rePost: SC chief: Constitution allows autonomy but not secession

Good News! Now we just have to make noise against the Charter Change try and we can wait til 2010 to elect a better president.

from gmanew here:

(Update) MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Friday rejected the possibility of the creation of a separate state in Mindanao, saying the Constitution does not allow secession.

At the same time, four justices expressed the opinion that the petition to junk the agreement between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was “premature.”

These cropped up during the oral arguments on the government’s ancestral domain agreement with the MILF where Puno equivocally said that the Constitution only allows for autonomy.

“Most that can be done is autonomy. It should be done within the framework of the Constitution, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines,” Puno said.

Puno cited Article 10, Section 15 of the Constitution which states the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

For his part, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio challenged the constitutionality of the government’s draft agreement on the issue of ancestral domain with the MILF.

Carpio questioned the constitutionality of several provisions in the agreement particularly those that provide for the creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

He said this would need an amendment of the Organic Act which requires an act of Congress and ratification of the people.

Carpio also noted that the provisions which allows the BJE to maintain its own police and military forces is violative of the Constitution.

“The Police is national in scope, civilian in nature and controlled by the National Police Commission…The President is the commander in chief of all armed forces. The President has sole control of training, recruitment and payroll,” Carpio said.

“The BJE cannot head the AFP,” Carpio added.

The Associate Justice also said that the provision which allows for the creation of a separate justice system for the BJE is likewise a clear violation of the Constitution.

Carpio noted that under the Constitution, the country will have a unitary justice system headed by the Supreme Court.

“Under Article 8 (of the Constitution), the judicial power shall be bested on one Supreme Court, a unitary judicial system. SC has the sole disciplinary authority over its courts and its personnel,” Carpio said.

Carpio also said the provision in the agreement for the conduct of a plebiscite after 25 years to pave the way for the widening of the BJE’s coverage encroaches into the power of the legislature to schedule a plebiscite to decide on such issues.

Carpio also expressed the observation that there was a seeming lack in consultation in the drafting of the agreement, saying even indigenous peoples in Mindanao have been left out in the draft agreement.

He said under the MOA, the lumads or tribal people of Mindanao will be incorporated to the Bangsamoro, believers of Islam. There are 18 lumad groups in Mindanao.

He said with the incorporation, the ancestral domain of the lumads will become part of the Bangsamoro ancestral domain.

He said it would put the entire Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan, which were the ancestral domains of the lumads, under the Bangsamoro.