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Top Philippine court rejects Muslim autonomy deal

ICC Note:

The Philippine Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Muslim autonomy deal that has sparked so much violence in recent months is unconstituional.

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10/14/08 Philippines (AP) The Philippine Supreme Court threw out on Tuesday a proposed accord to grant minority Muslims expanded autonomy after Christian protests and renewed fighting convinced the government to abandon the deal.

The court had already blocked the planned Aug. 5 signing of the agreement after Christian politicians in the main southern region of Mindanao, scene of a decades-long Muslim rebellion, claimed it violated the constitution and could lead to the partition of the Philippines.

The move angered Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas, who went on a rampage Aug. 18, shooting or hacking to death at least 37 people in several southern towns. The violence prompted President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to suspend the autonomy talks.

A spokeswoman for the court, Gleo Guerra, said eight of the 15 justices voted Tuesday to declare the deal unconstitutional.

Christian politicians protesting the accord have warned that an enlarged Muslim homeland could spark renewed sectarian violence.

Rebel leaders have criticized Arroyo’s government for backing out of the deal after 11 years of negotiations.

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