Oral arguments in the Supreme Court on the GRP-MILF MOA (Aug 15 ’08)

SolGen Agnes Devanadera being interviewed at the Supreme Court on the first day of the oral arguments on GRP-MILF MOA.

Solgen Agnes Devanadera being interviewed at the Supreme Court on the first day of the oral arguments on GRP-MILF MOA.


The Supreme Court held the first oral arguments on the proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Justice Carpio questioned the Prof. Sereno (whose clients were among those questioning the proposed MOA) on the constitutional violations of the draft agreement.

Notes during the oral arguments on the proposed memorandum of agreement between the Philippine government (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF):

(*** THESE ARE NOT COMPLETE and are not exact quotes. I had to leave shortly after Justice Carpio’s questioning, but there is another website with more complete notes on the oral arguments).

Atty Sereno, who made the first presentation, warned that the “stakes are far more serious” since the MOA put at stake “the Philippines’ territorial integrity, the lives of men and women in uniform, the safety and economy property of inhabitants in Mindanao, the loss of international respect, our claims to Sabah, the exercise of economic jurisdiction, and the stability of all property laws and titles since Spanish times.”

She pointed out that the agreement was only for a ceasefire and that the MILF has not denounced its threat to secede. Nowhere in the agreement, she said, was the Philippine Constitution recognized as the parameter.

Carpio: Can government commit that Congress make a proposal (in a plebiscite) and that the people will approve?
Sereno: That is a violation of the separation of powers doctrine.

Carpio: Can the executive commit that the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) will replace ARMM?
Sereno: No. The legislative process must come into play. The executive branch cannot commit that it will favorably occur.

Carpio: Can the executive pass a law saying that Comelec will not administer elections in BJE?
Sereno: No.
Carpio: Yes, we have only one Comelec…You cannot carve out a territory and deprive Comelec of jurisdiction of its territory.

Carpio: PNP…there shall be a single police force, national in scope. (recites provision). Can Congress create a separate police force in the BJE?
Sereno: No.

Carpio: The BJE will build, develop and maintain its own security force. What’s the constitutional violation here?…the commander-in-chief provision…the president is the commander in chief of the all armed forces of the Philippines…if they put up an internal security force this must be commanded by the president….will the internal security force of the BJE fall under the chain of command?
Sereno: No.
Carpio: It provides that the president must have command – control the training, including the payroll. If you are the commander, they will not follow if you don’t pay them…It means the whole process of building up an army.

Carpio: What is the violation in the judiciary?
…There is a unitary judicial system…Can the executive commit that BJE shall have its own judicial system separate from the SC?
Sereno: No.
Carpio: (? Not sure if this is Carpio or Sereno). Nominations to the courts are made by the JBC…BJE will be allowed to build, maintain, and create its own judicial system.

Carpio: Finance and banking…Congress will establish only one central bank, you cannot have two monetary authorities…
How about economic planning, what does the Constitution say?
…there are obviously several provisions of the MOA that contradict the Constitution. Is that a problem? How can this MOA be salvaged without changing the content so that it will not violate the Constitution?
Sereno: There is no way to save the MOA…principles…context of the body cannot be saved.

Carpio: But it will take effect only once ratified? Up to Congress to decide whether to accept or not? Then up to Congress to submit to people through constitutional processes?
Sereno: The problem is the totality of proposals is the creation of a state within a state.

Carpio: If the people approve it, who are we to say that it is unconstitutional.
Sereno: Metaconstitutional. No state in history that unilaterally ceded…

Carpio: Does that prohibit us from being the first to do it? If it can be validly, honestly ratified?
Sereno: On a theoretical level…people will surrender (their power)…but I do not belong to them…

Carpio: If it is the majority, everybody is bound. We must go through the process, we cannot commit in advance that it wil happen….There is no law against proposing anything to Congress.
Sereno: There is a public policy vs wasteful spending.

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