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Lawyers: Arroyo ‘skilfully’ using MOA-AD for Charter change

Posted by Abi Kwok on August 21, 2008

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 17:36:00 08/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A lawyer’s group on Thursday accused President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of “skilfully” using the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) in her supposed bid to extend her term beyond 2010.

In a statement, Neri Colmenares, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said the motion filed by Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera asking the Supreme Court to dismiss petitions to have the MOA-AD unconstitutional “is one more proof that…[Arroyo’s] intention has been mainly to prolong her stay in power after 2010 by deleting in the Constitution that provision that limits her to only one term.”

Devanadera’s motion pointed out that there is no need to strike down the MOA-AD since the government will be subjecting it to a “thorough review” and also seek “further negotiations” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the controversial compact.

Colmenares also blamed Arroyo for the deaths and displacement of civilians in Mindanao from the clashes between government forces and MILF rebels that followed the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order against the signing of the MOA-AD.

“Arroyo is primarily accountable for the deaths of civilians in Mindanao for having triggered the ongoing conflict. The indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombings of villages by government forces pose as threats, at the very least, on the lives of civilians,” Colmenares said, adding this violated Article 13 of Protocol II of the Geneva Convention, which says that a “civilian population shall not be the object of attack.”

At the same time, Colmenares also said MILF commanders Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdullah Macapaar, alias Bravo, violated international humanitarian laws and “must, therefore, be held accountable for their acts.”

The NUPL called on senators who have endorsed moves to amend the Constitution to make way for a shift to a federal government to withdraw their support.

“We also call for an end to the ongoing hostilities between MILF forces and the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] in Mindanao and the resumption of peace negotiations and the holding of all those who violated human rights and international humanitarian law to be held to account for their crimes,” Colmenares said.

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