PNoy must stop forcing the BBL on the people
Back in 2011, President Benigno Aquino III rallied his allies in Congress to enact Republic Act No. 10153 which re-set the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and synchronized the same with the regular national and local elections scheduled for May 2013. This law also allowed the President to appoint officers-in-charge to replace outgoing elective officials of the ARMM, a move that seemed to contravene the provisions of the 1987 Constitution which require that top ARMM officials shall be elected. At that time, Aquino was all praises for the ARMM.
Malacañang publicists explained that the extraordinary measure was needed to make the ARMM an exponent of peace and progress in the area. Critics of the law, mostly Muslim leaders in Mindanao, questioned the validity of the law before the Supreme Court but the tribunal upheld its validity.
Sometime in 2012, long before the May 2013 elections, Aquino made a complete turn-around and publicly described the ARMM as a “failed experiment” and directed the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to create a “government peace panel” to sit down with representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a group of Muslim guerillas seeking the establishment of a separate Islamic state in Mindanao, the existence of the ARMM notwithstanding. The panel convened with then UP law dean Marvic Leonen and one Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF as its leading figures.
On October 15, 2012, the panel signed a “framework agreement” for the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous government over an area in Mindanao much larger than the ARMM. Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer replaced Leonen in the panel after Aquino appointed him to the Supreme Court in early December 2012.
Later, on December 17, 2012, Aquino issued Executive Order No. 120 creating a Transition Commission to prepare a draft law to replace the organic act governing the ARMM. Eventually, the Transition Commission submitted a draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to Aquino. A problem about its contents ensued and after some changes were made, the amended draft made its way to Congress where it is pending.
Experts in Constitutional Law assailed the validity of the BBL. Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza called the BBL a clandestine move to dismember the Republic. Retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza said there are five aspects of the BBL that will not pass constitutional scrutiny. Even the tax and accounting office of Congress admitted that the fiscal aspects of the BBL contravene the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
In particular, Justice Mendoza objected to the use of the term “territory” in the BBL. He likened this to land independent from the Republic of the Philippines.
Actually, the 1987 Constitution calls for “autonomous regions” in Muslim Mindanao, and in the Cordilleras in the north. The ARMM name meets that constitutional mandate, while the “Bangsamoro territory” label does not. “Bangsamoro” even suggests more than just land in Mindanao because the historic basis of the “Bangsamoro” name purportedly includes the oil and gas rich province of Palawan.
The BBL contains provisions which virtually allow the Bangsamoro to operate as an autonomous region in form but as an independent nation in substance. Once the BBL is enacted into law, what is to stop its “autonomous government” from establishing its own police force, its own militia, its own monetary system, and its own immigration service and passport system? The parliamentary type of government planned for the Bangsamoro region is already an indication that the Bangsamoro government will not operate within the framework of the 1987 Constitution.
Loose firearms proliferate in this country. Many firearms which are supposed to be in police custody were recently discovered in the possession of rebels and criminal elements. The recent raid at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa confirmed that maximum security prisoners there carry high-powered firearms inside their cells. On account of these precedents, there is the strong possibility that Bangsamoro officials will stockpile on high-powered firearms and eventually declare independence from the Republic of the Philippines.
Malaysian participation in the preparation of the BBL invites suspicion. Since the Sabah conflict between Manila and Kuala Lumpur began, Malaysia was never a real friend of the Philippines. This is confirmed by the mean treatment undocumented Filipinos in Sabah chronically receive from Malaysian authorities. Filipinos still remember that months ago, a company with interests in Malaysia announced in the Internet that the Philippines is the wrong place to invest in South East Asia. If push comes to shove, the parliamentary government in the Bangsamoro region can easily adjust to the parliamentary government obtaining in Malaysia.
Even the timing is bad. The Middle East is struggling with terrorist groups like the Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Iraq is currently fighting ISIS invaders. Al-Qaeda still creates trouble in the Middle East and in Asia. These terrorists murdered many of their American and European civilian hostages, including those who work for humanitarian organizations, and recorded the murders on video for dissemination throughout the world. Their like-minded allies in Pakistan and Africa have shown their barbarity by killing hundreds of innocent school children. Intelligence reports reveal that many of these terrorists are training inside Philippine territory under the auspices of local Muslim terrorists. Where there are terrorist cells, the bandit organization Abu Sayyaf, which makes a lucrative business out of kidnapping tourists sojourning in the Philippines, cannot be far behind. Once the BBL is in force, Manila will be unable to stop these terrorist organizations from using the Bangsamoro “autonomous region” as its training camp.
The power to create a public office belongs to Congress, not the president. Following the ruling of the Supreme Court in Biraogo v. Truth Commission, the creation of the Transition Commission by executive fiat is unconstitutional. Since all acts of an unconstitutional office ought to be void, this should be another argument against the BBL.
By urging the immediate enactment of the BBL, Aquino is on his way to committing a culpable violation of the Constitution.