No way can cart before the horse lead us to the ‘daang matuwid’
I watched with undivided interest the televised first hearing of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments (chaired by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago) on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL. The draft law is supposed to be among President Aquino’s monumental legacies to the Filipino people, and is thus targeted to be passed by March this year, so that the plebiscite to ratify it could be completed towards October, or after the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2016 elections.
Given the mounting arguments against the draft law as presented by both sides during the hearing (“Ex-justice warns of Moro state secession,” Front Page, 1/27/15), chances are the plan may not push through. Of course, that is beside the point; the point is whether or not this proposed BBL merely awaits the same sad fate suffered by the equally much-ballyhooed MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) in 2008: it was unanimously junked by the Supreme Court. As things are, we can all agree on the unmistakable sincerity of these two attempts of government to finally forge a lasting peace in Mindanao.
Allaying fears of any future secession, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government panel that negotiated the Bangsamoro deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, may be right in saying that they are not establishing a federal state, only an autonomous region. Indeed, the 1987 Constitution did also establish not just one, but two, autonomous regions: one in Muslim Mindanao and another in the Cordilleras. And so, why must—it might seem to them—the proposed BBL be unconstitutional?
On the other hand, in addition to Santiago who maintained that the draft BBL could not stand legal scrutiny and might be questioned before the Supreme Court, three other resource persons—a former senator and two former Supreme Court justices—each presented their own respective litanies of grave constitutional issues facing the BBL which, they say, in intent and effect, carves an entirely new Bangsamoro region, practically equivalent to a substate, in Mindanao.
Not being a lawyer, very much less a constitutionalist, I do not wish to pass judgment on these legal issues. Let me rather present my thesis from a purely layman’s perspective.
Consider this: Even as lasting peace in Mindanao has been this country’s most futile obsession since the dawn of time, the term “autonomous regions” may well be said to have come into our political vocabulary only after the passage of the 1987 Constitution. I mean, at long last the Charter framers must have realized that only by giving autonomy to the Muslims in Southern Philippines might perhaps true peace reign in Mindanao. The related provisions clearly discussed, among others, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s scope and composition, condition for creation, general supervisory power of the president over the autonomous regions, the residual powers of the national government, the subsequent enactment by Congress of the corresponding organic act (equivalent to the BBL now under congressional review), and several other specific governmental functions and interrelationships between the Bangsamoro and the national government. That the ARMM did nevertheless fail to bring the desired peace in Mindanao, in turn, the reason behind the forging of the failed MOA-AD in 2008 and the now proposed BBL, certainly goes without saying. While their sole objective, peace, is definitely noble, the means employed is not! That is to say, the BBL not only intends to replace the ARMM but also substantially expands its basic scope and other parameters, and then perhaps hopes to amend the Constitution only after, not before, the desired improvements had been introduced and ratified by the people.
In a nutshell, isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? Literally and figuratively, that does not lead us to a “daang matuwid”!
Rudy L. Coronel is a former personnel-administration manager in one of the country’s major oil companies.
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