Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Comments on the GRP-MILF MOA from Another Blog


Atty. Bong Montesa, the Liberal party Director General who went on leave due to differences with the LP leadership on the issue of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement, made a comment on a statement I made during an interview on UNTV. Since he mentioned me and quoted my statements, I had to post a reply.

The Ateneo de Manila Law School professor (on leave) is the Executive Director of Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), a political think-tank based in Cotabato City, Southern Philippines. He is also the legal counsel of the GRP Peace Panel.

Below is a portion of his blog post which mentioned me, followed by my reply:

He wrote:

"We are dealing here with a social problem and our toolkit must be beyond what the present Constitution provides. This is about policy. Let us propose a policy and then work out the needed changes in law and the constitution to make such policy a reality. It cannot be the other way around. We cannot say that all solutions must follow the present Constitution for that limits our capacity to solve the Bangsamoro problem.

I was listening to Cong. Ruffy Biazon over UNTV this morning and one of his arguments against the MOA on AD is that the President has a sworn obligation to “defend and protect the Constitution” ergo any intent to change or amend the Constitution is a violation of that sworn oath. That seems to be stretching the limits of constitutionality too much. The President has sworn to “protect and defend the Constitution”, a constitution which includes provisions of its very amendment. Changing the Constitution is part of the Constitution that the President is sworn to protect and defend."


I wrote:

Thank you for your comment on my statements during that interview in UNTV.

It was such a short interview, there was not enough time to elaborate on points. So I hope I will be given the privilege to respond here.

Perhaps my comment on the President’s oath may be seen as “stretching the limits of constitutionality too much”, but actually, from my point of view, I am trying to confine the MOA within the limits of my understanding of the text of the Constitution.

I am not a lawyer and I am not trying to pose as a legal luminary. My educational background is in the medical field, but being a three term member of the HOuse of Representatives, I believe I have enough experience dealing with the law for me to have a grasp of what the legal framework of this country says. Besides, every citizen is supposed to be a student of the Constitution, since it is the tie that binds all citizens of a country and the Rule that they must live by.

Having said that, I must admit I do not have a conclusion as to the constitutionality of the agreement per se. But I do have questions based on my reading and understanding of the Constitution vis-a-vis the MOA. Being a member of the Legislature and representing a district comprised of close to half a million citizens, I have the right and duty to ask questions about a matter that will affect the COnstitution I am sworn to uphold, and the country to which my constituents belong to.

While the MOA and the talks are between the GRP panel and the MILF, the matter of a just and lasting peace in Mindanao is not just a concern of the MILF, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao and the other citizens living therein, but it is also a desire and concern of all other Filipino citizens. Whatever ails Mindanao, ails the Philippines.

Going back to my comments on the President;s oath, which says, ” I do solemnly swear/affirm that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President of the Philippines, PRESERVE and DEFEND its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation” ( not DEFEND and PROTECT, as stated in the post above), I used my literal understanding and avoided stretching the meaning of the text of the oath.

The dictionary defines PRESERVE as “To keep in perfect or unaltered condition; maintain unchanged”. DEFEND is defined as “To make or keep safe from danger, attack, or harm.” In interpreting this provision of the Constitution, I strictly confined myself within the meaning of the text, instead of stretching it, as commented above. To my understanding, the President is sworn to keep the Constitution in an unaltered condition, maintain it unchanged and keep it safe from attack until its very provision on amending it are availed of.

Indeed, the Constitution is a living document, allowing itself to be improved, through the appropriate procedure. My non-lawyer’s understanding of the Constitution’s provisions is that there are only three ways that amendments may be undertaken, that is, by a vote of three fourths of all the members of the Congress (a constituent assembly), a constitutional convention, and by an initiative of the People.

I noted that Article XVII, the Constitutional Provision on Amendments and Revision, also provided on who may propose or act on amendments or revisions of the Constitution. It said that the Congress, the members of a constitutional convention and the people are the ones who may propose changes in the Charter.

My non-lawyer’s unstretched interpretation of the text of the Constitutional provision on amendments is that the President does not propose changes to the Constitution, especially since the President’s oath is to PRESERVE and DEFEND it.

Other provisions in the Constitution which caught my attention in the diligent effort that I am undertaking to understand the whole issue are those that pertain to the rights of the indigenous people (which is the point of the MOA-AD). Two provisions come to mind:

Article XIV. Sec. 17, which says “The State shall recognize, respect, and protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions. It shall consider these rights in the formulation of national plans and policies.”

There is no doubt that government is obliged to provide for the protection of the rights of the indigenous people. I myself believe in that and consider it my Constitutional duty to work for that, because the Constitution says so.

The second provision is:

Article XII, Sec. 5, which says, “The State, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social and cultural well-being.”

Again, it is clear that the State should protect the rights of the indigenous people. But the text of the second provision sets parameters on how the State will deliver on its obligation. It says, “subject to the provisions of this Constitution”. My non-lawyer’s understanding of the text is that any act of the State to protect the rights of the indigenous people should be within the bounds of the provisions of the Charter.

Meaning to say, if the Constitution says that there shall only be one police force (which it says in Article XVI, Sec. 6, then the State shouldn’t allow, or even offer, the creation of another security force (which the MOA provides).

These are only the perspectives of a non-lawyer. It is not a stretch of the meanings of the provisions of the Constitution but a reading of the charter’s text in simple terms. Perhaps the learned men of the law can provide me with a better interpretation which would show that I am mistaken.

Or better yet, the Supreme Court, which is mandated to interpret the law for everyone, as embodied in the Constitution should be left to do the interpretation.

But if there will be an opportunity for proponents of the MOA to clarify the issues, I would rather that such clarifications be done within the proceedings of an official body. That is the reason why I filed a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for an inquiry into the basis, purpose and prospects of the provisions of the MOA. It is not because I am blindly opposing the peace efforts in general and the MOA in particular, but it is because I would like to be enlightened so that I may be able to do my part in fulfilling the mandate to achieve peace in Mindanao and protect the rights of indigenous people.

MY COMMENT ON THE CALL FOR DISCERNMENT AND UNITY

Earlier, I posted a whole page ad published in the newspaper entitled "A Call for Discernment and Unity". It was a statement by several Mindanao-based groups regarding the peace process. Here are my comments:

The unsigned GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain has sparked so much controversy and debate. Perhaps understandably so because the issues addressed by the agreement itself are, by themselves, subjects of negotiations between the two parties. It cannot be removed that in negotiations, there two, even more sides to the issues.

I think it will also be fair to say that parties not privy to the negotiations are not out of order when they begin raising questions about the negotiations itself and the product of such talks. Most especially if the outcome of the negotiations has an impact on the lives and concerns of those not party to the talks.

Therefore, it is only proper that an in-depth, objective and sober deliberation on the matter of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain be undertaken with all those who have concerns allowed an opportunity to be heard and to listen. After all, peace in Mindanao is not a desire limited to those who live in that great frontier but a just and lasting peace is a national vision and aspiration for all Filipinos.

It is disheartening to hear that those who raise questions about the agreement seem to be portrayed as not in unison with the objective of achieving peace in Mindanao and upholding the rights of the indigenous people. As mentioned earlier, these objectives are common to all, and it is not monopolized by those who are direct participants in the peace process. Those who ask questions want peace too.

Rhetorics such as “politicians who in the past few days became willing mouthpiece in fueling chaos, fear, hatred and communal violence” tend to demonize anyone who raises a point of concern about the MOA-AD. Such statements seem contradictory to the call for people to “be responsible enough to tackle this issue in an intelligent and dispassionate manner, bearing in mind that we are all brothers and sisters, and that everyone in this country has the right and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity”.

While it cannot be denied that there may be some who may be throwing in a monkey’s wrench into the process for political gains, it does not give a justification to lump all those who raise questions about the MOA together and brand them as anti-peace, and prejudiced against indigenous people’s rights.

Just as we frown upon those who discriminate against minorities, we should equally frown upon those who fall into arrogance in the practice of reverse discrimination.

In a democracy, the right of the people to information and be heard on matters that affect their lives serve as a cornerstone. True peace advocates also exercise patience and tolerance, sometimes to the point of being unfair to themselves. While the proponents of the MOA-AD are consistent in saying that adequate consultations were made, the fact of the matter is that there are those who were not consulted but affected by the MOA.

While the government panel claims that there were 110 consultations, can they directly dispute the claim of Mayor Celso Lobregat, whose City Hall was included in the areas to be made part of the proposed BJE, that he was not consulted? If not, which they have not, then it is beyond argument that there were not enough consultations. Considering the impact of the agreement on the governance of the mayor, it is illogical for him to be left out of the consultations.

In the bigger picture, the continued negation of the executive department to educate the legislature about the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, to my mind, does not help to quell the furor over the agreement. It may be arrogance or simply a lack of political acumen, but their failure to reach out to the legislature during these times of controversy over the MOA will only serve to raise more doubts as to the true motives behind the moves. The government is the one doing the injustice to the indigenous peoples by not taking the extra step to convince those to whom the MOA will eventually go to that the MOA will be good for the country (after the signing, the amendments to the legal framework will have to be done through congressional action).

Before I filed a resolution for the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry into the MOA for Congress to be better apprised of its contents in a formal venue, the GRP panel met with select members of the House. I found it to be ineffective because even if they were able to convince those select members (which they did not), they would still have almost two hundred others who are still in the dark about the basis, purposes, and prospects of the MOA’s provisions.

After I had delivered a speech on the need for Congress to be briefed as an institution, the GRP panel once again met with select members, once again alienating others. Is this the transparency that they are harping about?

I am all for the resolution of the conflict in Mindanao. I am supportive of any move to uphold the rights of indigenous people. But let us do it in a manner which will not be tainted with controversies of our own doing. If there’s anyone to be blamed for the snag in the peace process, the government has no one else to blame but itself.




A CALL FOR DISCERNMENT AND UNITY


We speak in behalf of all marginalized sectors of Mindanao that include the Bangsamoro people, the indigenous peoples and migrant settlers particularly the women, children, and the displaced civilian communities who stand to benefit from the successful conclusion of the GRP-MILF peace talks. For many decades now, our lives depict the curse of the so-called "collateral damage" due to a long internecine armed conflict. The conflict and war in Mindanao must end now. We cannot allow this cycle of violence to further victimize our children and the next generation. We beg all the branches of government, the media and civil society groups to help end the Mindanaoans’ long years of suffering.

The Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court effectively stalled the signing of the MOA on Ancestral Domain. While we consider this a major setback in our quest for peace, we are confident that the Supreme Court cannot allow itself to become a stumbling block in resolving a political conflict that requires a political solution. We have a complete trust in the collective wisdom of the Supreme Court and by God's will, Insha Allah, the Government Peace Panel will eventually be allowed to proceed with the signing of the MOA.

As we open the avenues for debate on the Ancestral Domain agenda, we beg everyone, especially politicians, military, the media and other vested interest groups, to let it proceed without fueling the centuries-old biases and prejudices among people of Mindanao. There is a strong need for everyone to correct the historical injustice committed against the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples in Mindanao and in other regions in the country. Definitely, there is a very urgent need to reverse the situation of fear, violence, hatred, anger and trauma among the people in the conflict-affected areas.

From August 7, 2004 to August 2, 2008, a total of 110 consultations, related to the peace process, were conducted all over Mindanao, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and members of the Government Peace Panel. Those consulted were academicians, business chambers, civilians, community leaders, indigenous communities, local government units, military personnel, organizations, and religious leaders. On the side the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), it also spearheaded consultations among Muslim communities since the peace talks resumed; the largest assembly gathered almost a million people in Camp Darapanan in 2006.

Definitely, there is a need for continuing consultations, dialogues and information dissemination so that people can come up with well-informed positions on the MOA on AD. This we commit to help undertake as we proceed in educating our people on the contents of the MOA. Let the debate however proceed in the spirit of dialogue and utmost respect. The Bangsamoro people and indigenous peoples have the fundamental right to self-determination recognized under international laws.We strongly support them and demand that this right be respected and fulfilled.

There is a need to clarify misconception that Christians will be evicted out of Mindanao once the BJE is established. Under the MOA-AD, “vested property rights upon the entrenchment of the BJE shall be recognized and respected”. This means that an ordinary Mindanaoan’s landholding will be respected and protected contrary to what is being spread now that Christians will lose ownership of their land titles. Ancestral Domain as defined under the MOA “refer to those held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through the ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial”. This provision refers to a political territory rather than individual land titles which are already vested and respected under the MOA.

We likewise support the struggle of the Indigenous Peoples in their ancestral domain claims. Under the MOA “The freedom of choice of the Indigenous people shall be respected”. It will be incumbent upon the indigenous peoples if they would like to join the BJE or not.

Thus, the sovereign will of the people to be part or not of the BJE is given utmost importance by the MOA on AD through a plebiscite. Residents of the 735 barangays covered under Category A which constitute the proposed expansion of the Bangsamoro homeland shall have the freedom to vote for inclusion or exclusion in the BJE.

There is also a need to take into consideration some concerns of kindred organizations in Manila that the GRP-MILF peace talks could be used to initiate Charter Change. Indeed, there is a need for a comprehensive legislative action given the need to change institutional arrangements between the BJE and the national government. Be that as it may, whether there will be Cha-cha or not, let it be clear that based on the timeframe of the MOA, this will only proceed not earlier than 2010. It will take the parties twelve (12) months after the signing to proceed with the plebiscite and a total of fifteen (15) months to complete the negotiations and resolve all outstanding issues on the Comprehensive Compact. Given this timeframe there will be no material time to undertake Cha-cha via the GRP-MILF talks.

What is clear at this point is that the interests of the peace process and those who are against charter change, are not diametrically opposed. We ourselves will not allow any partisan political interest to tarnish the legitimacy and primacy of the peace process.

This is an appeal that we pose to everyone especially our politicians who in the past few days became willing mouthpiece in fueling chaos, fear, hatred and communal violence. Let us all be responsible enough to tackle this issue in an intelligent and dispassionate manner, bearing in mind that we are all brothers and sisters, and that everyone in this country has the right and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

August 11, 2008

Davao City

SIGNED:

Mindanao Peoples Caucus–Bantay Ceasefire

Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace

Allah-Mujadilah Development Foundation

Waging Peace Philippines

Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum

Organization of Teduray and Lambangian Conference

Tulung Lupah Sug
GINAPALADTAKA Space for Peace

Mindanao Solidarity Network
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society
Initiatives for International Dialogue

Assembly of D’arul Ifta

Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum
Peacebuilders Community
United Youth for Peace and Development

Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), Inc.

Saligan-Mindanao
Balay Rehabilitation Center, Inc.

Saligan Mindanaw

Suara Kalilintad

Tiyakap Kalilintad

Muslim Multisectoral Movement for Peace and Development




The post above is taken from a whole page ad published in the papers today.--Ruffy

Thursday, August 07, 2008

MILF ULTIMATUM AND THREAT AGAINST THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT IS A REVELATION OF THE MILF’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS RULE OF LAW AND ORDER OF CIVILIZED NATIONS

The MILF’s ultimatum against the Philippine Government to “choose between Vice Governor Piñol and the MILF” and the demand for the Supreme Court to lift the Temporary Restraining Order “or else it will mean the death of the peace talks” is a revelation of the rebel group’s attitude towards the rule of law and principles of democratic processes and institutions.

The MILF should understand that under a democracy, there is the principle of separation of powers between the national and local governments and between the executive, legislative and the judiciary. The GRP panel should not be made to choose between the MILF and Vice Gov. Piñol because the vice-governor was acting within his scope of authority and responsibility in expressing his disagreement to the inclusion of some parts of his province in the GRP-MILF MOA. He simply availed of his constitutional right to avail of a constitutional process for redress.

For the MILF to issue a demand on the Supreme Court, with an impossible time frame to comply within one day, is an act of contempt against democracy. Assuming that the time frame was reasonable, it is still contemptuous to make demands on the Supreme Court. The High Tribunal already set oral arguments for the petition on August 15. The best act of good faith on the parties concerned is to allow the judicial process to proceed on its own.

The aborted signing of the MOA due to the TRO issued by the Supreme Court is not a diplomatic embarrassment as the MILF and Gen. Esperon of the GRP peace panel claimed. US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said it accurately that it is actually something to be proud of since we showed the world that democracy is practiced faithfully in our country. It is a pity that Gen. Esperon, who served in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and claims to be a staunch defender of the Constitution failed to see this perspective.

This statement of the MILF only shows that they have no regard for the Constitution and democracy. What can the people of Mindanao expect if they are already the ones in power over the areas stipulated in the MOA on Ancestral Domain? Actually, there is no guarantee under the language of the MOA that the system of democracy exercised in the Philippines will be the same system to be implemented under the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Under the MOA, the BJE “shall be empowered to build, develop and maintain its own institutions, inclusive of, civil service, electoral, financial and banking, education, legislation, legal, economic, and police and internal security force, judicial system and correctional institutions”. If they disagree and do not subscribe to the current democratic system practiced by the Republic of the Philippines (as evidenced by their attitude towards the current situation faced by the GRP panel), how likely will it be that they will practice the same when the BJE assumes power?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Speech on Resolution 711, Inquiry on the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement

I believe that the House of Representatives should exercise its duty and mandate to uphold the Constitution and to perform its oversight function over the Executive.

Nine days ago, at the opening of the Second regular Session of the Fourteenth Congress, the Speaker, the Honorable Prospero Nograles of Davao City, delivered an opening statement that gave me hope that indeed, this House is a House of the People, for the People and by the People.

Allow me to quote the Speaker of the House:

“And while we are focused on our legislative priorities, we also need to exercise, with more vigour and judiciousness, our institutional powers of oversight.

Congressional oversight is a democratic tool to promote good governance by helping curb graft and corruption, fostering economy and effectiveness in the use of public resources, ensuring fidelity to duty and our laws in the performance of public functions.

The leadership looks forward to more reviews of the performance of executive departments and its agencies. This shall be the order of the day. We need to demand more reporting and gather more information on all programs and projects.

We need to know how major laws are being implemented. Especially, why they are "perceived" to be implemented so poorly.

The House oversight function of review is not in exercise of legislative supremacy over the executive. Rather, it is in pursuit of the higher interest for more informed legislative policies.”

With this profession of the House’s vested responsibility, I am confident that a resolution that I filed, House Resolution No. 711, will be acted on favorably by the Chamber. The resolution calls for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the proposed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain made between the GRP and the MILF.

I filed this resolution in order to clarify matters about the controversial MOA, which has sparked public debate on its basis, purpose, Constitutionality and wisdom. While I maintain that public discussion on the subject is healthy, I believe that the public venue must also be an official venue, not just in coffee shops, speaking engagements, the internet or the media. Those only serve as breeding grounds of ideas. But the fate of the MOA ultimately lies in an official venue for public discussion of policy----that is, Congress.

The MOA itself recognizes that the provisions therein may require legislative action:

“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.”

Therefore, it is not improper, not even unthinkable, for Congress to look into this agreement, especially since the GRP and MILF have already passed the negotiations stage and agreed to its contents. The Agreement is even in the public domain now, with its provisions published in newspapers and posted on the internet.

It is time for the Executive to remove the cloak over the Agreement and present the document to the House for scrutiny. To continuously leave the public in the dark as to how the provisions were arrived at, why they were adopted and what will be the repercussions of its acceptance or rejection only serves to fuel the fires of controversy, distrust and misunderstanding.

The hunger for Peace is not the exclusive domain of the Executive Branch. All of us desire peace in our land, whether it be in Mindanao, Visayas or Luzon. We must all take a part in the efforts to achieve peace. We should not be left in the dark to simply swallow whatever it is that is fed to us, because our constituents, the people who entrusted us this privileged position, expect us to make decisions based on carefully considered factual information.

Today’s newspaper reported that Executive Branch officials yesterday faced select members of Congress to explain what the MOA is all about. The reports said that the Members of the House who attended the closed door meeting were not satisfied with what was discussed.

While this act of reaching out by the Executive is appreciated, it is still not enough to satisfy the expected level of transparency that should be accorded to Congress, which is inevitably bound to this Agreement by virtue of its own provisions I quoted earlier.

Why make the presentation to only a selected few? Why not make the presentation to the entire House? After all, the passage of any legislative measure is not accomplished by a select few but by the entire membership.

In any team building exercise, participants are continuously indoctrinated into the concept of a “shared vision” and the “ownership” principle. Meaning to say, in order for an organization to succeed in its objectives, the goals must be “owned” by every member of the team. We are all part of one country ---the Republic of the Philippines--- therefore, all of us must be in on the game plan in order for us to succeed.

The Executive Branch is trying to pass a proposal to postpone the ARMM elections, citing it as a necessary component in the GRP-MILF peace talks. But what has the Executive done to convince members of the Chamber that this proposal is worthy to be considered? Instead of providing the substance of the argument in favor of the proposal and an understanding of the agreement that necessitates the passage of the postponement, we are just given limited information and are expected to vote simply on the basis of the measure being certified.

It is no wonder why so many voices are raising so many concerns about this peace effort…because so many people are kept in the dark about it. How can people be expected to support the agreement?

I may be rebutted with the argument that the Agreement affects only specific parts of Mindanao, therefore only those from Mindanao were given the opportunity to ask questions and be briefed. That may be true, but I disagree with the proposition.

While I reside in and represent a Metro Manila city, far from the reach of the MILF claims on Ancestral Domain, I am still a citizen of the Philippines and I am sworn to uphold the Constitution.

Whatever happens in a far corner of the country is a concern of mine, not only because of my duty as a public official serving national interests, but also as a Filipino citizen concerned about his country.

As one who has focused on Defense and National Security concerns in Congress, my concern also stems from the fact that whatever happens in the peace talks has an effect on my other constituency, those of the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

My father, who served 18 years in Mindanao, has seen the Mindanao conflict in various forms and from various perspectives. As a son who grew up with his father deployed in the conflict areas, I have also witnessed the ravages brought upon families not just of the families living in Mindanao, but also those of the country’s soldiers who fight in the name of this Republic. If there is anyone who is longing for peace, it is the man in uniform who fights in the front lines.

Aside from that, as I have stressed earlier, being a member of this Chamber, I am part of any legislative action that will be undertaken in pursuit of achieving peace in Mindanao.

As I conclude this speech, may I again reiterate my call for the House to act favorably on House Resolution 711. After all, this is not just for the interest of Mindanao, nor of the MILF, nor the Executive branch of government. It is in the interest of our nation.

As a final word, allow me to quote our Speaker, whose words of statesmanship are emblazoned in the lobby of this August Chamber:

“ When it comes to the national interest, there is no Majority and no Minority. There is only One House of the People.”

Congressman Biazon Files Resolution to Scrutinize GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement

Muntinlupa City Congressman Ruffy Biazon yesterday filed House Resolution No. 711, calling on the House Committee on National Defense and Security and House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the proposed GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

Citing the controversy sparked by the alleged “non-consultation among the stakeholders and the people concerned and non-transparency of the draft Memorandum of Agreement” which was the basis for a petition for TRO filed in the Supreme Court, Congressman Biazon called on the House of Representatives to conduct the inquiry.

In the resolution, the Vice-Chair of the Committee on National Defense said the inquiry should be done so that the House will be “informed of the basis of the provisions of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, and to determine legislative measures that need to be undertaken as proposed in the said agreement”.

“The MOA itself says that there may be a need to amend the existing legal framework of the Philippines in order to put into effect the provisions of this MOA and the eventual Final Peace Agreement. Who is supposed to do the amendments? Isn’t that the job of Congress? So it is just proper that Congress should scrutinize this MOA”, Biazon explained.

The stakeholders who claimed to have been left out of matters that will have a great effect on their lives are also entitled to be represented in crafting government policies. “The Congress is People’s Representation as prescribed by the Constitution. The People have a right to be heard and to ask questions through Congress”, the congressman averred.

Told that Executive Branch officials yesterday met with some members of the House representing the affected areas in a closed door meeting, Biazon replied, “That is good. But will they be able to pass legislation by themselves? Are we not putting on the line the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, which all of us are sworn to preserve and defend? Whatever happens in any part of the country affects the whole country. I think if the Executive Branch will do some explaining, they should do it before the entire Congress.”