Article 46, and self-government, articulated in Article 4, is the core of the self-determination.

 

[167] Defining The Approach And Administrative Structure For Governments Comprehensive Peace Efforts, September 15, 1993.

[168] 466 Phil. 482, 519-520 (2004).

[169] Constitution, Article VII, Sec. 18.

[170] Kirsti Samuels, Post-Conflict Peace-Building And Constitution-Making, 6 Chi. J. Int'l L. 663 (2006).

[171] Christine Bell, Peace Agreements: Their Nature And Legal Status, 100 Am. J. Int'l L. 373 (2006).

[172] Constitution, Article X, Sections 15-21.

[173] III Record, Constitutional Commission, 180 (August 11, 1986).

[174] 165 Phil. 303 (1976).

[175] Id. at 412.

[176] Id. at 413.

[177] G.R. No. 174153, October 25, 2006, 505 SCRA 160, 264-265.

[178] Constitution, Art. VII, Sec. 5.

[179] Article VI, Section 25 (1) of the Constitution states as follows: The Congress may not increase the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the Government as specified in the budget. The form, content, and manner of preparation of the budget shall be prescribed by law.

[180] Prosecutor v. Kallon and Kamara [Case No. SCSL-2004-15-AR72(E), SCSL-2004-16-AR72(E), March 13, 2004].

[181] 1974 I.C.J. 253, 1974 WL 3 (I.C.J.).

[182] M. Janis and J. Noyes, International Law, Cases and Commentary, 3rd ed. 280 (2006).

[183] 1986 I.C.J. 554, 1986 WL 15621 (I.C.J.), December 22, 1986.

[184] Planas v. COMELEC, 151 Phil. 217, 249 (1973).