Press Release
October 20, 2011

Excerpts from Kapihan sa Senado with former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

On the Supreme Court decision upholding the Constitutionality of the postponement of the ARMM elections

Q: Are you one of those joining the motion for reconsideration brigade?

That is my inclination as of now because I have yet to receive a copy of the decision. After receiving it, within 15 days, we have the right to file such a motion that you mentioned, motion for reconsideration. That will give me ample time to consult, as I have in fact started to consult with my clients who are authentic, genuine Muslims living in the Autonomous Region. So, yes, we believe that the Supreme Court might have merely overlooked, to put it diplomatically, overlooked the fact that the Constitution, the local government code, as well as the Autonomous Region Act, Charter for Muslim Mindanao, guarantee the right of the Muslim people to elect their own leaders. The way I look at it, the administration of President Noynoy, by having RA 10153 enacted, in effect sidelined, rendered nugatory, the guarantees of the Constitution, the local government code, and the Autonomous Regional Act for the Moro people precisely to elect their own leaders, and not to be dictated to by people in Manila regarding the issue as to who should govern them. And, added to the fact that I think there was some underhanded attempt on the part of the Administration when it enacted RA 10153, cancelling the elections and giving the President the power to appoint OICs. In effect, what they did was wala ng election therefore the President should have the power to appoint OICs. Which in effect, transgresses as I mentioned earlier, the guarantee of the Constitution that the people of the ARMM as well as the other laws that I mentioned, are guaranteed their autonomy and the right to elect their own leaders. By cancelling the election and giving the President the power to appoint OICs, I think that was a deception of first magnitude. I am sorry if I would be offending some people but I think that essentially that is the long and short of the move, to cancel the elections and then to authorize the President to appoint OICs. Mali po 'yun.

Q: The vote of 8-7 indeed looks very tempting or inviting, kasi one vote lang. Are you optimistic that you can change that one vote?

I wish I were because after the oral arguments that we had in the Supreme Court, I was in fact telling people I do not see how we can lose this case, but it looks like we did by one vote, so we just might have to keep our fingers crossed and raise up cogent arguments as to impel the Supreme Court to reconsider what I would like to say is an erroneous decision.

Q: While it looks like it's a go for PNoy to be naming OICs which you contend is unconstitutional, there is no guarantee that these people will run after their appointive term.

As a matter of fact that was one of the reasons we raised already in the Supreme Court, in the main argument. That RA 10153 removed that announced intention by the Administration to ban people who are appointed as OICs from running again, but that prohibition is no longer there in RA 10153. Therefore, they can run again. And please consider the fact that in round figures with slight modifications, the budget of the ARMM for 2010 is roughly about P30 billion and therefore, if you are talking of three years, up to 2013, you are talking here of P90 billion in the hands of appointive officials who are not barred from running again. So what does that mean in practical terms? They have an edge. A political edge that has been bestowed on them by the good graces of Malacañang through the appointing power which we are questioning in this case, regarding OICs.

Q: When you mentioned deception, who are you referring to, the Supreme Court or Malacañang?

I am talking about the enacting of the law, because the law cancelled the elections. Pagkatapos, in the same law, they authorized the President to appoint OICs. That's what I am saying, that apparently there was a scheme, a maneuver for underhanded reasons that underlined the enactment of RA 10153.

On the number of OICs to be appointed in ARMM

There is the regional governor, the regional vice governor and three members of the regional legislative assembly per congressional district of the ARMM. So you are talking here, if there were additional districts created, of at least 21 regional legislative assembly members. Kung nadagdagan man ya, magiging 24 or something like that. Sa regional legislative assembly 'yun. In addition sa dalawang tao, the governor and vice governor.

On whether Pimentel will find Mujiv competent to govern as OIC if he is cleared of accusations

If Marcos, who was convicted of killing Nalundasan became president... in other words I am not taking that against Mujiv. I am only saying that it would look, to say the least, very awkward for the President to appoint somebody who might have a pending case. I do not know if the case is still pending against Mujiv; all I know is that there was a case filed against him. He claims that he has already cleared himself. The others say, hindi pa. So there has to be some clarifications in order to lay to rest that issue among the affected parties which are the Muslim people in Muslim Mindanao.

On Mujiv's leadership

I do not know because all I know is that Mujiv was elected partylist congressman, if I am not mistaken. I do not know his background, whether he has served in an executive capacity in any local government in the ARMM.

On whether Mujiv will encounter difficulty in being appointed as OIC

It has nothing to do with any petition but it has everything to do with the insistence of a case against him. Kung wala na siyang kaso, appointing him would be a presidential prerogative based on Republic Act 10153, which is precisely why we are questioning. If it is nullified, therefore, there can be no appointment of Hataman or anyone in the ARMM.

On the selection process of the ARMM OIC

They have been anticipating it and, as a matter of fact, kung hindi sila tumigil that would have been contemptuous. A TRO was issued and they will continue it? hindi pwede 'yon.

On whether the President should pursue the appointment of Mujiv as OIC.

Let me make my position clear because Mujiv is also a friend of mine. So you take what I say with a grain of salt. But I can say that the burden is on Mujiv Hataman, to cleanse himself of these accusations so that hindi na madamay si President Noynoy. Image the impact of a President appointing somebody with a pending case. A mis-step among the people who will be affected in the ARMM because somebody, who has a pending case, a serious one at that, I am assuming na hindi pa siya nalilinis sa kaso na ito because in the bombing of the Batasan, one congressman died, another congressman was wounded and two or three staffers , who were not involved at all in the controversy in Basilan, died. So mabigat 'yong kaso. Let me just repeat that the burden of cleansing himself of that stigma, of having been involved in that incident, belongs to Mujiv Hataman. He will do the President a lot of favor if he can present na wala na nga 'yong kaso. Then the controversies will end as far as he is concerned.

On Mujiv's qualifications

He is my friend in the sense that I know him and he knows me. I haven't talked to him in four or five years but that doesn't mean that I don't consider him a friend. So that's the extend of my friendship with him. I knew him as a member of Congress and he was active in the NGO sector, kaya there were times when our paths crossed. But that's about all, hindi naman na kaibigan ko, kabarilan ko 'yun, not in that sense.

On whether he will recommend somebody to the ARMM post or whether he was offered a post in ARMM.

No. Hindi naman.

On the OICs' prohibition to run. In some of the original versions of the bill, which later on became Republic Act 10153, there were provisions that prohibited those appointed as OICs to run again. In the final versions natangal 'yun. Q: I mentioned that because one appointed OIC remained in power 'till now. This is our Vice President.

But it does not mean that he continued forever. There were interruptions in his term as a matter of fact pursuant to the constitution.

On the existing cease fire agreement

That's one of the saddest bit of news in this country. 19 lives of our soldiers were I would like to say unnecessarily snuffed out for something that could have been prevented. Why do I say that? Because it looks like the peace effort to seek a just solution to the grievances of the Muslim people that process is just slipping. That is why everything is hazy and there is supposed to be a buffer force between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the rebel Muslim group and that buffer force is supposed to be led by Malaysia. I think the worst choice that we can have to get Malaysia involved as a peace keeping force on behalf of the OIC because Malaysia has definite interests that conflict the interest of the country. Number one the Sabah issue is a simmering problem between the Philippines and Malaysia. Secondly, there are Malaysian interest eyeing the developmental marsh land in the Cotabato area. Of course its identification with the MNLF where the MNLF forces are trying to strengthen their group. They are training in Sabah which is jurisdictionally as of now under the administration of Malaysia. Don sila nag-t-train nung una. I think that if our excuse is that we need a Muslim country that belongs to Southeast Asia as sort of a peace keeping force para hindi magkabakbakan ang pwersa ng gobyerno at ng mga Muslim rebels, Indonesia would be the better choice. Historically, Indonesia has always tried to discourage the infiltration of fighters as well as sending of arms over to the Muslim rebels but not Malaysia. Malaysia does not have that reputation.

Q: Dapat pa ba i-pursue yung peace talks?

That is a very difficult thing just to say yes or no. What I can say right now is there has to be a thorough re-examination of that policy. Because as of now, it looks as if a certain part let us say Basilan or Mindanao parang sinasabi ito na teritoryo ito ng MILF, hindi pwede pumasok ang gobyerno. But what if the rebel groups commit crimes outside of that territory allotted to the MILF, ano ngayon? Is the government powerless to run after these criminals? Hindi naman dapat ganun siguro. Anyway, I am happy that President Noynoy is finally calling a command conference pero bukas pa ata.

There was a statement already yesterday by the peace negotiator Marvic Leonen that thing was an isolated case and it will not hinder the peace talks.

I wonder how isolated is isolated. Any number of incidents in the past and they will call it isolated maybe for that week. So for this week, this is an isolated incident. Next week, iba naman ang i-isolated incident.

Q: Do you think Secretary Deles has something to answer for?

I haven't heard from her for a long time. Really if she still is in-charge of the peace negotiations, probably she should be answerable for what has happened.

Q: Ano usually yung sanction pag may nag-violate sa cease fire agreement?

As things now stand, parang under obligation ang MILF to control whatever groups are operating in their area of responsibility. When incidents like Kato, that's in Lanao del Sur, and they will say that Kato is a renegade group, hindi namin under yun. For example, an incident happens and they will say, Hindi, Abu Sayyaf yun, they are not under us. Hindi na natin kaya habulin because MNLF will say, do not enter here because this is our territory. But if the criminal groups find sanctuary within the territory of the MILF, palagay ko hindi tama. What I'm saying is a thorough revision of the policy seems to be urgently needed.

But if the peace talks do succeed, and the ARMM stays as it is. I think the MILF sets its eyes on the ARMM itself. I think that's the area that they are eyeing as their sub-state.

As a matter of fact, from what I read, the MILF is active in nominating OICs dun sa ARMM so what you say is probably what is happening now. Ed Kabalu offered himself as an OIC.

Q: May mga katawan pa ng sundalo ang nandun sa barangay na sinasabing MILF territory. Parang hindi pa ba enough na pinatay nila?

I think that maybe out of humanitarian reasons, the government can persuade the commanders of that area who might be in-charge of the rebel groups there to allow the retrieval of the deceased soldiers. 19 soldiers were slain and we could not even retrieve their bodies. Mukhang hindi tama yun.

Q: Yung tinatawag na Area of Temporary Stay, do you think dapat tanggalin ito sa provisions ng cease fire agreement?

Sa tingin ko, one arbiter that can do a lot is the peace keeping force that is headed by Malaysia. Unfortunately, I am not too sure that they are aggressive enough to see the validity of the Philippine position. Now, you will see that the secured area for the MILF was never meant to be sanctuary for lawlessness. Don't tell me these criminals can do their thing outside of the MILF territory and then retreat to the MILF territory and say you cannot touch us because andito na kami. Otherwise, we are recognizing an actual state within a Philippine state.

On the police not being able to exercise their authority

There's something grievously wrong with that. That should be looked into by the government. One thing they should seriously consider is to eliminate that provision which has been abused especially when the MILF territory is being used as a sanctuary for criminals. Hindi pwede 'yun.

On the ability of PNoy to quash the MILF

Probably, it provoked to the limit although I would like to suggest, that we are not unnecessarily drawn into a vicious battle of bullets with the MILF. We should try every means possible under the law, under our existing agreements, to effect a mutually satisfactory solution to the problem. But for how long, I really do not know --- the way we are being provoked by irresponsible elements of the MILF or those posing as if they are members of the MILF. I do not know how long the government can standby and just give inadequate excuses for not acting decisively.

On the MILF ambush

There's no question in my mind that the ambush was really an unprovoked act, sa tingin ko. The criminals, whoever did that, should be punished according to our laws. In the guise of providing sanctuary to the criminals, they have become untouchables. We cannot allow that in any inch of the territory of the Republic of the Philippines.

On the call for quashing the MILF

The culprits should be identified and 'yun ang pulbusin. Hindi naman ang buong MILF. I don't think we can do that but the responsible criminals should be ran after, jailed and prosecuted according to law. Under ordinary common sense, if these criminals fight back, they have to be pulverized kung darating sa puntong ganon.

On the government letting the MNLF pursue the Sabah claim and establish their sub-state in North Borneo

The special power of attorney, incidentally, would have to be given by the Sultan of Sulu, not by the government. That's up to them kung gusto nilang gawin 'yon.

On the Malacañang statement that the ambush is an isolated incident

Probably, it was an isolated incident this week. There have been several incidents in the past.

It looks like the ones running the negotiations actively want to continue with the power and purse that are theirs under the circumstances. Probably, they believed that nothing should preclude the continuation of the negotiations in spite of such brutalities that have been experienced by our soldiers the last several days. Not only the Malacañang but the whole Filipino people should show outrage.

On Secretary Deles statement

What she probably meant was i-involve na 'yung peace-keeping force ng Malaysia. Palagay ko, the incident calls for a bigger authority to handle the situation. Not just the so-called peace-keeping effort.

On the government abandoning the peace effort

I don't think the country should ever abandon the "peace effort". We should always give the impression or the ability to deal with the provocative incidents with the measure of wisdom looking at the situation which gives something as an opportunity to peace to be pushed forward than backward. The government should always be on top of the situation. It should not allow itself to be bulldozed by other forces. Otherwise, it ceases to be effective in our own country. Tayo ang mag-dictate kung tama pa ba ang ginagawa nito.

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