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Philippines high court hears arguments in rebel peace agreement case

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Philippines [official website] on Friday heard arguments in a case challenging a proposed peace agreement between the country's government and rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [group website; BBC backgrounder]. The proposal would grant expanded boundaries to the country's southern Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) [official website], but opponents, including Mindanao Christians, say that the pact violates the country's constitution. The Supreme Court has not said whether it will address the constitutionality of the agreement or whether it might order a constitutional amendment to designate the ARMM expansion as a separate state. AP has more.

Last week, a Supreme Court judge enjoined [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] government agents from signing the peace agreement. The government of the Philippines first suggested that it might agree to increased autonomy for the region in 2005, and this month it announced [JURIST reports] that the sides had finalized the peace deal and would sign it on August 5. The court last week agreed with motions by two southern provincial governments for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the signing. Shortly after the deal was reached, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website] urged the country's lawmakers to push for long-term resolution in the region in her annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) [text; government materials].

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