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.”

1 comment:

ImAllForLuzViMinda said...

Please do help Filipinos in North Cotabato and Zamboanga. Dont let the MILF win and just rule over those areas. Im afraid if BJE would be approved, ARMM and its extension will be a future Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Where they can just confiscate any land they want.

I lived there in North COtabato during my elementary years, living in fear of the MILF. Now Im afraid again, that I could never go back there. Im in US now and I know what those rebels do if you're from US.