BOL can stand legal test, senators say
Senate leaders were unfazed by a petition challenging the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in the Supreme Court, saying they were confident that the measure had complied with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
“I truly believe that the organic law that we passed can stand the test of constitutionality after careful scrutiny done by the Senate’s best legal minds and with consultations done with eminent constitutionalists and former Chief Justices and justices of the Supreme Court,” said Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.
In its petition on Oct. 11, the Sulu provincial government assailed the legality of the BOL (Republic Act No. 11054), arguing that Congress overstepped its bounds when it abolished the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to create a new self-governing region called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Zubiri said the Sulu government’s move was “unfortunate” but it was within its rights to file the petition.
President Duterte signed the BOL in August after the measure was ratified by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The law, however, needs to be ratified in a plebiscite by voters in areas covered by the new political entity, including the provinces comprising the ARMM and its adjoining areas.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was not surprised by the petition.
“I sensed it was coming …,” he said.
Asked if he thought the Supreme Court might strike down the BOL, Sotto said: “Let’s just say, I’m confident that we were able to address most, if not all, of the constitutional issues.”
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III welcomed the suit against the BOL, saying the petitioner raised valid questions.
“The legislature exerted best efforts to pass a constitutionally compliant [BOL]. However, the Sulu suit is welcome because Sulu leaders presented legitimate constitutional questions even during the deliberations stage,” he said.
In Mindanao, BOL supporters on Monday said they considered the petition just another “ploy” to derail the Mindanao peace process.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza expressed optimism that the BOL could withstand the constitutionality test.
“I am confident this petition will not stop on its tracks a new beginning for the Bangsamoro,” he said in a statement.
Dureza said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which drafted the BOL, followed Mr. Duterte’s directive to comply with all previously signed agreements in step with constitutional and legal reforms.
Good for ARMM
Octavio Dinampo, a Mindanao State University professor, urged the court to dismiss the petition, saying the BOL “is good for the people of Sulu and the rest of the proposed new Bangsamoro region.”
The BOL was anchored on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace agreement signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014. —With a report from Bong S. Sarmiento
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