Senator Santiago to raise legality of Bangsamoro basic law
MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago is looking into the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro basic law (BBL), but mindful of Congress’ target of passing it by the end of the first quarter.
Santiago said the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also sought to establish a substate that would exercise certain sovereign powers otherwise reserved for the central government.
“I would like to hear what the proponents of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will have to say during the hearings. Let’s see if they can change my mind,” she said.
The senator had earlier asserted that when the Executive Branch “misrepresenting” itself as the government, entered into an agreement with the rebel group, the result was not a mere autonomous region but a “substate.”
“Thus, the agreement is concluded between one branch mistakenly identifying itself as the government, and what will turn out to be a substate,” she said then.
Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer had maintained that the agreement complied with the Constitution.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who conducted public hearings on the draft law in parts of Mindanao as chair of the local government committee, agreed that the issue of substate was the “main constitutional question.”
“Does this constitute a state within a state? That is why the decision of the Supreme Court on the MOA-AD (Memorandum on Agreement on Ancestral Domain) was very important because the basis for its unconstitutionality could be found in the BBL. That’s why that needs to be fixed so it won’t go the way of the MOA-AD,” he told a press forum on Thursday.
The aborted signing of the MOA-AD in August 2008 set off clashes between government troops and MILF members. The high court later ruled the agreement unconstitutional.
Santiago, chair of the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, has set the hearings for Jan. 26 and Feb. 2.
She planned to invite Ferrer, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process; Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission; Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, and Mike Mastura, chair of advocacy committee of the MILF negotiating panel.
Smaller by the day
Also to be invited are constitutional law experts, retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno and retired Supreme Court justices Adolfo Azcuna and Vicente Mendoza, Fr. Joaquin Bernas of the Ateneo Law School, former Dean Merlin Magallona of the UP College of Law, Dean Julkipli Wadi of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies, and Fr. Ranhilio Aquino of the San Beda College Graduate School of Law.
Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. had vowed to pass the draft law by the first quarter of the year.
Marcos conceded that the window of passing it was becoming smaller by the day since Congress adjourns on March 18.
But he said that approving it on second and third reading would be much easier once President Aquino certifies it as urgent.
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