Press Release
August 13, 2008

Explain MOA's territorial coverage, Loren tells gov't panel

The botched Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) does not only violate many provisions of the Philippine Constitutions. It also has manifold insertions to make it indeed unacceptable.

Senator Loren Legarda made the comment yesterday as senators began their scrutiny of the MOA which was supposed to be signed in Malaysia but was stopped by the Supreme Court following the temporary restraining order prayed by other groups in Mindanao who were not included in the GRP-MILF talks.

Legarda noted that portions of Zamboanga City and Iligan City are included in the MOA despite the fact that these areas have rejected their inclusion in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the 2001 Plebiscite held pursuant to Republic Act 9054.

Now, Legarda wanted the panel of the Philippine Government (GRP) to the GRP-MILF peace talks to explain why portions of these two cities are still included.

"This is quite irrational more than intriguing," said Legarda, referring to the inclusion of the geographical portions of Zamboanga City and Iligan City in the MOA's territorial coverage.

"They (Zamboanga and Iligan City) have rejected their inclusion into the ARMM. We should respect their sovereign expression," she said.

That portions of Zamboanga and Iligan were included in the territorial coverage contained in MOA only showed the insensibility of the GRP panel to sentiments of the people in the affected areas, Legarda stressed.

"Thus, they (government panel) should explain why this is so, when in fact these areas have rejected their inclusion in the plebiscite," Legarda reiterated.

Legarda also noted that the MOA could open for the creation of a state within a state because the MOA contains provisions which she said offer all the elements of a state.

The Supreme Court, which issued the TRO prayed by the provincial government of North Cotabato, has set the hearing for oral arguments tomorrow.

The expanded Muslim area -- which will be called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity -- will not be under the jurisdiction of the Philippine government, thereby practically becoming a state in itself with its own armed forces and foreign relations.

To be incorporated in the expanded ARMM area are 712 villages (subject to plebiscite) across swaths of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Palawan as well as the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, the capital of Basilan island.

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