Constitutional experts warn Bangsamoro law will destroy country, dismember territories

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 21 2018 04:37 PM

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal (in blue) strikes the gong while MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad (in green, center) and other Bangsamoro leaders release doves during the formal launch of the campaign for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite in Cotabato City on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. Manman Dejeto, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will destroy the country and dismember its territories, a group of constitutional experts and framers warned as they asked the Supreme Court to declare the landmark legislation unconstitutional.

The Philippine Constitution Association (PHILCONSA) filed its 37-page petition questioning the passage of Republic Act No. 11054 or the BOL on Dec. 11, a full copy of which was only made available to the media on Thursday.

The plea "seeks to avert the destruction of the Republic of the Philippines, the dismemberment of its territory, the fragmentation of its people, the despoliation of its natural and human resources, and the wreckage of its tripartite system of government,” PHILCONSA said.

Impleaded were the Senate, represented by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the House of Representatives, represented by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the Office of the President, represented by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

PHILCONSA is a non-stock, non-profit association founded by former President Sergio Osmeña 57 years ago to “defend, protect and preserve” the Constitution. Among those who signed the petition were retired Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Manuel Lazaro and lawyer Rodolfo Reyes.

This is the second petition filed against the BOL, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed in July.

In October, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II also filed a petition against the BOL.

The group urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction to prevent the implementation of the BOL.

A plebiscite on the law has been scheduled on two separate dates next year.

On Jan. 21, 2019, residents of the ARMM, Isabela City in Basilan, and Cotabato City are scheduled to vote on the BOL.

Meanwhile, those in Lanao del Norte, the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigkawayan, and all areas contiguous to the Bangsamoro core may vote on February 6, 2019.

“Until and unless a TRO or preliminary injunction is issued, unlawful disbursements or uses of public funds pursuant to the illegal/unconstitutional R.A. 11054 will escalate into continuing violations, if not a flaunting disregard or defiance, of the Constitution, and the laws further prejudicing public interest and welfare,” the group said.

“Unless a TRO or preliminary injunction is issued, petitioner and the Filipino people will continue to suffer from a grave and irreparable injury inclusive of the adverse aftermaths to the nation, warned by the MILF to happen, should the government fail to succumb to the politically irresistible aspirations of the MILF,” it added.

OBJECTIONS 

The petition questioned the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) in Muslim Mindanao to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

PHILCONSA argued the 1987 Constitution only recognizes one autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. 

“When R.A. 11054 abolished the ARMM and created the BARMM, a new and distinct territorial and political subdivision in lieu thereof, without first amending the Constitution, respondent’s legislative and executive departments violated and/or amended Sec. 1, Art. X of the Constitution, without jurisdiction or authority, with grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack of and/or in excess of jurisdictions,” it said. 

It added: “The legislative and the executive departments, creations of the Constitution, must observe and stand beside the Constitution and not act above, defy or supplant it.” 

According to the group, the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity is contrary to the Constitution which created only provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, and autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras, calling BAR an “interloper” or a “stranger.” 

The group also called out the grant of legislative powers to the Bangsamoro parliament, such as the power to grant tax exemptions and incentives, to create government-owned and controlled corporations, and to declare nature reserves, aquatic parks, forests, watershed reservations and other protected areas – powers which are reserved to Congress.

In addition, the group questioned a BOL provision giving the Bangsamoro parliament the power to enact laws governing commercial and other civil actions not provided under the Code of Muslim Personal Law, as well as criminal jurisdiction over minor offenses. 

It noted that the Constitution only gives special courts like the Shariah court jurisdiction over personal, family and property laws. 

PHILCONSA also objected to the grant of powers to the Bangsamoro parliament to enter into trade relations with foreign countries and to contract foreign loans.

Under the Constitution, the group said, these powers belong solely to the President. 

PHILCONSA also said the BOL violates the equal protection clause for its provision allowing national taxes like documentary stamp, donor’s and estate taxes to go straight to the Bangsamoro government, putting it at an “unjustified advantage” over other regions.

It also found an issue with the creation of a Bangsamoro Economic and Development Council, which it said is contrary to a constitutional provision declaring NEDA as the independent planning agency of the government.

Its other objections pertain to the creation of a separate flag for the Bangsamoro Government and the omission of Lumads as among the Bangsamoro people.

In the alternative, PHILCONSA suggested that Congress pass a law changing the name of ARMM to BARMM, including additional territories the Moro Islamic Liberation Front desires in accordance with the law, and adding powers and other provisions compatible with the Constitution and the laws.