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August 5, 2008

Philippine Supreme Court halts govt deal with Muslims
The Philippine Supreme Court on Monday ordered a halt for the government not to sign a land deal with Muslim separatist rebels following massive street protests against it, reported AFP.

“The court issued a TRO (temporary restraining order) restraining the respondents from signing the MOA (memorandum of agreement),” court spokesman Midas Marquez was quoted by AFP as saying.

This was in response to a petition filed by officials in the southern Philippines opposing the scheduled signing on Tuesday of the agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government.

Under an agreement between the MILF and the government in Malaysia over the weekend, large swathes of the southern region of Mindanao will become part of a Muslim state to be controlled and run by Muslims.

The autonomous region will have its own legal, banking and education systems, civil service and internal security force, and had been seen as paving the way for a formal peace agreement with the rebels.

Congressman Erico Fabian, who had filed the petition against the deal, said the ruling was “very good news for our people down south” who were opposed to the draft accord.

The ruling came hours after an estimated 15,000 people, many of them of other faiths, took to the streets in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga to oppose the agreement, which was due to be signed in Malaysia.

In Iligan, another city in the southern region of Mindanao, about 3,000 people also held a rally protesting the peace accord, which could possibly place part of their lands under the Muslim autonomous area.

Many non-Muslims oppose the deal because their land could be included in the settlement, which the government hopes will put an end to a 30-year-old insurgency which has claimed more than 120,000 lives.

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