Islamic group of accountants, 2 lawyers ask SC to allow them to defend Bangsamoro law

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 07 2019 03:13 PM

MANILA - A group of Muslim accountants and two lawyers have asked the Supreme Court on Monday to allow them to defend the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) against a petition filed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II questioning the constitutionality of the law.

The Philippine Association of Islamic Accountants (PAIA), Inc. and lawyers former Commission on Human Rights commissioner Nasser Marohomsalic and current Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission commissioner Manuelito Luna asked the high tribunal to admit their 51-page answer-in-intervention where they sought to justify the passage of Republic Act No. 11054.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II, on behalf of the Province of Sulu, filed a petition in October claiming that the BOL violated several provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Among the grounds cited by Tan: the Constitution only allows 1 autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, the parliamentary form of government under the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BAR) violates the separation of powers under the Constitution, and the requirement for provinces and cities under the ARMM to vote as one in the plebiscite scheduled this month “coerces” these provinces and cities to join the BAR.

In their answer-in-intervention, PAIA, Marohomsalic and Luna said section 18 and 19 of Article X of the Constitution must be “liberally construed with regard to the purpose for which they are intended.”

The two sections provide for the enactment by Congress of “an organic act” for each autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras, providing them with some legislative powers to ensure their autonomy.

“[I]t is our submission that autonomy in the constitution is a juridical entity and it may undergo metamorphosis into its better form by Congressional legislation in the name of general welfare or the welfare of the Bangsamoro,” they said.

They also argued that the parliamentary form of government is rooted in the political system of the ancestors of the people living in the BAR and is part of the Philippine legal and political order.

“There is no definitive provision in the Constitution that says that the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao should not be parliamentary. All that the Constitution requires is that the Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Corollarily, all political instrumentalities of government exercising sovereignty or a portion thereof shall be democratic and republican,” they said.

And contrary to the claim of the Province of Sulu, they said there is no discrimination in the BOL’s requirement that the vote of the provinces and cities under the current ARMM should be treated as one in the upcoming plebiscite.

Instead, they turned the tables on Sulu and asked: “What sets Sulu apart from the rest of the Bangsamoro provinces to be accorded the electoral right to vote separately in the upcoming plebiscite and their votes counted apart from the votes of the rest of the Bangsamoro?”

“Do they now impugn their participation in the 1989 plebiscite under Republic Act No. 6734 where they voted and approved the autonomy law, which is much lesser in many respects compared to the current law, Republic Act No. 11054, the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” they asked.

LEGAL STANDING

They also questioned Tan’s legal standing to file the petition against the BOL, saying neither Tan nor Sulu has direct and personal interest that is in immediate danger of sustaining direct injury upon the implementation of the BOL.

In contrast, they claimed they have the personality to file the answer-in-intervention.

Aside from being taxpayers, Marohomsalic cited his status as M’ranao Moro by blood and by birth and Luna as Moro by birth (born in Basilan) in claiming they will be directly benefited by the implementation of the BOL.

PAIA meanwhile said its member-accountants are interested in an improved business climate in Muslim Mindanao with the introduction of a halal-based accounting and auditing practices, and Islamic banking and finance system.

They called the BOL the “New Deal” that will pave the way for a better autonomy than the present ARMM.

MILF AS HEAD OF BTA

The group also justified why the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was chosen to lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

“The BOL is a product of peace negotiation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)...[I]n most parts, MILF owns this crown jewel of the struggle of the Bangsamoro for self-determination, and Government thought it only fitting that the MILF skippered the Bangsamoro Transition Authority,” they said.

They also rejected Tan’s claim that the BOL violates the non-establishment clause of the Constitution, which prohibits Congress from passing a law respecting an establishment of religion.

“The BOL does not provide for the enforcement of the worldview of Islam on God in the region,” they explained.

They further argued that the BOL was designed to protect religious minority and is a social justice legislation, in compliance with the government’s obligation under international law.

Aside from the petition against the BOL filed by Tan, another petition was filed in December by a group of constitutional law experts called Philippine Constitution Association (PHILCONSA).

The pleading filed by PAIA and the 2 lawyers were silent on the PHILCONSA petition but Luna told the media on Monday that PHILCONSA has no personality to question the constitutionality of the BOL.

“Look at PHILCONSA. PHILCONSA is not even based in Mindanao,” he said.

“The Province of Sulu may have some standing but we are questioning it. But PHILCONSA definitely has no standing. Because PHILCONSA is not composed of people who have embraced the Muslim aspirations and who have not been born (sic) in Mindanao or considered natives of Mindanao,” he added.

Luna expressed confidence the BOL will be upheld by the high court.

“I have studied the law very well, and sa aking humble na opinion, ito ay pumasa sa constitutional test. Ito ay isang valid na batas and it is presumed to be constitutional in the first place, unless proven otherwise. So sa tingin ko, this will muster the test of constitutionality sa ating Korte Suprema,” Luna said.