Philippine Court Blocks Autonomy Deal for Muslims

August 4, 2008

Author: Jim Gomez

Source: The Associated Press

The Philippine Supreme Court, acting on a petition by Christian politicians, on Monday blocked the signing of a key accord granting an expanded southern homeland to minority Muslims as part of a deal to end decades of bloody Islamic rebellion.

The Philippine government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front were to sign the agreement Tuesday in Malaysia, which has been brokering the negotiations. The accord, which aims to expand an existing autonomous region to add 712 more villages, sparked protests from Christian residents.

Court spokesman Midas Marquez said the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay after Christian politicians from the southern province of North Cotabato objected to the accord because the government failed to publicly disclose its contents. Christian politicians from the southern city of Zamboanga filed a similar petition in court Monday.

"The court would like to find out the real issues before some irreversible acts can be done," Marquez said.