Arroyo orders review ARMM law
MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the creation of a committee that will review and recommend amendments to a law that provides for the expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as part of efforts to move the stalled peace negotiations with Moro rebels.
Amending Republic Act 9054, which strengthens and expands Republic Act 6734, or the Organic Act for the ARMM, will be a “very good alternative” to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.
The MoA-AD, which was crafted by government and MILF peace negotiators, was never signed. It would have paved the way for the expansion of the ARMM into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).
Arroyo issued Executive Order 777 last January 19 ordering the creation of a National Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to “formulate and recommend to the President within six months from the issuance of this [the] Executive Order, a package of amendments to RA 9054, that will serve the basis for the crafting of a new organic act that is reflective of the Moro interest.”
According to the order, which was signed last January 19, but was released to reporters late Wednesday, the PrepCom was also tasked to “conduct dialogues and consultations with various stakeholders to solicit their views and recommendations on the proposed amendments to the organic act.”
The President acknowledged in the order that “there is a need to amend RA 9054 to achieve full autonomy in cognizance of the Filipino Muslim’s aspirations for self-determination.”
Republic Act 9054 was an offshoot of the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which has since taken charge of the ARMM, said Ermita, who was among those who negotiated the peace accord with the MNLF.
The more radical MILF broke away from the MNLF after it struck a deal with government.
Peace talks ground to a halt after negotiators failed to sign the MoA-AD in early August 2008, after questions were raised on its constitutionality. Days later, MILF forces raided civilian communities in the provinces of North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.
Referring to the review of RA 9054, in relation to the MoA-AD, Ermita said: “That could very well be a very good alternative. The negotiators will not resume the negotiations in a vacuum. There is something for them to look at.”
Ermita added that amending RA 9054 could be “more feasible” than amending the Constitution, as implied in the MoA-AD.
“It can make the situation more feasible. And we are not negotiating in a vacuum. There is reference material by law existing in this RA 9054. That is very important, ” he said.
The order said the PrepCom would have 14 members, including one representative each from the ARMM regional government, the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, the Regional Legislative Assembly, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, the Lumad community, and the Christian community, and two representatives each from the academe and civil society.
The President will appoint the chairman of the PrepCom upon the recommendation of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, whose office will serve as the secretariat for the review body, according to the order.
Arroyo’s new peace adviser, former national police chief Avelino Razon Jr., will assume office on February 1, taking over from incoming Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Arroyo also directed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release P20 million from the President’s Contingent Fund for the PrepCom.
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