MANILA - The petition raised against the Bangsamoro Organic Law is reminiscent of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain, which was unanimously scrapped by the Supreme Court in 2008, a former chief justice said Thursday.
The petition, filed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II, argues that Congress is not allowed to abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao through the Bangsamoro law, and it may only do so through an amendment of the Constitution.
"Those points have already been raised. They were raised when the constitutionality of the MOA-AD was raised before the Supreme Court. If you remember, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that MOA-AD," former chief justice Reynato Puno told ANC.
The MOA-AD was an agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It was supposed to create an autonomous entity called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.
The Supreme Court, however, struck it down, saying ''the MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws." Hostilities resumed in parts of Mindanao after the high court handed down its decision.
Asked if the petition against the BOL is strong, Puno said: "The Supreme Court, if the petition is weak, immediately dismisses it. But in this case, I understand that the Supreme Court issued an order for the respondents in the government to comment."
The 19-member Consultative Committee, headed by the former chief justice, included Bangsamoro among the 18 federated regions in the proposed draft charter they submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte last July.
However, Puno noted that the draft charter recently passed by the House of Representatives on third and final reading failed to mention anything about the creation of a Bangsamoro region, which he said is a "fatal omission."
"There is a fatal omission on the part of the House version. There is no mention of the Bangsamoro problem. There is no mention of the Cordillera problem," Puno said, describing the House draft as a "disaster to democracy."
The Commission on Elections already scheduled two separate days for the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law next year—the first day will be on January 21, 2019, while the second will be on February 6, 2019.
Under the Bangsamoro law, the same ARMM areas will still be part of the new region, while Cotabato City, Isabela City, 6 Lanao del Norte towns and 39 North Cotabato provinces may opt to be included.
The law, which is a product of years of negotiations between the MILF and the government, also promises a fair sharing of resources, a block grant from the national government, and an overall stronger autonomy in Muslim Mindanao, among others.