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Opinion

TRO: disaster for the Bangsamoro people


The three-letter word stands for temporary restraining order usually issued by the court of law to give immediate relief to petitioner/s. For whatever purpose it may serve, TRO now spells disaster for the Bangsamoro people. The first time the word became ‘famous’ or ‘infamous’ was in 2008 when the same Supreme Court issued a TRO restraining the Philippine Government in signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the GPH and the MILF. The said TRO led to the ‘rampage’ of the two MILF commanders Bravo and Kato that subsequently triggered running battles between elements of the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes. The second TRO of note that was issued by the Supreme Court touching on the Bangsamoro issue was in 2010 restraining the new Aquino government in its attempt to remove from office what it considers ‘midnight appointments’ in the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos. This TRO has, more or less, led to the ‘marginalization’ of the whole commission vis-à-vis its articulated function as the lead agency in pursuing the general welfare of the Muslim Filipinos. Now comes yet another TRO issued on September 13, 2011 by the Supreme Court restraining for the nth time the PNoy government from implementing RA 10153 synchronizing the ARMM Elections with the mid term National Elections in May 2013. The same TRO puts a halt to the whole process of the reform ARMM agenda of the PNoy government. Since the passage of the new law in June 2011, a government team with civil society participation has been formed to chart the road map for the ‘Reform ARMM’. Several consultations had been called to put the road map together. And with the issuance of EO 51, the nomination and application for the OIC positions in the ARMM had commenced. A five-member Selection Committee began screening the more than 400 applicants and the same committee came out with a short list for the 26 OIC positions of Regional Governor, Vice Regional Governor and 24 members of the Regional Legislative Assembly. The nominees in the short list were presented to the constituency of the ARMM for public scrutiny. The selection process for the leadership of the ARMM has introduced something very novel that has caught the imagination of the ARMM constituency. No doubt, the ‘reform ARMM train’ has engendered a process that promotes not only public scrutiny of the nominees’ respective platform vis-à-vis reforms in the ARMM but also for the first time a popular demand for ‘accountability’ and transparency both of leadership and the funds. The public forums in the town centers of the ARMM five component provinces put to task the nominees for the regional legislative assembly. Never has this been done in the region known for a culture of silence and a culture of impunity. The lively exchanges in the forums that were also aired live created a refreshing new environment for a new type of democratic participation of the constituency of the entire ARMM. The various groups from the civil society, academe, business, religious sector, youth and women were present as well as the LGUs. For the first time, their voices were heard and they avidly scrutinized the platforms of the OIC wannabes. In many ways, the reform ARMM train has given birth to something new that can be compared to a ‘spring’ in the ARMM creating a new political situation or political reality beyond the purview of the law. There is something very unique of the ARMM that is taking shape… something very dynamic, an expression of the traditional community debates and consultation – truly elements of a Bangsamoro ‘spring’ that is beyond matters for the court. This is what the present TRO has restrained, NOT simply the President’s appointment of OICs and the implementation of RA 10153. I thought the TRO, though legally constructed, was utterly wrong and void of any MORAL authority. What is unfolding in the ARMM is truly very unique and it is rightly so that it is unfolding in the ARMM, after all, it is the ONLY AUTONOMOUS Region in the country – a sort of ‘sui generis’. For this reason, the process, I truly believe, is a unique democratic process proper for a region seeking expression of its right to self-determination. The process has become a political question beyond the justiciable ‘res’ by the courts with hardly any jurisprudence on issues of autonomy and self-determination outside the Local Government Code. It is high time, that our courts, including the Supreme Court, should disabuse their usual legal training and begin considering new expressions of Regional Autonomy on the basis of the right for self-determination of minority nationalities. The ARMM is not a local government unit in the same league as province or municipality. The ARMM is a ‘sui generis’ (a kind of its own)!
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